A love letter to the amazing year that was

I can't believe I even doubted you for a second. But 2012, you are enough proof that God is and always will be in control. And that He is only concerned with what's best for us.

I started the year with so much anxiety and a heavy heart, not knowing where I'll be heading after hopefully-graduating college...but I gladly end it with nothing but joy in me and the sense of direction I have been yearning for all my life. On days one through five, I thought long and hard to come up with a list of what seemed to be mediocre-but-still-impossible faith goals for the year. What with the never-ceasing issue of lack in funds, confidence, and inspiration still looming, I couldn't see how ambitions such as coming to America, forgiving my father, and figuring out what career path I truly want could ever happen. But they did, they all did. Now on day three hundred sixty-six, I tick all the boxes, leaving nothing unchecked.

Remembering it all gets me excited to move ahead and seek out what He has in store for me in fearless 2013. On the year I turn twenty-one, I look forward to witnessing (more) opened hearts, restored faiths, and changed lives for my loved ones, and for everyone as well.

More so, I thank you, my lovely reader, for keeping up with me and my faith adventures. This online journal is in fact my love letter to you and the rest of the world. I hope you still join me in the coming year because although it hasn't even started yet, I already know what I'll be sharing on my dear blog when it ends: it has again been all kinds of wonderful.

Cheers, Godspeed, and wishing you all the best today, tomorrow, and forever!


Tales of three cities

I feel jittery as I type this: I'm homeward bound and it won't be long until I get to breathe polluted Philippine air again. (Can't believe I miss that too!) I'll be on the plane in ten and a half hours, and if my calculations are correct, I set foot in Manila eighteen hours and thirty-five minutes after that. But who's counting?! I can't begin to express how excited I am! So much has changed, I'm certain. Perhaps I did too! And for the better, hopefully.

I'm also looking forward to sharing with you stories of my final adventures during my so-long-yet-so-short stay in the dream country, featuring cities* that have evoked in me deep feelings of nostalgia and that I have, a couple of times, considered to be ideal places for me to settle down in, even just for a while: Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles. But they would have to wait until I get safely to homeland. So please join me and keep those prayers coming, I really appreciate them.

And I guess this is me, saying "see you later" to the US of A. With much love!

*Geek alert: People often mistake DC for either a city or a state when it is neither. From what I gather, it's technically a federal state...not that anyone would stop making the same error. Besides, being a tourist gives me a free pass for that! Teehee.



I know in my case there's no excuse for a long hiatus or delayed posts. But between coming up with something interesting to say and setting out on another adventure, I find myself choosing to stay away from my laptop and experiencing "life" firsthand. Which is good especially since I only have less than five days left to seek out every amazing, picturesque place thinkable.

Meanwhile, I finally get to share the Thanksgiving (my first!) photos I owe you...

The kids, while waiting for their parents to get ready

The surprisingly quick and no-sweat drive to Uncle Gi's

The feast for two kids and eight adults (No such thing as too much!)

My first time in Uncle Gi's and Tita Daisy's lovely home

Remy started his lunch with scoops of vanilla ice cream

And the host did the honor of carving the turkey

In the spirit of the holidays, though late, I offer a thank you to everyone who has helped and accompanied me, in one way or another, in this wonderful life-revealing-and-reveling journey. God has truly blessed me to have met people like you. So go out there, bless and be blessed!


Up in the air, California-bound

Thirty-five thousand feet above the ground view of my two favorite U.S. places (Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles) at night

