2022 was like lyric poetry. A stack of unopened boxes full of mystery. It started with intimately wrapped presents encased under pretty gift wrappers, opening to a delightful surprise at a new dawn. A series of firsts after the long lockdown and life began to restart after 3 years.
Work came in full swing and I was busy as an ant building an enormous colony, you get lost in days, weeks, months.
But it rewarded me with views of the clouds, the sound of feet over cobblestone streets, a taste of historic monuments and foreign delicacies, interesting conversations with different colors and old friends, even an introduction to a scent I will never, never get used to.
I’ve woken up to foggy mornings and the sound of chirping birds and slept under fairy lights with a preview of the milky way.
I soaked in the sun, I dug my toes in the sand, I savored the remnants of salt in my skin, in my hair, I watched a collection of mesmerizing sunsets and it was breathtaking every time.
I reunited with family and it was filled with long ago laughter, it was a streak of hangovers and countless sleepovers.
Despite starting the year right, until maybe to the first of the last quarter, with the universe having a sick sense of humor, I opened the twelfth box to an unexpected plot twist and I find myself crying through December, utterly frustrated and defeated. I have no words.
We are handed different, sometimes explicit, circumstances and we are exhausted maybe, but I only wish for renewed strength and a bit of happiness to survive the unchanging uncertain. And ultimately, just be thankful for everything in between, the big and little things that has put a miraculous glow on my face.
May we look up to the sky and find the stars align to be a compass that sets out to guide us when we are lost in the darkness, to ignite the spark of hope we need that burns to a fire that will lead us out. Out of misery, out of loneliness, out of exhaustion.
And as the year finally closes, keep in mind that everything will eventually fall into place exactly as it should, when it should, even when we go forward into another start of unopened mysterious boxes.
Have a happy end of the year and start of another year.
Celebrated Juancho’s birthday at the beach! (post pandemic shenanigans)
Much needed break from everyday and so timely it was also a holiday.
We stayed at Casa Praia along White Beach in Punta Ballo, Sipalay. It’s a private beach house with 4 bedrooms (10pax capacity) and 1 and a half bathrooms. It’s fully furnished with a complete kitchen in case you choose to cook.
Pre-birthday sunsets and swimming and the adults with cards and drinks.
Sunburnt and happy. Swimming all day at the beach since it’s conveniently just in front of where we were staying 😂.
Writing this in the rainy season to maybe remind me, us, some remnants of summer.
First proper vacay out of town for the kids, finally out after 2 years!
Now off to Boracay Island!
Road trip took maybe 4 hours if we haven’t stopped by some Mcdonald’s and Jollibee to eat. Aftermath of the typhoon was still very visible, the roads we passed by were either collapsed or flooded. Arrived to a very chaotic Caticlan port around past lunch time, took us maybe more than an hour to finally board and transfer to the island.
And just in time for sunset.
Stayed on the island for a good 4 days, from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday, and boy, did the kids have a lot of fun!
First night, finally caught up with half of my forever dates!
Random beach day views
and random skies.
And as everything else, all things come to an end.
I’ve visited pain inflicting places I swore I never would. Dove down to hurtful memories and surfaced out of breath. I’ve listened to tear stained songs I thought I couldn’t bear to hear. Laughed like a crazy woman between mundane circuses. I’ve danced tirelessly on the dance floor since after I thought my bed was my only comfort. I’ve opened up to new faces when I swore I will never trust again. I’ve apologized for things I wish I have never done, things I wish I have never said. And I’ve forgiven myself for all of it.
You will heal. I promise. In time, you will heal.
Photo is of my 96 yo grandma’s place, totally devastated by typhoon Odette. First floor of her house was entirely submerged in flood, water stayed for 2.5 days. Road to is not yet cleared, had to park the car on the roadside and walk going in carrying supplies that would last for a month. No electricity, no clean water available, they have to go to the nearest town just to secure. Despite all, still thankful they are safe. Much repair is to be done, but we’ll get there. We’ll get there.
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.
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.
Processed with VSCO with kk2 preset
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.
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.
Processed with VSCO with kk2 preset
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 (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.
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!
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.
Went shopping at Dress Smart and had dinner at Ramen Takara because it’s my last night and everybody knows how much I love ramen hahaha.
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.
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!