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 never imagined getting affected by the flimsiest of things but here I am, a chaotic mess of sad, angry and feeling bad. Yes, I felt bad.
It never crossed my mind that I would develop anxiety but the past 10 months of uncontrollable uncertainty has turned me into a silent wreck.
Isolation and confinement has pushed me to reach out to people, recklessly exposing myself to be emotionally vulnerable and I’ve been led on and left out.
I’ve never done any of these things before and it’s overwhelmingly new and suffocating. And as soon as someone paid attention, I easily forget that expectation is paired with disappointment.
I used to be so good at refocusing my thoughts, blocking out bad memories, or just not giving a care but somehow, it’s been getting really hard to hold it all together and not being able to control what runs through my head is taking its toll on me.
I had my whole year planned before this pandemia broke out.
I was going to South Korea with my girls to set crawl all the Kdrama locations we’ve watched, we had a long list and even rented a traditional Korean House (Hanok) to level up the feels, was also contemplating on extending my stay to catch that BTS concert.
I was looking forward to singing my lungs out at Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill tour in Manila with my best friend.
I was really excited to celebrate my birthday with my boys in Singapore, it would’ve been our first international trip that’s just the four of us.
I was booked to go back to New Zealand, together with my sister and brother-in-law this time, to see our cousins and we had half of a month’s worth of road trips and hiking mapped out.
And along with the rest of the world, my life’s been on pause since March.
The country was put on quarantine and it was a scene out of a dystopian movie. The streets ran empty. A daily dose of deafening silence. There was little to no movement at all and police and military visibility made it a little bit more intense.
Businesses started closing, a chunk of employees were retrenched, a number of companies filed for bankruptcy and every morning, on my way to work, passing by boarded up stores, closed down shops, countless checkpoints and empty roads, I would feel my chest tighten. It was so disheartening and frustrating to sit with a government unwary of what to do, a total shit show run by a couple of clowns with misplaced priorities.
Even when the quarantine was lifted, whenever I see people wearing masks and face shields, I get emotional. It’s just so different from how life was and it gets depressing.
Claustrophobia slowly choking, I’ve somehow developed really bad anxiety and it doesn’t help that we’re surrounded with so much negative noise and slammed with constant uncertainty. We are made to tread on thin ice, waiting for some sort of disaster to surface and it’s suffocating, sometimes a little too overwhelming, other times a too little heavy it might crack.
Never imagined I’d be dating Melatonin on weekend night outs instead.
It has always been “my month.”
I’m supposed to be somewhere unexplored doing something crazy or borderline stupid enough to scream what the fuck did I get myself into, and those have always been the best times.
But I have to settle with home for now. And surprisingly, the slow pace is kind of refreshing when the calm sets in. I have so much time on my hands that I run out of time, if that even makes sense.
And to those who understand my need to get away, thank you for taking me out even if it was just a quick flight up steep stairs to a cold dip in the pool under the rain with a foggy view,
or a short drive up North to grab coffee,
or a brisk 10-minute hike to the Twin Falls…viewing deck.
Those brief moments really meant so much to me in more ways than you know.
The cliche goes like: a drunken mind speaks a sober heart. And there is so much truth in those seven words. More honest, more vulnerable. Those drunk ramblings aren’t just random or ridiculous thoughts, somehow they’re something you’ve held back on, you’ve bottled up, you’ve tried to forget, might be trauma, or just silly nonsense your sober mouth did not have the guts to spew.
These moments might break someone, ruin the mood, destroy a relationship, but will undeniably ease the weight you’ve so long carried on your back. Only if you remember.
What’s funny though, despite being your unfiltered, totally honest, and reckless self, once you are sober, they tell you to stop thinking of whatever it was that has been unconsciously hurting you for years, that it’s all in the past, just try to accept, count your blessings instead, or forget about what fucked you up and move on. And they say it so easily.
You know why I don’t talk? Nobody truly listens. It’s either I’m being irrationally dramatic or unnecessarily bitter.
The Joshua tree, which in fiercely adverse conditions, was seen by U2 as a symbol of faith and hope in the midst of aridity. The tree was named, by early Mormon settlers, after the Old Testament prophet Joshua as its branches reminded them of Joshua raising his arms to pray. — Valentina Magli
After four decades, U2 has finally found its way to the PH.
I literally cried when they sold out 2 nights in Singapore. I mean these are legends, and it might be the only time I will ever get to watch them perform live and I missed my chance.
