Tuesday, March 31, 2015

First 120 days of my #KLChronicles (Part 1)

I think life is cheating on me. The last time I checked, I was clumsily dragging my 40-kilo luggage life through the steps of the Northpoint Residence lobby. It's where my employer billeted me for my first 30 days in Kuala Lumpur. That, ladies and gents, was four months ago. Whatever happened to my first 120 days? In my line of work, we have this jargon "first 100 days", meaning all the preps you will do for a new client - development of communications strategy, content, stakeholder mapping, spokesperson training etc.

I can't help but question what I have achieved during my first 100 days in KL? To be honest, a whole lot. Life has a way of spinning your head so fast that keeping a journal is the only effective way to make sure you record life's moments before the next big wave hits you.

My present concrete jungle

December 2014: Of Swift Introductions
  • I survived my first Christmas away from home and family. It was different, very quiet but extremely liberating. Was it fun? Not really. Was it so bad? Not as much as I expected. Did I regret it? No. It's one for the books. Something I think I should experience at least once in this lifetime. It taught me a few things I wouldn't learn any other way

  • It's my first time to live in a building, walk to work and eat tapau (takeaway) food for 30 days. I appreciate the convenience of living in a condo, but I miss the warmth and space of a real house. I also didn't realize how exhausted I was from all the commute to and from work back in Manila (not to mention the time you'll never get back) until I experienced living 10 minutes away from work. And eating tapau for 30 days? Never again. It was only fun for the first two weeks, and the bulges remain much longer than that.

January 2015: The Honeymoon Period
  • My friend and housemate, J moved into our permanent place. Still in a building, but triple the space and looks a lot more like a real house than a decorated shoe box. Our old, humble condo sits right in the middle of two train stations - KTM Commuter and LRT. Whatever it lacks in beauty and facilities, it makes up with its great location. It's four stations away from my office (total of 20 minutes relaxed commute), three stations away from the Central Station which connects us to the rest of the train lines going to the city (KLCC), airport, Putrajaya etc. Still a long way and a few thousand bucks to go to turn it into a cozy, modern looking house, but at least we've started with the basics.
  • Honeymoon stage with weekly trips to the mall to buy home ware. I fully embraced the #TitasofKL vibes! I found a church I like. I discovered the joys of endless bedding and curtain sale in Sogo (in Bandaraya, one station away!), the fresh organic produce from Sam's Groceria at Nu Sentral and even braved the wet market in Chow Kit where sotong (squid) sells for only RM10/kilo. Such a steal. Then you have the ever reliable AEon. They have everything from groceries to appliance, toys and what have you. They have 5% discount for all members every 28th of the month. Everything seems cheaper here. AEon will give SM a run for its money.
  • I also started getting busy at work with a few but nerve wracking pitch presentations and a thousand and one thing to learn about Malaysia, Edelman and CorpComm. Being in a new company, in a new country with a very different market, it's not very easy to build and find my way again. While I have extensive media contacts in the Philippines, here I'm literally starting from scratch. I started reading like a mad woman. I backtracked news and happenings in the last few months so I can bring something to the table and become a better consultant. I constantly asked questions no matter how stupid I felt sometimes. It's the only way to learn. Ask, get your hands dirty and just do it.

  • Last but very importantly, I learned that it's painfully expensive to move to a new place. You put deposits on everything - house, gas cylinder, mobile line, even condo pass. The usual comforts of home are all gone and I have to buy every single thing I need. Detergent, pillow case, knife, dust bin and toilet paper included.

Watch out for the second part of this post when the honeymoon period had passed and things REALLY started to get more exciting. Stay tuned! ;)

Much Love,

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

27 Things You CAN do before you settle down

While my timeline is exploding with sparkling rocks, grand weddings and adorable babies (don't get me wrong, happy observer here), here's 27 things you CAN (not need, really) do before you settle down. I like it that it's not over the top, makes-you-feel-bad-about-your-boring-life kind of to do list. Plus, it rings true for both ladies and gents. 

I've done most but I'm still figuring out the living alone and living somewhere else part now that I'm presently on an adventure in KL, so wish me luck! 

1. Travel with your BFFs - check, and I'm looking forward to more!
2. Learn to cook - I'm a kitchen geek by genes, thanks mom! I can bake you sweet dreams, too. 
3. Be financially independent - check 
4. Face one of your biggest fears - check 
5. Live alone - On my 4th month now 
6. Accomplish a goal - I think a house for my mom counts? :)
7. Find your drink of choice - whiskey/vodka, no beer please
8. Make the first move - check 
9. Challenge yourself - all the freakin' time 
10. Take a roadtrip - check 
11. Try a nice restaurant by yourself - not very posh places, but dined alone a lot of times and it's not bad! :) 
12. Live somewhere else - 4th month of my #DangKLChronicles :)
13. Learn to drive manual - I've always driven manual, I think it's hot! :D
14. Find a new show and watch it all in one weekend - Yes, and I was on sick leave the following Monday. Good times. ;) 
15. Get fit - I'm at my fittest now, thankfully. 
16. Build something with your hands - I always do, I like working with them. 
17. Stay up until sunrise - I can't count how many times this has happened, good and bad days of course. 
18. See your favorite artist live - Not my most favorite, but still on my top 10, so check!
19. Make a list of books you want to read, and read them all - I have a list, but still working on getting (books are expensive!) and reading them all. 
20. Learn to fight - I learned this early in my life, literally and figuratively. 
21. Volunteer - check. I actually miss doing Coral Watch in the Philippines. :(
22. Find a new hobby - I always do, I hate idle time. 
23. Apply for your dream job - check 
24. Keep a journal - online counts, right? 
25. Have a long conversation with a stranger - check  
26. Do something crazy and spontaneous - Woke up one day, texted a friend and got inked.
27. Get to know yourself - It's a never ending discovery, I love it. :) 

Care to share yours? Thanks to Buzzfeed for some of the most amazing finds online! 

Much Love, 

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,