Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What I Learned Today: Self Gratitude

I'm typing in haste to log a powerful conversation with my closest girlfriends. We are miles apart but I feel closer to them more than ever. Distance really makes people closer, I love the irony.

One of the girls got a recognition from her Uni in the Philippines for her achievement in economics and banking (she's based in Melbourne), and finally received the blessing of her soon-to-be mom-in-law. She struggled with the relationship for years, and to be honest, I would have bailed out of the relationship if it was me. But not her, she remained good and understanding, accepted criticisms, no matter how hurtful, with forgiveness and in silence. She retaliated not with anger but goodness, all the time, every single day, until they finally reached the gates of reconciliation. Love works! 

Another friend shared a budding romance, which she described in a way so unlike her previous relationships. She's excited yet composed, and in the context of how God wants her to love and be loved. At last, she's realized what I've been telling her endlessly over wine dates and sleepovers, that she deserved SO MUCH MORE. And her "so much more" is finally here. To say that I'm happy for her is an understatement. I should send a thank you note to heaven!

Then there's another friend who just came back from a trip to the mountains of Sagada, where she spent most days doing what locals do, opening her eyes to majestic greens you'll only see in the Philippines and drinking local brew on the porch of a cozy cabin. I guess the time did her good...and bad. She shared how she thought about her worries and fears that she's running late in the race of life. How her mom had three kids before turning 30, and there she was, in a loving relationship but no plans of marriage, kids, whatsoever.

Of course I had to speak up. I always do! I told them how I can perfectly relate to the dreadful moments when you start to question a lot of things in your life. Am I where I'm supposed to be? Did I make the right decisions? Am I financially free? Why did I choose this over that? Why am I so stubborn? Going against the tide puts me in trouble. Am I capable of having a family, more so, raising kids? I don't even have plans of getting married anytime soon! Am I eating enough veggies? Am I prepared to die?

It all sounded too familiar and the nurturer in me kicked in. I told my friends how proud I am of all their individual achievements, that I think they are doing amazing in their lives. I assured them that beyond my strong facade, I slip into emotional coma too, and we shouldn't be ashamed to admit it. 

I remembered an ex-colleague whom I envied professionally. She told me how proud she is of my so-called bravery in taking risks, stretching my capabilities and embarking on challenging journeys. How she's not too sure if she can be as brave, as risky and as unconventional. Then it dawned on me, we are so unforgiving, so unappreciative when it comes to one person - our self! We fail to recognize the goodness that other people see in us. We don't collect our blessings, we only count the mishaps. We always compare and measure ourselves against the lives of others. We think lowly of our achievements, we feel undeserving. This has to stop. For once, we have to learn to thank ourselves. To take pride in what we have achieved so far, big or small. Acknowledge praises. Celebrate victories. Let go! Let's forgive our shortcomings, and let it change us for the better. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014: Joy is everywhere!

It's my first Christmas away from home or any family member, but I'm surprisingly calm and okay about it. Not that I'm jumping for joy, but I've expected a good amount of tears and inevitable sadness which never came. Another senseless worry that never happened. Maybe it helped that I started thinking about spending this day alone the moment I said yes to this adventure. But this has to mean something more. Perhaps it's because I've come to a point where I know what I believe in and what I'm here for. That being in a foreign land, alone in time for the biggest and most important occasion in any Filipino family, is not an accident. It's too early to tell what living on my own will do to me, but I'm very keen to know.

However, spending Christmas alone for the first time (and the last time I hope) sure has its perks. For one, I don't have to worry about holiday weight. Haha. Filipino cooking, especially during Christmas, is totally fantastic, you have zero chance against food. All the lechon, menudo, hamonado and embotido won't go easily on the treadmill. And we haven't even talked about the desserts. But seriously, spending Christmas alone taught me a lot of things which will stay with me for a long time.

1. It's okay to ask for help. You are miles away from home, and something will always come up no matter how hard you try to set things in advance. In case of emergencies, don't hesitate to dial a friend. 

2. Communication, not talking, is key. A nice conversation over Viber or Skype can mean much more than mindlessly talking about everything, every single time.

3. I would never rejoice over the misery of other people. But it's sad to admit that you will always find someone in a worse situation. It shouldn't make you feel better, but it should make you feel grateful. And you have to act on it. Be more patient, be extra kind to people, you have no clue what they are going through. 

4. Christmas is always a good time to make new friends! I miss giving gifts so much, that I decided to buy something for my neighbor I hardly see. You should see the look on her face when she saw me standing before her door with a bag of cookies. Priceless. 

