Season 2 of quarantine birthdays and my eldest turned 17. Away from the usual Shakey’s, we went on a day trip out of town to relax and chill.
Refreshing break from lockdown.
Season 2 of quarantine birthdays and my eldest turned 17. Away from the usual Shakey’s, we went on a day trip out of town to relax and chill.
Refreshing break from lockdown.
One full year isolated from friends and loved ones.
One full year out of work, out of school.
One full year of faces hidden behind a collection of masks.
One full year of life as we know it, thrown into complete disarray.
Exactly a year ago when the world went into a standstill, locked down and boarded up as we were thrown into a wave of uncertainty, unprepared and caught off guard, spiraling into a state of disequilibrium, a life characterized by fear and anxiety.
One full year since the day everything changed and away from a reality we will never get back.
Can we ever grasp the new normalcy we struggle to live with?
Will we ever become comfortable in the daily uncertain?
Will we ever see through the shadows of a dream draped with looming obscurity?
Will freedom be less defined?
Endless questions with answers held by a future that remains dimly vague,
With tiny slivers of hope only few seem to recognize, rejected by most as distrust blind their discernment.
Out of this chaos, may we realize that everything can end in an instant so focus on what is important and always be grateful for somehow, we are still surviving.
2020 was life-changing, it was exceptionally challenging that I can’t even put in a good word.
It was unremarkably heavy, a burdened weight unnecessarily shouldered for the past 10 months.
Suddenly, everyone had to forego with comfortable, we did not have a choice and that was frustrating. Life had to hide behind the mask.
Loss was a daily constant. The existential need to be seen, to be heard, to be held, was abruptly stolen by uncertainty and time was not on our side.
Anxiety continue to grow and you find yourself writing down turbulent thoughts on a fleeting lucid moment at 2 am.
I had to deal with so much the last year, I couldn’t cope. Gone was the strong facade I so easily wear, replaced by a throng of vulnerability and unrest. I feel like the chemistry in my brain fucked up.
2020 did not turn out how we hoped it would be, it was a cruel surprise. But somewhere in between the pandemonium was a window of realization that human as we are, we will instinctively survive.
If there was anything that I learned from the longest year of my life, it was gratitude, gratitude from the smallest of things: from keeping a job despite the economic collapse, home-cooked meals, discovering a hobby, appreciating my small circle of family and friends, new-age technology filling in the gap from being socially distant, waking up alive, healthy and somewhat sane.
May we leave the dust of the year that was in the past and may we learn that we could choose to drop these heavy loads and walk towards hope, no matter how small a speck, with empty arms making room to carry much better things.
Smile. It’s a New Year.
Photo set | Northern Island, New Zealand
I stopped celebrating my birthdays when I turned 20 for silly reasons most people wouldn’t really understand. Not that interesting so don’t be curious.
Every year, on my birthday, I leave and go on an adventure and for the last leg of this quarter life crisis, I went to Middle Earth. 12 days full of missed flights, stairs, bottles of wine, herds of cow, flocks of sheep, steak, steep trails, fish and chips, broken luggage, sorting baggage, magnificent views and loads of fun!
Flew Qantas. Flight from Manila was delayed so I missed my connecting flight and was stranded in Sydney airport for a few hours. Booked the next available flight to Auckland. Fortunately, my Wellington flight got moved to a later schedule so I did not miss it. Good thing there was also free booze on board, good enough compensation to the exhausting sprint I had to make to my connection only to arrive to a closed gate.
After 13 hours of flying…
Northern Island winter road trip
The places we went to on our 10-day road trip from Wellington to Auckland.
My cousin and her husband cooking me up a feast at their new home and what a coincidence that a friend of mine from way back also lives in the same suburb as them! She saw my Instagram stories arriving in Wellington and messaged me. Chance meet up of course and she also brought me 3 bottles of wine haha!
Road to Cape Palliser, such picturesque views outside my window!
We passed by some wild seals too! Stopped by the side of the road and took some pictures of these cuties. Careful enough not to get too close as some curious pups were growling at me haha.
Mount Victoria lookout
360-degree scenic views of Wellington. Always chasing sunsets.
Te Papa Museum
Did not finish exploring and will need to go back!
When you love Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, you just have to visit this place. Home of the talented people behind these amazing conceptual designs and visual effects.
Martinborough – Poppies
Passed through this town going to Castlepoint. The town features over 20 wineries, most within cycling and walking distance of the village square.
