A tribute to grandfathers, and consequentially, a treatise on regret.
The harsh way to put it would be that I traded my grandpa’s heirloom for a battery-operated facial scrubber.
Two years ago in March, I celebrated my birthday with relatives in California. It was a delight getting to meet them for the first time in my adult life, when I could actually remember things and understand the conversations in the Kinaray-a dialect. The experience was only made more delightful by one thing: the opportunity to be with my only living grandfather, Tatay Bening.
Tatay Bening was my dad’s uncle. He was turning 93 the following month. A former public school teacher and war veteran, he was still sharp as a tack and fun to be around. Just like my siblings and I grew up with our cousins, my dad and aunt grew up with theirs, and Tatay was the head of that big brood.
I have always had a fondness for the elderly. To me they are living legacies, their eyes our windows to the storied past. Grandparents, most especially, are the only real connection we have to our heritage, their wisdom our key to unlocking various mysteries surrounding who we are and what we are to be.
And I have always believed that in much the same way a father is instrumental in shaping a daughter’s identity, so is a grandfather to a granddaughter.
I yearned for a Lolo growing up. My parents’ dads were not really around, so I could only imagine what it was like. Hearing stories of the war, of dapper men on the streets of Bacolod or Angeles wearing suits and top hats, of love, fiestas, school, trade, travel, music in those days.
Rummaging through their antique chests and being given mementos: a tobacco pipe, a worn-down camera, a battered old typewriter, a vintage pair of spectacles, a moth-eaten set of books. Singing along with them while listening to AM radio stations on a Sunday. Having my feet on top of theirs and dancing while the vinyl player cranked out Debussy.
It can’t be helped that we tend to view things from the perspective of the majority. This is what works, this is what should be, this is the accepted practice, this is the norm. The standard.
It also can’t be helped that despite what we know better, sometimes we succumb and view ourselves from this same perspective. Am I—the clothes I wear, the things I accomplish, the talents I possess, the company I keep—good enough, from this perspective?
And therein lies all the self-doubt and insecurity and failure to see things properly. We become so engrossed in what they say we should know, not what we already know. When we pit ourselves against others in a game of Who’s Better, we never win.
I’ve experienced this so many times growing up that I can’t even count the incidents. I’m a bit like Mike Ross of Suits, however, in that I can remember in vivid detail the littlest details from the past, all the way from when I was three. Let’s go as far back as pre-school.
I was the youngest, and everyone else was painting their eggshell mosaic in the basic shades that came with the watercolor palette. I mixed some colors in mine, so my mosaic looked different. Though my work got hung on the bulletin board, I resorted to using basic colors for the next project to make them stop calling me weird. Another time when I was seven, the teacher taped a “King David” card on the blackboard, with a dozen random words on the other side. We were to pick a word that describes King David and place it around his name. I raised my hand, got my turn, and picked “ruler.” I was promptly laughed at and told that rulers are school supplies.
I could go on and on, but the point is, the more I tried back then to be on the same plane as the rest of them, the more I felt the disconnect. It was quite the struggle, trying to find your place while trying to not be out of place, as you may have felt too.
The Silver tickets to Disclosure I’m giving away have just been upgraded to P2,800 Gold ones! Details after the cut. But that’s not all I meant by my title.
Awful stories have been occupying our news feeds recently: Palestinians being murdered in Gaza while Israelis cheer on, a Malaysian Airlines plane carrying 295 people getting shot down in Ukrainian skies by rebels, “public servants” in the Philippines raking in billions of pesos in taxpayers’ money while Filipinos languish in deplorable conditions as we endure one calamity after another. We’re constantly faced with universal struggles that platitude-laden websites like Thoughtcatalog and Elite Daily have cashed in on numbered Do’s and Don’ts promising to make life easier.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, not just from the stories I come by every day but from my own, and those of the people I’m surrounded with—family and friends, blog readers, kind strangers—it’s that life may not always get easier, but it does get better, always.
I waited until our date was over before I wrote this, hoping I’d be able to find enough words to keep this Mother’s Day tribute sweet and succinct without missing anything. But my mom isn’t the easiest to write about. What she is to me cannot easily be put into words, but here is an earnest attempt.
Quick shoot at the airport before my trip to Seoul yesterday afternoon. It’s 8 degrees here when we arrived at night, but of course I couldn’t wear my jacket yet in the sweltering heat of Manila, heh.
A lot of firsts come with this, like the first time to (finally!) visit a favorite city, first time to travel with the whole family including cousins, and my first time out of the country on Holy Week.
They say Lent comes in tandem with conversion—a change in attitudes, mindset, or principles. Sometimes, the change is temporary, like not eating meat or going on Facebook. Other times, the change is as profound as forming a new habit or subscribing to a different way of doing things.