Two months later, I'm back at Huntington Beach, greeting you once again with a good morning and a list:
  1. Thank goodness for kindhearted check-in assistants; the lady let me get away with five extra pounds on my baggage without having me shed out a single cent. Note to self: learn how to travel light next time.
  2. "Really appreciate your smile, Ma'am. That's hard to come around these days, especially at airports." - TSA Officer
  3. Such a struggle: my stomach was already growling as I moved past the restaurants, making my way to my boarding gate with two heavy bags clinging to me. Another note to self: bring a snack or eat beforehand. And again, travel light!
  4. I heard two elder ladies speaking in Hiligaynon, complaining about the ten-minute delay in our departure and I had to stop myself from joining in the conversation.
  5. Who needs the bed in first class or the extra legroom in business when you have a three-seat row all to yourself in economy? I felt right at home, barely hesitating to take my boots off and stretch out my legs on the empty seats next to me.
  6. I don't know what's more amusing: the sight of me carefully sipping my favorite apple juice like it was champagne while swooning over Josh Radnor (Ted Mosby!), Elizabeth Olsen, and Zac Efron in Liberal Arts (2012) or that the man who was at least forty years old and seating across the aisle from me was doing the same.
  7. It's only been three hours?! I think all this travelling is starting to wear me off. Even the thought of it is already making me tired. Yikes! Not great.
  8. Off to an awful start with Grazie... I had all these thoughts I wanted to write down so I tried to turn my new laptop on. And when she didn't, I almost cried and panicked for at least thirty minutes. First order of business after I get settled in: find a way to fix this.
  9. Just when I was proud of myself from doing lesser eavesdropping than last time, I find out that I forgot to bring a pen with me. Again.
  10. Tito Ted got off his late-night shift at work to fetch me. And if that wasn't sweet enough, he said the three words I have been dying to hear all night: Are you hungry?
And of course, a thank you to my send-off committee and my "part-family" (Joey G., 2012), all of whom I will sorely miss. 'Til next time!


Change of clothes

The two boys just gave me their last good night kisses and it finally hit me that I'm flying out of Maryland tomorrow. You'd think with all the last-minute packing and the California sidetrip planning that the idea of leaving would be the only thing on my mind lately. But no, these days my thoughts are mostly comprised of jobhunting (I'm getting way ahead of myself, I know!) and getting to know my new laptop, Grazie (more about it/her later). I really wish I'd stuck to the present.

However, as the line goes, endings are also beginnings. We're entering new chapters of our lives. While I'm excited to show up at interviews, trying my best to mask my doubts and anxiety, I'm also looking forward to hear from the family I have come to share these meaningful six months with. I'm quite eager to know about Joey's academic performance at the end of the school year, Remy's new-found friends at his daycare, and Tita and Tito's next step to take care of the kids and decorate the house.

I'm gonna miss everything, that's for sure: my own room, the friendly kitchen, Netflix, the very cold weather outside I often hate, and of course bonding with the little ones as we do simple (like folding fresh laundry) to crazy (like elaborately building pillow fortresses only to jump on and ruin it five minutes later) things. My stay here felt so long and yet so short at the same time.

But now I could already hear the alarm, telling me that the dream is done, I should wake up and wear a new set of clothes. And this time, after whispering a short prayer of thanks, I'm ready.


It just dawned on me:

A week to go before I leave the Old Line State behind... I can't believe it's been more than five months since I arrived here, tugging along my huge green suitcase and my apprehensions for putting my professional life on hold. I guess time freezes when you're in the moment and at an all-time high. But as soon as you reach the end, you feel as if it happened in a blink of an eye. Nonetheless, the experience has been unreal. I have no regrets and am thankful as ever.

Mobile shots from the week that has been:
1. Bizarrely in love with veggies 2. Post-quick afternoon bike
3-4. Welcome back from your quick Philippines trip, Tita! 5. Goodies from Japan
6. A bittersweet goodbye to ModPo 7. Phase one of packing/cleaning up

And here's a shoutout to all my recent followers, I'm glad to have new readers every once in a while. Take care.


Frosty mornings

These days I barely get out of the house because of the unbearable cold. I couldn't last more than five minutes being outside early in the morning, but maybe that's my fault: I get lazy to wear layers and layers of clothing. As we welcome winter, the temperature began to drop to low-forties and the plants slowly started hibernating. Coming from the tropical islands of the Philippines where it practically feels like summer all year long, bundling up and relying on a heater to keep myself warm is definitely a new experience.

I've also been anticipating my first real snow. Sandy brought along with it chances of snow in our area and I've had my hopes up since. Unfortunately, up until now, all I got was frost in the yard every other morning. With only a few days over a week left in the East Coast, I'm just keeping my fingers crossed. I've been dreaming of a white (pre)Christmas and I would really want to witness it while I'm still here.

Have a great week, everyone! Keep warm!

The sleepover club, lookbook edition

There are a lot of reasons why I am grateful for my college experience—attaining high-quality education and being able to work with the brightest minds of my generation, to name a few. Amid all that, on the top of the list would still be meeting the most amazing group of girls in the form of my dormmates.