We stopped here for late lunch and some wine tasting. I am not a wine person but this place is definitely a must go to. Wine and food, superb.
This small beach-side town on the Wairarapa coast is just beautiful.
Road crossing to Ruapehu district. Landscape of the Northern Island is so diverse. Majority of the road trip, all I see is lush green forests and cattle and sheep ranches. Then we come to this. Both sides covered with low scrublands and snow capped Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe as backgrounds.
It was snowing when we arrived and first snow fall experience for these kids in the 7 years they’ve been living in New Zealand haha! Pretty winter wonderland.
Parked our car by the hotel. We took a bus up to Mount Ruapehu as the road was very slippery and we did not bring chains.
The Huka falls—largest falls in the Waikato river. The flow rate from the water drop of the falls could fill up 8 olympic size pools in roughly a minute. Amazeballs.
Relaxed in the silica enriched thermal pools as we were dead tired from all the walking and hiking. There is also a walk where you get to experience a recreated Maori settlement, said to have settled some 1,000 years ago, drawn by the thermal activity and the abundance of food. They believed that the hot pools contained healing powers and therapeutic benefits. Amazingly, the houses are so small and considering that most Moari are largely built people.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
Wai-O-Tapu (Māori for sacred waters) is an active geothermal area by the Taupo volcanic zone, some 27 kilometers south of Rotorua.
Whakarewarewa Forest – The Redwoods
Magnificent stands of towering native and exotic trees in this beautiful forest.
Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake)
Lake Tikitapu is also known as “Blue Lake” because of its gorgeous sapphire waters.
This magnificent structure used to be an elegant spa retreat called the Bath House in 1908 and was later on converted into a museum and art gallery. Sadly, this beauty closed in 2016 for seismic strengthening and remains closed til now.
August 6th, BIRTHDAY!
Matamata – Hobbiton
Where else to celebrate the last leg of my quarter life crisis but at the lush pastures of the Shire in Middle Earth?
Waitomo Glowworm Caves
I swear we went. They just did not allow us to take photos. According to our Maori guide, the glowworms are sensitive to light and sound which is why they prohibited use of cellphones and cameras and also, said gadgets are expensive and they do not want to be spelunking the caves just to retrieve these.
Grabbed some pictures from Google Images (maybe back when it was still allowed to take photos, I dunno).
The only photos we were able to take — exit of the cave and the entrance to the souvenir shop.
What an awesome day! Ate truffle burgers and truffle fries for dinner, lazed at our Airbnb by the lake and downed 2 bottles of wine. Happy birthday to me!
These familiar scene out of Narnia. Shorter way by boat, Longer way by hike. We took the latter. Even found a few blooms of Sakura. View was worth it.
Hot Water Beach
An underground river of hot water flows from the interior of the earth to surface in the Pacific Ocean at this beach, thus it’s name. Visitors can dig large holes and soak in the thermal water.
Disney on Ice
Because we are never too old.
Last stop for this trip. Met up with friends who are based here and was so happy they celebrated my birthday with Korean food and ramen!
SEA Life Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium
Killed time and went to the aquarium while waiting for our Korean dinner.
Thank you for indulging my Korean obsession!
It was really nice that the guy by the escalator going up the tower told us to check the skies first before deciding to pay more than $20 and just be disappointed. It was raining nonstop and was really cloudy. We did not go up. We went shopping instead lol.
Last day (huhuhu)
Breakfast at Kreem
Arrived around 10pm in Manila, stayed at my best friend’s place, was so exhausted fell asleep the moment I went to bed and was snoring. Went to church the next day (thank you LORD for my awesome vacation), had lunch at Soru (always) and flew home to Bacolod in the afternoon.
And I feel like I’m still hungover.
Thank you to Krissy and Alvin for my room (haha) and for going on this trip with me, Micmic for seeing me in Wellington and bringing vino, Aubrey for meeting me in Auckland, Ching and Patrick for letting us stay at your ginormous place and Ilaine and Bambi for coming out for ramen and dessert. 12 days is tooooo short! I wish I was on vacation 24/7.
Krissy & Alvin of Knotting Wong Photography
My DJI Osmo Action camera (yes I switched from GoPro)
Photo Set | La Castellana
Somewhere in La Castellana, this just a little over an hour road trip from Bacolod City will lead you to the Garden of Luisa, a farmhouse turned resort, surrounded by lush greenery and a scenic view of the very active Mt. Kanlaon, for your perfect staycation.