"What is essential is invisible to the eye." Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s words (let alone his name) weren’t easy to spell out for me as a seven-year old reading "The Little Prince." Of course, through the years we come to realize that the seemingly simple, innocent, unassuming stories of our childhood turn out to be filled with meaning. And on essence, Saint-Exupéry couldn’t have made more sense.
I’ve written about the five elements that make up everything around us: the essences of the physical world. At the launch of jewelry brand Pandora’s Essence Collection February 26, it was all about the elements that make up the essence of womanhood.
I love my job. I get to do the things I liked doing as a freelancer, but on a paycheck that allows me to spend on myself, my loved ones, and those who could use a little push, as a way to pay it forward.
It’s not just the material rewards though, or the opportunities for traveling and learning from successful industry leaders and inspiring innovators who care more about substance and less about shallow popularity contests. It’s not just about the flexible lifestyle it has afforded me, or the mentors and friends I’ve gotten to meet who helped reinstate values and virtues I seemed to have forgotten about. Sure, the benefits are awesome. But I love my job for what it represents.
Today is one of the most polarizing universal holidays. Love on a normal day is equal parts bewildering, captivating and frustrating as it is; on Valentine’s Day, whatever effects it has on a person is magnified a hundredfold—single or not, happily taken or secretly, miserably so.
I must admit that when I was younger (and thus more prone to angst), I wasn’t the biggest fan of February 14th. Sure, I was a hopeless romantic—still am, but it’s also why. I felt that Valentine’s Day tends to become a vehicle for lip service and phony, seasonal gestures of love, done more out of obligation and peer pressure rather than sincere intentions.
I don’t know about you, but I find social media consumption these days to be exhausting. Every five seconds, there’s an interesting new top 21 list (“21 Shapes You Can Make With Ketchup”). A new video of a child prodigy doing something we ordinary adults can’t do (“Watch This 3-Year-Old Dance Ballet While Playing Her Own Violin Accompaniment”). A new slideshow of tips you never thought would be useful until now (“How To Cook Fried Rice Without Rice”).
The dizzying pace with which we are served these small bites of information on a daily basis is no wonder the majority of us seem to be developing attention-deficit disorders. Can you imagine going into a café to meet your friends without your laptop to while away the time? Heaven forbid you have to sit at your dentist’s reception area withoutyour tablet to play with while waiting. Let’s not even talk about the time you had to endure a 45-minute car ride without 3G on your phone.
It’s been a while since my last Disney cover. Let’s kick things off with this. :)
"Frozen" is easily my favorite Disney movie. Sure, it is funny, and heartfelt, and is quite the antithesis to old-school Disney princess movies which quite frankly I am not a fan of. But more than these, the movie goes against the miseducation of girls everywhere that a man’s love is all they could wish for, all they should work for, all they would need to live happily ever after. It puts forth what true love means: not kissing someone asleep (or poisoned to death) because you were struck by their beauty, not dancing with someone all night and then deciding you want to marry them just because they were the prettiest glass-heeled girl in the ball, not pretending to be a prince when you’re really a street rat, or pretending to be human when you’re really a mermaid, just to be liked by the other person.
True love is searching for your own identity, seeing what you’re capable of and accepting yourself regardless of what others expect from you. It is persevering, knocking on someone’s door for as many times as it takes for them to open their heart. It is, as Olaf says, putting one’s needs before yours in sacrifice. It is the love of family, of real friends who appreciate you for all that you are. When you have this, there’s no need to be afraid, to care what others are going to say, to fear rejection or judgment. True love is what remains when even the charming prince turns out to be the villain.
Hug your true loves today! :)
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Each time the new year rolls in, many of us take to writing down a list of resolutions for things we want to change or improve on, as well as a wishlist of accomplishments and acquisitions. After all, we’re familiar with the law and powers of attraction: think positive, work hard, and we can attract whatever it is we want to happen in our lives.
The thing is, though, very rarely do we see all the things we’ve written get realized when we look back on our lists come December. Eat more fruits and veggies? Sure, until about two weeks in. Sleep eight hours a night? Okay, but you really need to catch up on all episodes BBC Sherlock and your neighbor’s Facebook life, so maybe four hours will do. Hit the gym for those six packs? Maybe… next time. So, why this discrepancy between the first and last weeks of the year? What makes us end up with disappointing lists when we start out so eager and motivated to become better versions of ourselves?
Some say 2013 was a rollercoaster. For me, it was an uphill ride. Here are my top 10 posts why.