Blessed by the universe, they decided to add a PH leg closing their tour and I was so so so happy. I was like, GOD thank you for listening to me! And what was interesting, their VIP floor tickets sold cheap! It was like the universe was saying okay go on, watch and have fun.
Dec. 11 – Concert Day
Woke up at 3am to catch my 5am flight to Manila, it was pouring but I was too full of excitement, it didn’t really bother me. What turbulence? lol.
After lunch, we drove through the almost 2-hour traffic up north to Bulacan, to the Philippine Arena where they will be holding their concert and was greeted by the blaring pipe-in of Where the Streets Have No Name on repeat for the next 4 hours. The crowd was very diverse, from Boomers to Gen Z, it was a picnic at the parking lot with all the collapsible chairs and coolers of beer, while waiting to queue.
Started queuing at 4:30ish to claim our tickets and get into the venue.
We finally got inside after queuing for more than 3 hours and was welcomed by a 200 ft × 45 ft state-of-the-art 8K video screen that flashed a loop of varied poetry from acclaimed poets and novelists from around the world, even featuring poetry from our very own Bino Realuyo, Eric Gamalinda and Dr. Jose Rizal as a prelude to the concert that started a little past 9pm.
After The Whole of the Moon played by the Waterboys, I knew it was cue that the concert was about to start and we made our way through the mosh pit to the front of the stage. Just as the lights went out, Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam took the stage and kickstarted the show with Sunday, Bloody Sunday and everyone was up on their feet, hands swaying, singing, screaming.
After a couple of songs, Bono paused to greet the more than 45,000 people in the arena “Mabuhay!” And likened to a church service, Bono made known his prayers for an epic night of rock n roll transcendence.
Then they started singing Bad from the 1984 album Unforgettable Fire, and I got so overwhelmed, I started crying. How wonderful that one of my favorite songs was being played live by legends right in front of me.
As the concert progressed into the Joshua Tree album, the ginormous wall morphed into a backdrop of American deserts, endless highways, emblematic mini movies and a play of psychedelic visuals towards the end.
At one point, U2 dedicated the song Ultraviolet (Light My Way) to pay tribute to women game changers, to women who came together to rewrite history. To quote Bono: “When women in the whole world unite to rewrite history as her story that is a “Beautiful Day.”
This included Filipinas Lidy Nacpil, Cory Aquino, Lea Salonga, and Maria Ressa. And so much blah has been thrown at U2 being political and shit. The band’s been playing freakin punk rock since 1976. For those unaware of the genre (and are so called fans up until..), it’s supposed to be political, look it up. They’ve always had a reputation for their strong humanitarian conviction and activism, so get over it.
Playing their encore, some songs were accompanied with Tagalog subtitles, just shows how inclusive this band is.
After thanking everyone who came and stuck with them throughout the show, expressing their admiration of the indoor stadium, making mention that the Philippine leg is their 2,050th show, that not having come sooner, they have no excuse, and Bono saying ”from our single island to your thousand islands, thank you for making us feel so welcome on your islands, you’re making a new history for yourselves but the truth is, none of us are really an island and what happens in one country affects the other side of the world. From typhoons to drought, the way we live in one country affects life in every country. There is no them, there’s only us. We are…,” they closed with One, from their 1991 album Achtung Baby.
The concert ended at almost midnight and up to leaving the arena, I’ve been singing love is a temple, love the higher law, we got to carry each other, carry each other, some serious case of LSS.
And through the grueling exodus exiting from the car park that lasted around 1am to arriving BGC at almost 3am — took a shower, ate a bit of breakfast (dint realize I was starving from the concert) and went to the airport at around 5am to catch my 7am flight home and straight to my seminar.
Literally no sleep for more than 24 hours, but having endured the traffic, long queues at the ticket booth, food stalls, comfort rooms and the arena, and coming down with fever and all, just to experience an impeccably choreographed 2-and-a-half-hour show and hear the uncannily seamless voices of the band performing live and up close, was golden. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Here is their PH setlist:
Sunday Bloody Sunday
New Year’s Day
Pride (In the Name of Love)
The Joshua Tree:
Where the Streets have no Name
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for
With or Without you
Bullet the Blue Sky
Running to Stand Still
Red Hill Mining Town
In God’s Country
Trip through Your Wires
One Tree Hill
Mothers of the Disappeared
Even Better than the Real Thing
Every Breaking Wave
Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
Love is Bigger than Anything in its Way
Thank you U2 for the once in a lifetime experience and thank you Poi and Jobelle for sharing this epic night with me! Truly magical.
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.
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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.
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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.