Since cousins are home from abroad, we decided to spend one weekend out of town and we ended up here. The perfect excuse to laze, have coffee with a view, and even celebrate a birthday.
The garden is home to a wide variety of flora and you could even find propagated ones, truly a haven for plant lovers (like me). They also have a pool with a diving board, the kids loved it! Swam the whole day and were totally baked. Juancho still sporting his toddler’s life vest, the one he used when he was just 2 years old (hahaha!), poor kid.
We also celebrated Lily’s birthday in advance. Happy 5th little girl! Perfect excuse for cake and spaghetti.
And even if it rained… Rain is rare in UAE (lol). Nothing is gonna dull this experience.
It was fun that we were able to relax and enjoy each other’s company, bonding over good food, excellent coffee, a magnificent view and of course, bottles of soju (lol). Definitely indulged everyone with my Korean obsessions.
Family time is always the best time!
Kids knocked out on the way home. Too much fun.
Garden of Luisa is located at Bagonawa-Isabela Rd., La Castellana, Negros Occidental, Philippines, a getaway home destination located just an hour away from Bacolod City. Day rate is P5,000 for 10 pax and 300/pax in excess. Overnight rate is P8,000 for 8 pax. Rates are for exclusive use of the facility. Perfect for your next staycation!
Weekend at the mountains. Mahjong sesh leveled up 😂
Hearty lunch, happy hour started at 12:00 noon and even if I lost at mahjong, twas a really good weekend away from all the noise of the city.
Subscribed to this devotional recently and I’m just gonna leave Day 2 here. Just in case you stumble across this, read up.
Andy Stanley: Enemies of the Heart
Devotional Day 2
Scripture: 1 John 1:5-10
The first enemy of the heart is guilt. Guilt is the result of having done something we perceive as wrong. The message from a heart laden with guilt is, “I owe!”
Consider the man who runs off with another woman and abandons his family. Without realizing it at the time, he has stolen something from every member of his family. He has robbed his wife of her future, her financial security, and her reputation as a wife. From his children’s perspective, this man has stolen their Christmas, traditions, emotional and financial security, dinners with the family, and so on.
Now, the man who did all this doesn’t think in terms of what he has taken. Initially, he thinks in terms of what he has gained. But the first time his little girl asks him why he doesn’t love Mommy anymore, his heart is stirred. He now feels guilty. Dad owes.
Nothing less than paying that debt will relieve a guilty heart of its burden of guilt. People try to work it off, serve it off, give it off, and even pray it off. But no amount of good deeds, community service, charitable giving, or Sundays in a pew can relieve the guilt. It’s a debt. And it must be paid or canceled for a guilty heart to experience relief.
How do you get your guilt canceled? The answer comes in one of the first Bible verses I memorized as a child: 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (kjv).
Confession has the power to break the cycle of sin. And like most medicinal remedies, it works when applied properly. Proper application happens when we confess our sins, not just to God, but also to the people we’ve sinned against.
Guilty people are usually repeat offenders. And as long as you’re carrying a secret, as long as you’re trying to ease your conscience by telling God how sorry you are, you’re setting yourself up to repeat the past. However, if you start confessing your sins to the people you’ve sinned against, odds are that you’re not going to go back and commit those sins again.
Confess both to God and others, and you will slay this enemy of your heart.
What are you feeling guilty for? Confess your sin to God and to whomever you have hurt. Do it today.
“This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.”
1 John 1:5-10 NLT
I was having my afternoon coffee when my eldest kid arrived from school, yanked open the kitchen door too hard (because we Filipinos don’t normally use the front door), threw his backpack on the library floor and slammed the door shut to his room.
I was ready to rage like what the f*ck was that when his brother followed inside after him, laughing. I asked what was funny and he said that his brother got turned down by a girl on Valentine’s day.
I’m raising teenagers aged 14 and 15. I’m 34.
I remember back in high school, every Valentine’s day, a number of girls would be called to the Student Affairs office to receive flowers from their boyfriends or admirers. Almost everyone would wait by the hallway to see the enormous bouquets and gush and giggle. (I went to an all-girls school by the way.) My name was never called, I never had the shameless opportunity to claim a dozen roses because as far as I could recall, I did not waste my time tearing over some ridiculous crush when I was this age, I was busy sneaking out to drink and play pool (not something I’m really proud of). Boys were the least of my concerns.
So I found my kid’s situation kind of amusing. I’m not a bad mother.