10. Starting Over [link]
It is never a walk in the park to find out that someone you trusted and loved has been betraying you in every way imaginable for half of your three-year relationship. The pain, humiliation and anger are enough to reduce even the best of people into a shrivelling mess. But it’s the messy breakups that turn out to be our redemption. We are saved from people and situations that were never worth it from the start, and freed from having to be stuck with them for longer. It’s like spring cleaning: we throw away what’s broken and rotten, and when we get rid of trash, we make room for everything beautiful that we deserve. I will always consider this to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.
9. Meeting Troian [link]
"Days like these remind me that we must appreciate the small victories, the baby steps we are able to take towards becoming our better selves. And that, when things are meant to be, they will fall into place without us having to exhaust ourselves in struggle." This was the day I drove 85 kilometers to see Troian Bellisario and Patrick J. Adams in the flesh. I got an interview and a photo with her, and I got this and a birthday greeting from him. As a fan of Suits, Pretty Little Liars, and these two, this post makes it to the highlights of 2013. What made it more special are my two best friends, Joanne (who made the videos possible) and Abi (who drove half the way, waited with me and took photos).
8. Graduation [link]
Written after my brother’s college graduation and my birthday celebration at a home for orphaned and street children. Coming back to Ateneo to attend the ceremony, and listening to the messages of Cardinal Tagle and the professors and Jesuits I admired, brought back memories of my late teens and early twenties and of the ideals and values I hoped to live by back then but had forgotten through the years. They say our lessons will repeat themselves until we learn them, and I realized just how true this was. Needless to say, it wasn’t just my brother who graduated that day.
7. Dive, Don’t Drown [link]
Few events are more life-changing for me than this. For one, I took swimming lessons thrice and failed. I can swim when the water is shallow enough that I can stand up in the pool… which is to say that I can’t. I’m not a beach person, either. I don’t even own a bikini. But my best friends Joanne (a wanderlust with a thirst for new experiences) and Magel (a certified diver and avid adventurer) have been urging me to try things I’ve never done before, and one crazy day, I found myself telling them I wanted to dive. I conquered my fears, found a new friend in an amazing person, and discovered new things about myself. I actually love the sea! I’m ready for that fourth attempt at swimming lessons.
6. Transition [link]
I have a pretty accurate read of a person from my first conversation with them, regardless of whether they’re being real or not. I turn out almost always right. Despite this, I found myself in toxic relationships left and right. I didn’t feel comfortable with myself, compromised my values for majority approval, traded secrets with and confided in people who I knew deep inside weren’t listening with genuine intentions. Afraid to break away and burn bridges, I chose to participate. When I wrote this post, I was seeing the consequences of this choice. I was able to see which were my friends for as long as they had something to gain, which ones left without hearing me out, which ones were afraid to rock the boat standing by me, and which friends truly cared how I was, asked what happened, reprimanded me for my mistakes and loved me anyway. They’re the ones I have with me now.
5. Skinny Love [link]
Thoughts at a Coffee Bean while Birdy’s version was playing. “All we really want, deep down inside, is to be loved… But are we really willing to make do with a love founded on co-dependency than none at all? A love of two halves desperate to have someone complete them at the cost of losing their individuality? Skinny, undernourished, lightweight love? When you’ve had one too many, you tire of chasing after a kind of love that is bound to last only so long as the novelty and euphoria of the feeling is there. You resolve that this time around, you will love yourself first… that perhaps, when you are whole and with so much to give, another whole will come by when you least expect it.”
4. Charmed [link]
Reflections on being twenty-something, and wearing a charm bracelet for the first time. “The cross with heart to be reminded of the One who makes all things possible and beautiful. The flower, as a reminder to bloom where I am planted, and my birthstone aquamarine (March) as a reminder that we are born for a purpose, and it is up to us to seek and fulfill it… Two turquoise beads to represent sea and sky, because adventure is out there! The white hearts to represent pure love—what I believe in and look forward to finding, feeling and keeping.”
3. Wildcard [link]
Baseball caps were all the rage this year, so the sport became a springboard for this post. “In many other sports and competitions, it essentially means the same thing: a second ‘in,’ a chance to redeem oneself despite failing to make it under normal circumstances. Many times in life too, we only either win or lose. And when we lose, there’s no going back. But every now and then, wildcard opportunities present themselves and offer a way back in… This time, we know so much better… We are more than ready. This is why many wildcards end up as winners.”
2. Autumn [link]
I have a fascination for the five elements and the four seasons. This post is a conclusion to the parallels I made between the seasons and the events of this year. “Now, it is autumn. The season for shedding the bits and pieces that aren’t needed, in order to make room for an eventual and inevitable rebirth. For more amazing challenges and experiences. I’d like to believe this is the season I have come full circle.”
