On Dreams – Bangkok 2016

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Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is one of my favorite books. My copy came from the trash as someone from my High School decided to throw it out on our locker-cleaning day in the final days of school. Indeed one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, ha!

The book follows the story of Santiago as he crosses the Desert to reach the Egyptian pyramids where treasure is supposedly buried. This was revealed to him through a dream, and he decided to follow this dream with burning passion. In his journey he discovers the Soul of the World and meets an Alchemist who teaches him how to understand and be one with this timeless truth. As expected, his journey was anything but smooth and there were moments where he lost sight of his dream (his personal legend). In the end, he achieved his personal legend but not in the way one would expect.

There are two truths I learned from the book, and these two will continue to guide me as I go about life.

There is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.

When you’re on a journey to fulfill your Personal Legend, the whole universe conspires to help you achieve it.

Ever since junior year of college I knew that I wanted to work on an international capacity. This desire stems from a mixture of loving travel, exploration, and photography, and also wanting to do good in the world. I wanted to join either the United Nations or National Geographic, and just travel and explore frequently. I envisioned myself getting lost in foreign lands whose language I don’t speak, and whose people look drastically different from me.

I was ready for it, and after graduation I was determined to get a job at an international NGO. I blindly applied for various positions even though I was aware that I’m incredibly unqualified for all of them; and as expected I never got a call back.

Life happened and I ended up in a soul-crushing job at a BPO.

At that time, I sincerely thought my dream was dead. Life was a hard teacher and I wasn’t prepared for all its lessons. I’ve always seen the world as very Disney. My innate optimism has made me naive and the heartbreak became overwhelming.

I had given up.

But Life has other plans, and it brought me to my current job which has strong ties to various UN agencies and other international governing bodies.

I remember my interview vividly, especially the part where my current boss asked me if I was okay with traveling. I remember answering YES with a gigantic grin on my face.

Last year I was given the opportunity to visit Bangkok twice to represent the country, and our organization, to two meetings. It’s a great honor as I’ve only been with the organization for a few months.

Here are some of the photographs I took when I explored during my free time.

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Misadventures and a Wedding: Tagaytay 2016

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Last October 8, 2016 I had the privilege of witnessing (and documenting) my boss/adoptive older sister marry her bestfriend in Tagaytay, surrounded by the people they love.

Their love isn’t a firework, there was no spark nor immediate chemical reaction that changed their lives in a snap. Their love is like a photo album that is built from each individual photograph of moments they lived and shared. Eventually the photographs changed its nature, and the love it contains demanded to be declared eternal.

The ceremony was a brilliant testament of God’s faithfulness, from the preparation up to its conclusion. I learned that those Mayad Studios SDE videos show only 0.008% of how weddings really go, and that there are a lot of things that can go wrong, but you really do have a choice in what you let ruin your day. A lot of preparation goes into weddings, it turns out, and a lot of money too. These things are definitely for full grown adults only.

However, I also learned that despite all the confusion at present, and all the confusion that is yet to come, indeed some of the best days of our lives have yet to come to pass.

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Of course, Shiela and I were able to squeeze in a few misadventures before and after the ceremony. It includes, but not limited to, walking along the dark Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway with our heavy packs in the middle of the night, sharing Bulalo and a decrepit bed-and-breakfast room, meeting a monkey, and killing time (and money) at the Hippiest cafe we’ve been to so far.

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Images taken using a Nikon D200, and an Oppo F1S+

The family we choose

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It turns out I only had to wait two weeks.

I found a new family mid-May in the form of a non-profit organization. After the fiasco that was the 8-month stint at a BPO, I am more than grateful to have earned a place at an organization whose work has national ramifications.

Fast forward 6 months, we’ve arrived to November. I’m still here and still very happy. Life is currently a paradox as I’ve grown so much in the past months yet I still feel so young, naive, and unknowledgeable. Every new thing I learn adds to me as a person, yet at the same time, it reinforces how much more I have to learn and how open I need to be.

Work itself is amazing, I’ve fallen in love with this field of study despite never being interested in it before. I’ve become more grateful to have been able to attend UP and be ingrained with resilience and flexibility. I’ve also decided to take up Law, not only for its usefulness at work, but also because I’ve come to witness that knowledge of the law, and learning how lawyers think has benefits that transcend the courtroom (people’s lawyering perhaps?) and that law doesn’t automatically translate to Annalise Keating type work.

One of the more important lessons I’ve learned relates to diversity. Prior to joining the organization, I have yet to meet people who completely challenged my understanding and patience. However, moments with them taught me the true meaning of grace. There are times when I witnessed grace abounding to people who do not deserve it, and I felt upset. Yet eventually I learned that I myself am not deserving, yet the same kind of grace applies to me when I am most unlovable. I’ve learned to recognize the subtle ways we become unkind, and I’ve learned to accept that ‘colleague’ does not immediately ‘translate’ to friend, which is good sometimes, for our own protection.