5. Joy comes from everywhere. Yes, everywhere! From joining the open house Noche Buena prepared by the parish, to drinking a cup of tea from Bangladesh, to talking about marriage, patriotism and freedom from traditions with a new friend to getting a random hug from the nice old lady who reminds me so much of my beloved lola. Joy finds you if you open your heart to it. :) 

6. God will always have the best plan. Ever. I have nothing fancy for today, but the Big Man has other plans. I got a spontaneous lunch visit from friends who's on transit from Singapore. I never had the chance to meet them in the Philippines before I left so it's nice to have a mini reunion after so many years. And right before I finish this post, remember the nice old lady who hugged me just this morning? She came back with a huge present. How amazing is that! You really see God's face  through people. :) 

Thanks Jeck and Mitch for making my Christmas super funny! Proud of your success. Love you both! :)

I will call her Annie
I'm not home for Christmas. But I have friends and family, far by proximity, but always in touch, always caring and always reminding me that there's really no reason to cry and feel kawawa. I have new friends and gained inspiring experiences. Christmas, just like love, transcends time, ethnicity and geography. Most of all, this is the season to be joyful because it reminds us of the higher Being who's so fond of us despite our imperfections. 

Merry Meaningful Christmas, everyone! Thanks for another year of sharing journeys through this humble blog. I hope you get the blessings you totally deserve! :)

Much Love,

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Food Review: The famous Digman Halo-Halo

If you're from the South, I'm sure you've heard of Digman, a humble baranggay in Bacoor Cavite made famous by Halo-Halo. Halo-Halo means "mix-mix" because you literally have to mix a dozen of different ingredients with milk and shaved ice topped with leche flan, ube halaya and ice cream. When I was young, my family often troops to Digman when we crave for indulgent desserts and Pinoy merienda. So visiting Digman again takes me back to my happy childhood. It's sweet nostalgia! 

There are several stores in Digman but I've only been to the two more famous refreshment parlors, which incidentally, also claims to be the original. The Original Digman Halo-Halo and Home Made Siopao (which boasts of a patent ha!) and the Talk of Town Original Famous Digman Halo-Halo Special. Don't expect too mucn from these places though, because they are simple old houses turned to stores and still have that laid back, canteen feel. I guess that's part of the novelty. I revisited Digman recently and here's hoping you'll either walk down the memory lane with me, or, discover something new. 

The Original Digman Halo-Halo and Home Made Siopao offers Pinoy merienda like pansit, sweet spaghetti, home made siopao and of course, Halo-Halo and its cousin, Mais con Yelo. A regular Halo-Halo is only Php 55, pansit and spaghetti is Php 40 and their home made siopao is only Php 22. A hundred bucks will go a long way! The owner also welcomes the visitors and makes friendly chit chats.


Like a true warrior, I went ahead and also tried the contender. The Talk of Town Original Famous Digman Halo-Halo Special (that's a mouthful!) is just across the street. They offer similar menu of Pinoy merienda but their Halo-Halo is a little cheaper at Php 45. It's also interesting to see framed news clippings and photos of their celebrity visitors including politicians. Don't forget to order their Pork BBQ which they consign from the vendor beside their store. It's tender and very tasty! 

I personally favor the Original Digman Halo-Halo and Home Made Siopao based on the taste of their lead star, the Halo-Halo. It's sweet but not sickening, ingredients are tasty and well-cooked and they use Alpine, which IMO is the best milk for Halo-Halo. I think they stick to their original recipe through the years. On the other hand, the Talk of Town Digman Original Halo-Halo remains to be a tough competition. Their Halo-Halo tastes okay, but I didn't particularly like two things - too much and artificial vanilla taste and cheaper, sweeter evaporated creamer. Yup, I can recognize the taste. Milk makes a lot of difference. But don't just take my word for it. Go try both and tell me what you like better. 

So if you plan to visit Digman anytime soon, here are some practical tips: 

1. Baranggay Digman is located very near the Bacoor Town Plaza and church. It's along Rubio and Gawaran Streets, you won't miss it. Go and check google map. :) 

2. To be sure, order bottled water, or bring your own. 

3. It's a very casual place where barkadas, students and families eat. Dress casually. 

4. Be adventurous with food. 

Enjoy your food trip! :)

Much Love, 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Grown Ups

If you're looking for me on a Saturday night five years ago, you're likely to find me in a bar with some friends on the dance floor or singing along a cute rock band. I was not exactly a full blown party girl, but I've had my share of the crazies and pains of early twenties. Those were the days when responsibilities were less, time was plenty and I started to earn good money too. I had the energy of a bull and an exaggerated sense of YOLO, which I later realized, was not a good combination. I repeatedly got wasted on tequila and cheap bottles of brandy, and I didn't have to wait for the weekend to get my fix. I was young. Everyday was a weekend. I was fine with daily four-hour sleep that my colleagues nor my boyfriend (sorry, Sweetie! ;p) had no clue of the wreck the night before. 