Since our big move to Eliazo through our freshmen orientation seminar, and even now that most of us are already half a year into our first jobs, we have spent those big moments together: we attended every party, watched every blockbuster movie and hit television show, crammed for every long test and final exam, planned and executed every birthday surprise, made the most out of every long weekend and break (usually through trips around the country!), supported every blooming relationship, and endured every break up. We've been through it all.

However, what strikes me most about this special friendship that I share with these ladies is how we came to be. Although some were classmates in high school, most of us barely knew each other. We hailed from at least five different provinces and took up a wide variety of classes for each of our bachelor's degrees. The only thing we had in common back then was that we were all awkward, silly freshmen thrown into a new environment and forced to adjust on our own. Instead (and thankfully!), we found solace in one another. Now more than ever, we have a lot of things in common, but still have distinct personalities. We are still our own persons, and that is surely evident in our choice in clothing.

On the day of her birthday, Iko created looks on Polyvore inspired by us girls and shared them on her Tumblr. She did a pretty good job at translating our own styles into fashion pieces. I remember the first time I saw these looks on her blog I wanted to write a check mark on everything just to say that she had us all figured out. "It's so me! It's so her!" She already knew which area of a clothing store each one of us gravitate towards. Perhaps this only proves how close our group of friends got in the past four and a half years, we all (or at least, Iko) knew each other by heart, even when it comes to the items in our closets.

That, for me, is quite reassuring. To have someone know and appreciate us on the inside and out. For when one of us gets lost, there's nineteen others who are willing to remind us who we really are and where we should stand. And when life gets too tricky, we can always trust someone to lend us a hand—or at least let us borrow a nice dress from their beloved wardrobe. Anything for a friend.


The world is my home now

A little less than a month left until my soul-searching adventure comes to a close and I couldn't help but feel grateful as each day goes by. Aside from being with family and friends and getting to see what my dream country has to offer, this trip has widened my perspective tremendously. Unconsciously I have grown in almost every aspect of my life that I feel quite armed to face the "real world" and try my luck in the workforce as I head back to the Philippines. Life is such a blessing!

The past week in dinners I made: Bistek Wednesday, Chicken Katsu Thursday, Chicken Inasal Saturday, and Sweet Pork Tuesday #growingup

And yet, I am always missing the small town I call home. I think a part of me always will, ever since I decided to leave it for college in metropolitan Manila and even more now that I am aiming to begin with my job hunt there. The people, the places, and especially the food of Iloilo are definitely unforgettable. (In spite of my desperate attempt to prepare them by myself, nothing beats the original.) Re-watching this video by BlueQube Inc. makes me want to immediately hop on that plane and devour all the meals I could get my hands on the moment I land.

* * *

In other news, I am proud to say that I have finished reading Eat Pray Love even though it has been three months since I first opened it. More than anything, I was so amazed and overwhelmed by Elizabeth Gilbert's wonderful writing I wanted to cling on to it and never let go. Also, it took me a while to get past the Eat chapters because it featured two of my favorite things: food and Italy. But after that I found my rhythm and was able to breeze through the pages that followed. For two days I got so focused on watching over Remy and reading the novel that I have done the unthinkable: I stayed away from my laptop the entire time. You know how hard that can be for me! I felt so accomplished, I rewarded myself with the full-length movie.

Perhaps I'm doing the same for Under the Tuscan Sun—read the book first and then watch the movie. I've been doing otherwise all my life just so I don't get to say "The book is better than the movie" like everyone does. Either way the reading/watching experience is still spoiled, might as well choose what you think would be best for you. I'm glad I'm not one to judge a movie based on its book and vice versa. I believe stories have value no matter what form they come in. I hope you do too.

Bidding you ciao with another well-made video but this time, of Italia and as I dream of wandering along those paths one day... Buona notte!


Scaredy cat, Halloween fan

Halloween generally makes me giddy; just the thought of being whoever you want to be without having the need to explain yourself to everyone thrills me. Back then, my mother side of the family hardly ever misses a celebration on October 31st. What with all the kids in the clan, we couldn't help but make such a big deal out of it—the candies, the costumes, the games, and the staying up until midnight—it's as if Christmas came extra early!