Most importantly, I’ve come to love the people. Yes, even the ones that are difficult to love and understand. There is an inexplicable feeling of belongingness, of being appreciated exactly for who you are, quirks and all. There’s a benefit to being part of a small-ish organization where everyone knows about everyone, and majority of the people are kind. My boss is a big sister after hours and during the weekends, I have two new best friends, and our legal services guy just set the standard on the type of man one ought to be entertaining.

I see no expiration date at this point. Every opportunity must be maximized and respected, everything, everyone is a gift. There is joy to be found in always performing one’s best, and being recognized for it. Uncomfortable situations help one grow exponentially. Respect begets respect. Recognition takes time, and is a reward that is earned.

Featured are photographs from our company trip last May at Casa Amara, Laiya, Batangas.

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(photos taken using a Nikon D200) 

A reminder

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Hello older Daniella,

Littler you was at the peak of frustration when she was writing this, toeing the line between depressed and deranged. You’ve got 10+ pending job applications and have yet to receive a response. Given you’ve only been unemployed for a week and a half but for some reason your stress-level is that of someone whose thesis defense is tomorrow but hasn’t finished writing the actual paper yet.

I want to remind you of how you felt at the time that this was being written. You were demotivated and demoralized, tired, sad, scared, jealous, perpetually hungry, and somewhat angry. You faced much rejection, and the people you love doubted you. You were starting to think about compromising your goals again.

Right now I want you to think about where you came from and where you’re headed. Don’t fall in love with smelling the flowers that you forget you’re headed for the mountains. I want to remind you of what you love. Photography is often the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning and that means something. Never forget how blessed you are to have found something you’re incredibly passionate for and have the resources to pursue. To give it up is an act of ingratitude.

Yes, you need a regular job to sustain yourself, but living in pursuit of just that is not really living, but merely existing. Life is too grand a gift for one to be contented with mere existence. Remember what you consider as a life well-lived: a life devoted in pursuit of one’s passion, and a life that is in service of others.

Remember what you live for, where your heart truly lies. Every decision from here on out should be in service of that. Keep creating, keep sharing, and never lose the spark that genuinely optimistic people have. One day it will all fall into place, and the pain you felt will be useful to you.

And one last thing:

“My heart is at ease knowing that what was meant for me will never miss me, and that what misses me was never meant for me.” – Imam Ash-Shafi’i

Love,

Littler Daniella

 

Makiling alone

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Last Thursday, I hiked Mt. Makiling alone via the UPLB College of Forestry Trail. I went to celebrate Earth day one day in advance, to deal with pent up feelings, and also to tick off a pre-21 bucketlist item.

I was running away from heartbreak the last time I was here. Mountains have always been a source of comfort for when things get a little difficult. When you’re at the peak everything looks much smaller. That one person/thing/event that’s bothering you is nothing but a tiny dot in the vast artwork that is the universe. Suddenly you see the wider scheme of things and eventually one realizes that one day this pain will be useful, and that it’s all part of a much bigger plan that has yet to unfold. Also, you’re much closer to the God who lives in the sky.

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I’ve been feeling very lost lately and what better way to deal with figurative “lost-ness” than risk getting physically lost in a mountain famous for lost hikers due to a fanciful diwata.

I felt like I’ve lost my sense of self and sacrificed my identity in favor of belonging and being liked by people, whom I eventually realized, don’t really matter in any way at all. But in the mountains I realized that even trees and flowers of the same species don’t look exactly the same. All of creation is not meant to be the same, for every nuance is a puzzle piece that fills a specific slot which completes an overall picture. I’m weird, idealistic, and overly optimistic, for a reason and I will continue being so even though the reason why is still unclear. Though there is a certain appeal with being a “mean girl”, I will continue being kind, even if it means being the underdog every once in a while. I will continue being an idealist, a patriot, and a lover, for people who never lose hope always remain in the light.

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My mantra has always been the same in all the hikes I’ve done and this has proved useful in life in general as well:

Strong heart | Strong back | Strong legs | Strong mind 

Hiking has taught me self-reliance to the extreme. Though sometimes someone will help pull you up, you can’t rely on them completely for they’re battling their own exhaustion and self-doubt. Heart,mind, legs, and back, strengthen these and all uphill battles will be won.

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No, I didn’t hike all the way to the summit. The trail gets a little challenging for a solo hiker around station 15, and peak moments should be shared with people who matter. Also, mum would kill me if she found out I hiked alone all the way to a summit. When I got back down, the proprietor asked why I didn’t go all the way. After I told him why, he decided that my hike was an unsuccessful one because I didn’t “finish”. But I disagree, I was able to do to what I came to do and I went back down feeling much better, and much more sure with who I am and what I will do next.

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I decided to live my truth here on out. Do what is right and what feels right, in all ways, always. Be like the forest, never worrying, always self-sufficient, and always helping sustain others.