1. In Order To Bloom, You Have To Pull Out The Weeds [link]
A celebration of the outpouring of blessings that has come my way. “I look at the vast garden of people who have helped me blossom throughout the past year. Family, old friends, new friends, old colleagues who knew better than to believe fabricated lies, new work colleagues in a new industry filled with intelligent, mature and accomplished individuals. People who heard all sides but didn’t take sides, saw the mishaps and saw me through the mistakes, gave me a tough time out of tough love, and stayed throughout everything. The happiness and contentment I feel today is for and because of them.”
To everyone who has touched my life this year, please know that I think of you every day and I thank you and wish you all the happiness in the world. You have made 2013 the best year ever, and it can only get even better next year. Happy New Year! ♥
All the love,
Getting caught in toxic relationships isn’t easy, especially in the Filipino culture where people tend to move in flocks and herds. Never mind that some interactions are tinged with manipulation and quid pro quo—you scratch my back, I scratch yours—in order to make it, we are told, you have to keep scratching and conforming to the status quo and grinning and bearing things (and people).
But as a favorite quote of mine goes, “You can’t fly with the eagles if you keep scratching with the turkeys.” What I was too afraid to admit earlier this year has turned out to be an amazing gift.
In order to bloom, you have to pull out the weeds. Trials are the best way to filter out your foes from your real friends, my mom said. Not everyone who listens to you is there to listen; some do for the gossip and now you know which is which, my dad said. Those who won’t believe you or stand by you didn’t deserve to be with you in the first place, my sister said. No one will be weighing you down anymore. You can finally grow to be the person you were meant to be, my brother said.
I look at the vast garden of people who have helped me blossom throughout the past year. Family, old friends, new friends, old colleagues who knew better than to believe fabricated lies, new work colleagues in a new industry filled with intelligent, mature and accomplished individuals. People who heard all sides but didn’t take sides, saw the mishaps and saw me through the mistakes, gave me a tough time out of tough love, and stayed throughout everything. The happiness and contentment I feel today is for and because of them.
Whoever’s reading this, I’m sending you these same vibes. May you also have the courage to stand up for what you deserve, to let go of everything that’s keeping you from growing and be surrounded with good people who will be happy to see you bloom. :)
Outfit details: Forever21 Girls (yes, the kids’ section) top, Forever21 skirt.
SM Accessories necklace.
Titan “Raga” watch.
SM Accessories bangle and bouquet ring.
I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath. Scared to rock the boat and make a mess.
So I sat quietly. Agreed politely. I guess that I forgot I had a choice.
I let you push me past the breaking point. I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything.
You held me down.
But I got up. Already brushing off the dust. Get ready ‘cause I’ve had enough.
You hear my voice, you hear that sound. Like thunder, gonna shake the ground. I see it all, I see it now.
I’ve got the eye of the tiger, a fighter dancing through the fire.
'Cause I am a champion and you're gonna hear me roar.
Now I’m floating like a butterfly. Stinging like a bee. I earned my stripes.
I went from zero…
To my own hero.
It’s an anthem everyone can claim for their own. But for those of you who know me and my story—the real one, not the one passed on through a friend of a friend of a friend embellished with amnesiac truths, then you’d know exactly why I wrote in Katy Perry’s lyrics instead of my own words. “Roar” is the life story of this (girl born in the year of the) tiger, and there is very little need for elaboration.
Forever21 tiger shirt, Miss Sixty shorts. Special thanksJoanne Pecson (pictured above) and ETC Channel for inviting me to be the inspirational speaker on personal style during the ETC Campus Tour in UP Diliman a few weeks back.
Antler Accessories necklace to go with the shirt’s studs.
Forever21 nude stockings with cross prints, Skechers +3 wedge sneakers.
Gel nails by St. Nails Spa.
Hype this on Lookbook above, favorite on Chictopia below.
How we use our freedom speaks of our priorities. It’s been a week since Yolanda, but thousands will be reeling from its aftermath for weeks more. For those of us who won this lottery and were spared, offering a bit of our time, resources and sensitivity is the least we can do.
Despite that (or, because) we are not directly affected, we can make use of our freedom to help out, just as we would if the storm struck one of ours. Yes, life goes on—given enough time to recover. Would we be comfortable showing our shopping loot to a friend who just lost everything in a fire? Sharing PDA photos with a friend whose loved one just died? Recounting our fancy dinner to a friend who just got laid off his job? We’d be free to, but we wouldn’t. We’d let them know that we are one with them in their suffering. We’d be responsive to their needs.
This weekend, the Ateneo de Manila college covered courts is open 24 hours to donors and volunteers. While there are many other centers (there are actually two other courts for relief operations on campus), this is where I always go to help out. It’s like coming home. This is where the OrSem is held, where freshmen are first taught the Ignatian value of magis: the pursuit of excellence, not merely for one’s own benefit but to be men and women for others. Sentimental reasons aside, it’s also because volunteer work here doesn’t feel like work at all.