Thankfully, I came out of the quarter life warzone scarred but alive! When I hit 26, the changes were just undeniable. I partied less, I got tired of wearing the once mandatory heels, I was sleepy by midnight and the loud music that used to pump me up started to sound like noise. It's annoying. Then the unthinkable...I lost all interest on alcohol, which to me, was the final straw. I honestly tried to fight it, especially that I retired from the game way earlier than my friends. I vividly remember a night out to celebrate a friend's birthday in a now defunct posh bar. I tried to trick my emotions into wanting it, so I put on my favorite party dress and ankle boots and arrived fashionably late. We had access to the VIP area and alcohol was pouring wildly. Half an hour into the party and I felt like I'm gonna be sick. I excused myself and spent the rest of the night drinking iced coffee in the cafe next door. That night, I bid my youth goodbye. 

Nowadays, look for me on a Saturday and your best bets would be (a) my room, (b) the kitchen or (c) in a laid back resto bar where the decibels are regulated. Haha. Last Saturday, I had a bottle of sweet flavored beer while swaying to a really old (like lolo-old) band playing Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart. All the while feeling amused hearing my dear friend P, who just hit 27 and by all means more of a party girl than I ever was, tell me about how she's started to dislike, even dread partying. She ordered a flavored beer too, when I was so sure she's going to ask for a double black. Ha! Welcome to the club, my dear. I assure you, it's not so bad. 

I'm inching into the last year of my twenties, and I feel super. I'm confident that I now make better choices and since nursing a hangover is already out of the picture, I have plenty of time to do and discover more productive things than ever before. Like possibly growing my own herb garden. Or enrolling in a formal culinary class. Name it. I'm a grown up, and I wouldn't have it any other way. :) 

With my dearest friend, Pipi, after hours of talking about life, career overseas and love over tea lattes. How appropriate. ;)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

What I Learned Today: On Vacation

Eight long years after graduation and I finally got what I wanted - a real break from work. Ever since I joined the workforce, the longest vacation I've had was a 9-day break which included 5 workdays sandwiched between two weekends. Spent wandering around Singapore and Malaysia, the trip was really tiring as much as it's fun. There's also the (not so) occasional call from work and the constant beeping of my BB. 

When I decided to take up a new challenge in my career, which entails moving to a foreign country, I asked God for a favor to give me at least two weeks to rest, pack and spend time with my friends and family. But the heavens had other plans! I'm on my fifth week now, in between jobs, and quite honestly, getting a little restless. Call it withdrawal symptoms, but my body and mind longs for the demands of my job and its hefty dose of stress. I don't like being idle, but I force myself to look the other way. This is the break I've hoped for in a long time. More than deserving one, I needed one! Besides, I think this is also the heaven's way of telling me that it's okay to slow down a bit, and more importantly, to spend real, quality time with my loved ones. 

In the tradition of my What I Learned Today series, let me share a few thoughts I've had while sipping matcha tea from the neighborhood cafe, reading e-books, or while doing the grocery list. 

1. Stay-at-home parents have one of the toughest jobs on Earth! My mom is a kitchen diva, she's a natural. She cooks really well, but it's not her favorite house chore. I always frown at her when she complains how difficult it is to plan everyday meals. I mean how can that be so difficult? I never understood that until now. My mom is out of the country until December, and since I'm on vacation, I took over the kitchen duties. Two weeks into the job and I've already exhausted the list of "do's" and "da's" (adobo, menudo, afritada etc.). I wonder how my mom managed for the last 35 years! We haven't even started with the laundry, bathroom; then comes the kids, school work, social duties. Parents, moms especially, I suspect, are super humans.

2. A day is just a day. Sunrise and sunset, meals three times a day, and 24 hours essentially make up a day. It's going to be the same tomorrow unless you do something about it. You can sleep all day, watch TV 'til your eyes hurt or drown with too much social media; or you can go out and see the world. Spend time with positive people, visit your dearest lola, run that extra mile, try new things. You can never have too much to learn, and your supposedly idle days can be more fulfilling. 

Rekindling my love for bowling. I used to do this every weekend with my dad. :)

3. You'll be thankful you saved for rainy days. As much as I tried to be ready for this transition, I didn't expect my break will stretch for too long. Despite the setbacks the past months, I'm grateful to have saved enough to get me through. I still wish I saved more. The bills never stop, you know. 

4. Budgeting could mean everything. While I'm used to managing my own money, and even developed a fairly geeky tool, it's the first time I've tried my hand at budgeting for the whole household. In the last month, I've perfected my skills in scrutinizing the labels, ingredients, grams and price of every item in the shopping cart. I've discovered the best, off-peak time to do the errands to save time and gas, the perks and store discounts on certain days and how keeping a grocery list and bills tracker can save my sanity. 

5. Garbage in, garbage out. Eating and living healthy is a constant battle I've had for the past years. Staying at home, which means eating at home more often, gave me the opportunity to examine everything I put in my mouth. I have a long way to go when it comes to ditching soda and controlling sweets, but I'm happy to be eating healthier, more balanced and more natural food lately. I tossed all artificial flavor enhancers down the drain, and that includes MSG and anything "magical", "instant" and labeled "pampasarap".

I'm guessing I still have a few more weeks at home before I start my new adventure, hence, watch out for my next #LolaVibes and #DomesticDiva posts! :) 

Much Love,