I, however, outgrew the habit of it. Besides the obvious fact of growing up, I just found Halloween to be quite tedious, expensive, sometimes a tad bit scary, and unfortunately, now that I think of it, nonsensical. Don't get me wrong, seeing kids dressed up as their favorite characters never fails to put a smile on my face. (You should see the annual Halloween parade at Joey's school, everyone looked so adorable! Photos below.) I just don't think I'm made for it anymore. Especially after pretending to be a vampire while accompanying my cousins trick-or-treating in a nearby neighborhood a week ago, in which I scared a few little ones. Either they think I'm actually terrifying or that my costume was so hideous, useless, and shouldn't even be considered as one they couldn't bare to look at me any longer, I'm not entirely certain. But I won't take any chances; Twilight doesn't look good on me.

Okay, okay. So maybe I still do want to practice it. Well, of course I do! I just think that I somehow get carried away, tend to commit to the part just to win "Best in Costume" (given my competitive nature), and completely lose sight of the fun I should be having in the first place. I might need a little reminding once in a while, that's all. In the meantime, I shall try to think of ways to redeem myself on the Halloweens to come! My only wish is that Once Upon A Time is still running—and, with fingers crossed, just as good or even better than it already is—next year or else people may not see the relevance of me dressing up as good ol' Rumpelstiltskin. Him, or any Disney Princess, since I don't get to wear a lovely long gown as often as I hoped...


Hurricane, through my eyes

Glad that we were somehow spared from the storm's wrath—only a twenty-four hour power outage for us—but offering continued prayers for the victims. The blackout was, in fact, a blessing since I got to think dearly about all the folks back at home and provided me with more time playing with my little cousins and away from the computer.

A few shots from my cellphone:
1. Picker-upper 2. Craaazy rain 3. Thing to do when stuck at home
4. Flood that greeted us the next morning 5. Progress, after a very long time
6. Blackbirds-swarmed backyard 7. Easy choice for lunch 8. Sweetest brothers

And a shoutout as soon as the electricity was back:
Thank you so much for checking in on me, family and friends. Our area experienced heavy rains and strong winds beginning yesterday and we lost power for at least twenty-four hours. My relatives and I are okay though, we had enough preparations such as charging electronics and cooking food before the violent storm hit. Twigs and branches have been flying around everywhere last night, hitting the house then the backyard started to flood. Today, the flood is beginning to subside but it's still gloomy outside and been drizzling on and off. However, please join me as we continue to pray for many towns and neighborhoods that have experienced considerable damage. Again, many thanks!


You can have your cake and eat it too

Remy turned three a week back and somehow he's a changed kid. Unlike before when he would wake up and cry his heart out to warrant everyone's attention, on Saturday he got out of bed with a huge smile on his face, nudging his mommy gently by the arm like he's waiting for something. "Happy birthday, baby!" Tita eventually said. I was pleased; I'm not entirely sure if kids at this age are already aware of the significance of their date of birth so that should mean he's doing great, learning-wise.

We got dressed and drove to Annapolis for a hearty egg-and-toast brunch at Miss Shirley's. After that we spent the rest of the morning at the nearest toy store to grab a few presents for the young one. Sandy was expected to hit in a couple of days that we had to cancel our plans of going to the zoo (Dora and Diego are his favorites now!) and instead, prepare for the superstorm with utmost caution. That night we bought him a red velvet cake and as per tradition, he got to blow out the candles as many times as he want (We stopped at five!).

Right now his speaking is developing rapidly and is slowly talking in sentences. Though we still have to remind him to "use his words" instead of just crying out of frustration, I notice that he's maturing at a wonderful pace. He's also counting with his fingers now, sings and dances along the shows he loves watching, can understand shapes, colors, and opposites, and fondly engages his new Cars pieces in roleplay. "Guido, Luigi, kiss-kiss." Ahhh, I am looking forward to seeing how he and his brother would turn out when they grow up; as smart and talented as their cousins, no doubt.


I'd take Snow White's apple any day

...and that's even though it's poisonous!

I can't believe it took me at least a decade to outgrow my aversion to apples. It currently holds a pretty good spot on my favorite fruits list and in the past five months I spent in the States I have come to obsess over food and drinks made of apple (So far: apple juice, apple cider, applesauce, and apple pie). I have been missing half of my life!

One Sunday afternoon the relatives and I went apple-picking and it was such a delight. The farm lets you eat the apples as you pick them and by the end of the three hours we were there, I tried the five varieties of apples available (I never even knew there were kinds of it!) and we gathered enough to keep the doctor away for a month.

I'm surely gonna miss this scenery when I come back home. That, apples, Pandora, among other things.