I knocked on the door to his room before letting myself in, it was pitch black. I turn the lights on and found him crying on his bed. I sat beside him and stroked his back, asked what was wrong. For a while, he was just silent, trying his best not to cry. He finally said to leave him alone. I’m not doing that, no kid is demanding me to do anything I do not want to do, so I remained where I was, told him that he could talk to me, that he could tell me what happened at school, that he could tell me why he was so triggered. I guess he realized I wasn’t going anywhere until he spills, so with a heavy sigh, he said that his heart was broken. I seriously tried not to laugh. I AM NOT A BAD MOTHER. But honestly, I don’t know how to deal with this. Motherhood, especially parenting teenagers, did not come with a manual. I asked how his heart was broken. Apparently, since it’s Valentine’s day, he gave gifts to this crush, but she turned away and he felt humiliated. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. I mean here is my baby boy, all grown up, having his heart broken by some ugly piece of shit. Sorry.
I did not know what to say. I told him it’s going to be okay even if I know it’s going to hurt really bad at the moment. I told him there are still so many other girls he will eventually meet and fall in love with even if I know his heart longs for a certain someone. Not the best choice of words.
But I also told him, assured him, that even if we don’t agree on most things, Mama will never turn away from him. Mama will always happily accept even paper roses and half eaten Kit Kats. I’ve collected all those V-day cards he and his brothers gave me since they started to learn how to make one. When everyone leaves, Mama will stay, Mama will always be here. Mama will never stop loving you.
A broken heart, heavily laden with dramatic weight and sadness.
Many years ago, I too suffered from a broken heart. Lots of uncontrollable sobbing and tantrums involved. If I had a dollar for every heartbreak and disappointment I’ve ever experienced, I’d just well be able to quit work and travel the world. But I’ve long mustered forgetting and blocking out the pain, the hurt. We cannot just continue to keep reliving our misery. I’ve come to terms with what has been and have totally moved on.
There is no socially established mourning method for broken hearts. It’s just plain sad. But if we try to see it as an experience to learn about ourselves, the process of moving on opens up an opportunity of self-betterment instead.
He wouldn’t be able to understand this for now, it’s a lot to take in for a fragile 15-year old, so I just let him be sad and cry it all out.
Before I left the room, I asked my kid, curious, if his crush even accepted the gifts he gave before she turned away and he said yes (that b*tch). I told him to give it time, that maybe she was just shy (while rolling my eyes). I am not a bad mother. I asked him what he gave her, he told me he gave a single red rose and some chocolates. Hearing chocolates, I asked what kind he gave, he told me he got some of the chocolates I keep in the fridge. We had a good laugh.
I did not dream of having kids. It was never part of the plan.
I wanted to write and live in different places, experience this diverse, expansive earth everyone keeps talking about.
At some point, I even wanted to go to outer space, discover aliens, leave footprints on the moon, trek Mars, name stars.
But you see, life has a sick sense of humor and who would have imagined I’d end up birthing 3 boys instead.
I wasn’t ready.
Stuck in the mundane.
I think I’ll never be ready.
Fine, joke’s on me.
But I kept on, even when my mind was in total chaos. I still keep on.
I had the choice to get away, to run away as I always do, but I stayed.
And trying to be a mother, keeping up a facade of this supposedly strong person and parenting alone while my heart shattered into infinite pieces, was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure.
But oh, the laughter of children, the sweetest songs, such beautiful music to my ears, I could listen to for a lifetime.
The course of our lives sometimes do not play out like how we pictured it in our heads but somehow, we always end up where we should be.
And most times, much happier.
There’s so much to see in our province honestly. Day trip bonding sesh with my cousins the few days they were home.
Photo set | Murcia & DSB
Lunched at Mambukal Resort, one of the popular mountain resorts in Negros Occidental located in Murcia and rests at 1,200 meters above sea level. It’s been the go to if you want a feel of the mountains since I was a kid. Can go hiking up to the seventh falls, kayaking in the lagoon, camping, watch the gigantic fruit bats or go dipping in the sulfur pool.
Passed by the viewing deck going to DSB overlooking a wide stretch of terrains and plantation.
Coffee at La Guada cafe. It’s a cafe resto with a marvelous view and guests can also stay overnight. They have a variety of rooms that could accommodate just you, a couple or family or you can opt to bring a tent, set up camp, make a bonfire and grill some barbecue. Can also go river trekking with their local guides.
Capped off our day at this pine tree haven in DSB.
Best times always with family.