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Photographs taken using the Nikon D200. 

Three days in Kalinga

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I had the privilege of attending the 29th Cordillera Day in Guinaang, Pasil in Kalinga last  April 2013. Kalinga is better known as the home of the last mambabatok tattoo artist Fang Od. However, I did not visit Kalinga to meet Fang Od (also, she lives in Buscalan, another town) but to spend three days learning about the plight and situation of Indigenous Peoples all over the world.

We lived in tents for three days, met activists and advocates from all over the world, and listened to sessions discussing the continued exclusion of Indigenous concerns in decision-making processes, how mining debilitates indigenous communities to their very core, and how collective action and awareness can effect change. The experience was a testament in the power of international solidarity and cooperation.

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I will be back soon, this time to meet Fang Od, and get permanently marked with a piece of the Filipino culture.

Taken using the Nikon E8400

A bit of Pinto

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I got to visit Pinto Art Museum in Rizal last November 2015 with one of my best friends. It is contemporary art heaven as well as a testament of love for Mediterranean architecture. Touring the entire museum requires an entire day and a lot of energy as there are 6 galleries,view decks, and sculpture gardens to explore. It was a day of appreciation: appreciating beauty that comes in many forms,  and appreciating the gift of sight that allows for that appreciation.

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Taken using the Nikon D200

leaving to live

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Today was the first day of my last ten days in the CBD. The feelings I have are quite new to me: a mixture of both relief and sadness. There were times when I wanted time to move a little bit slower so the end would be delayed, but there are also times when I just want everything to be over and done with, so I need not feel confusion anymore.

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I am leaving because I no longer feel alive. I allowed myself to be turned into a cog that fits perfectly in a machine I knew I did not want to be part of. I have always had a soft spot for development work as I witnessed my mother dedicate decades to an INGO while I was growing up. This desire has transformed into a passion when I entered college and was nurtured by volunteering in an organization for street children. There is a more permanent sense of joy in doing work that transcends one’s own needs and helps advance a cause that is otherwise ignored: work that saves lives.

It was lovely while it lasted though. I met people, good ones as well as Regina George-types whom I thought only existed in movies. I learned that professionalism goes beyond politeness and diligence, and that it’s actually more about delivering beyond what is expected. I learned that performing well and liking what you do are not mutually exclusive, and there are more important things to take into consideration aside from how and what one feels.

However, I know it’s time to go, because I’ve been changed into someone I know I am not. And when we let ourselves be changed, we lose not only our distinctiveness, but also the little things that make us, who we are. For me that was photography, exploration, appreciation of the little things, being one with nature, spending time with my nanay, and being mindful of my health. For a while life revolved around chasing numbers, being relentless in the chase, winning the chase, needing to chase them again, and again. But for what purpose that has long-term implications?

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I had to leave because I was unhappy, and I could die any minute, and I cannot die unhappy. We are young, and driven, and full of energy. If our sense of self tells us that our success is different from what the world deems as successful, it’s okay. If our heart tells us that our success will not be found in the birthplace of wordly success, it really is okay.

The most noteworthy people are those who are stayed true to themselves despite opposition, judgement, and ridicule. The most noteworthy people are those who were relentless in their pursuit of an authentic life, despite all the difficulties that came their way. If we let ourselves become just cogs, cogs that look like every other cog, and can do what every other cog does, we become easily replaceable, for another cog of the same appearance and of the same abilities lay readily available at the next hardware store.

Ensure that you are happy, for at the end, you only have who you are. In my last ten days, I am both excited and scared, for the world is once again an unclear haze of possibility. But I know greater things will soon come, because it always does for those who chase greatness, and those who trust in His promises.

Photos taken using by BlackBerry Q10 (which broke, btw).

nope not dead no

Hi.

I’ve been gone for the longest time with nothing but the ‘hello’ post on this page. You see, what happened was

  • I got a corporate job 6 months ago.
  • I will be leaving the same corporate job in approximately 13 days.

and nothing remotely fun happened in that 6 months. My camera lay untouched for weeks, my hiking boots started to peel, bucket list items for the first quarter of the year remain unticked and my skin actually got fairer.

However,

like every other young adult (I assume) who was suddenly thrust into the real world from the (comparatively) safe arms of the university and liberal arts education, I learned a lot of things; one of the most important ones perhaps is that one can only survive without a creative outlet for so long.

So yeah, the hippie in a pixie is back.

And I can’t wait to share stories and friendships with you.

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Hello

My name is Daniella and I am never not happy and kind. Today I officially begin my journey as an online story-teller. In this blog you will find adventures (both near and far), photographs, poetry, musings, and attempts at art.

If this is the only post you see so far, please come back soon, I’m still working on the whole shebang.

If you see other posts and you’ve reached back this far in reading, let’s be friends.

I wish you a fantastic day!

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