Hometown glory

Once every few months I hop on a plane home for a short break to recharge my well-worn mind, body, and soul as well as rediscover and reacquaint myself with the City of Love that I love. Not only do family and friends never run out of interesting stories to tell over sumptuous Ilonggo dishes and other flavors of home, several new and noteworthy restaurants have popped up since my last visit and I was excited to check each and every one. Besides, with all the outpouring of blessings in terms of progress in my city, things are definitely looking up on our side of the archipelago.


Slow and steady

Halfway through the year and I believe I'm mastering the art of this millennial, yuppie weekend warrior life thing. Well, not in the grandest sense: no long weekend road trips and holiday vacations left and right, if that's what you're thinking. Instead, armed with a sweet and cheerful disposition, I have something simple but a guaranteed success in mind when we speak of ways to de-stress.

If you've been following this trusty ol' blog o' mine for quite some time now, you would instantly know that my formula for a perfect holiday would be pretty, picturesque places plus delectable, photogenic meals and multiply that by the beautiful and amazing people I get to share those special moments with.

July was a mix of both old favorites and new additions to that list: either restaurants frequented as much as possible or recently-opened/heard about places which proved to be worth a shot; and with either my usual companions in the form of my sisters (my twin, especially) and relatives or people I finally got to catch up and hang out with after what felt like ages.


Long gone summer

The typhoon season is back and now it's full of wrath more than ever! Mario has been showing off since last night with non-stop heavy rains, strong winds, loud thunders and flashy lightnings. Dreadfully scary stuff going on right outside my bedroom window. I was up at 4:30 this morning and haven't gotten back to sleep since, thanks to all the noises. Clearly, classes were suspended early on and the no-work announcement came a bit later.

I'm basically done with all my deliverables so I'm planning on staying in bed the entire day, marathoning some cool shows and movies, eating the meals prepared by my sweet ol' landlady (she offered to feed me for the whole day since we're practically stuck here anyway) when I get the chance, and hopefully catching up on some blogging. So far, it seems like I'm doing a pretty good job at it, eh?


Ways to go

Possibly the only downside to how swiftly time seems to pass lately is not being able to fully savor the moment as it happens and as much as we want and mean to. Sure this is best when work or school is turning out to be a complete bore and before you know it, it's already Friday and your weekend plans are already filing through. But how about when you're still reeling in on "the best vacation ever" when suddenly you realize it had already been two summers since! Time is sneaky like that and I am yet to find a way to counter its tricks.

In my case, I have folders-full of memories waiting to be relived and shared, yet I never get to. So now, while time and how fast it goes is public enemy number one, my lazy self is running close on the list of reasons why I am where I am now, drowning in a pool of left-behind memoirs. In truth, May and June feels like a lifetime ago... But rest assured, it was filled with the best combination, as usual: good food and great friends.


Grace, and nothing else

In a matter of a week back in June, I've seen two amazing, life-changing concerts and you can only imagine how full my heart and soul were after everything! Music continues to play a key role in my life and has been truly instrumental in bringing forth who I am today, so being able to attend both shows is definitely a blessing!


A look behind the Legacy

As interesting as the interviews and narratives we gather for our halfway-done year-long project of a mini-documentary series are the silly tales I collect behind the scenes. I, for one, am a sucker for good back stories, especially those that are picturesque as well as will potentially give me a nice laugh even in years to come. It's these moments that are worth remembering, worth sharing, and assures me that what I'm doing is worth the while.


Simple as this

Lianne's trip home is always very special to our group of friends so we make it a point to spend some quality time with her whenever we could. Apart from the usual dinner dates and coffee catch-ups, she sweetly arranged a day at the beach for just us girls back in May and it was probably the perfect weekend getaway, the breath of fresh air we all needed.


I have returned

A couple of months after my first visit, the team and I trooped back to Tacloban early on Labor Day to witness what has progressed since. All throughout that weekend, I've seen the people in the city and its neighboring towns smile better as thousands of volunteers from across the country and around the globe came to help rebuild their homes and their lives.


Summertime gladness

Unlike elsewhere, summers in the metropolitan areas of our side of the globe means staying indoors as much as possible due to the unbearable heat outside. And true enough, I spent most of April under the shade and away from the sun, with the office or restaurant a/c as my instant best friend. While part of me wished I made the most of the no-school traffic these dog days bring (e.g. taking my heart of adventure on a road trip and ending up someplace I haven't been before), the idea of meeting with friends and family in the city and enjoying their company over our favorite meals and much-awaited catch-up conversations seemed to me like a more feasible and comfortable option.


La dolce vita

I got to hand it to March, it had the makings of an ideal month. Although work has had me on my toes from Mondays to Fridays, my weekends were the ultimate pick-me-upper: fully booked with unforgettable dates with family and friends, where love and light were unfailingly served at the table. Our hearts and stomachs were stuffed with so much joy, I could not help but wish for life to forever be this deliciously sweet.


Some shenanigans

Contrary to popular belief, it's never just "all work, no play" in the kind of career I'm pursuing. History is often tagged as boring and as the new breed of nation-builders it's our job to make things a lot interesting or simply shed light on these misconstrued assumptions. The first quarter of every year is the busiest season for the Commission, I've been told and so I've experienced. But that clearly won't stop us from sharing a good laugh or two in between flying in and out of the capital for field work and cramming/pulling all-nighters/chasing deadlines as if we never outgrew college. (Aren't we too old for this? Uhm, nope.)


In colors our dreams live

To celebrate the much-awaited reunion of our amazing newsies trio last March, Jose took Jam and I for Saturday brunch to this homey, secluded cafe he has been raving about for months on end. As soon as we arrived and got a quick survey of the place, I already knew that it would be the perfect venue for our meaningful quality time, catching up on six-months worth of interesting travel, work, and school stories as well as sharing our life goals aka ambitious plans for the future. "Chillax" is the word that comes to mind when I look back on the wonderful experience.


The heart of adventure

Photo by Julien Hayard

It's already halfway through 2014 and when I take a step back to examine what I've gone through, I realize I have come a long way. Did myself a favor and grew up some more, I believe. Asked myself the hard questions, the ones concerning or at least hinting about "the future." And although it will take me ages and all the courage I can muster to device a well-thought out plan for that million-dollar dilemma, I have taken the necessary steps to proudly say there is indeed progress in the maturity department, albeit slight.


And it was all yellow

It used to be just another holiday marked in our school calendars and I barely knew much about it, with its tale taking up only a third of a page of my age-old Philippine history book, but the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution was actually a huge deal. And who knew that one day I'd find myself working for a Commission whose sole purpose is to celebrate the said shiniest event in our country's recent past which toppled down a ruthless, decades-long dictatorship. Let's blame it on the generation gap or that Hekasi was never my favorite as well as strongest subject (obviously) and leave it at that...


This happy madness

My free time—the much-awaited weekends, occasional days-off, and generally what's left of my life aside from my oftentimes-more-than-nine-to-six job—is obviously sacred to me, usually spent catching up on my shows, crossing out items on an endless romantic comedies list, seeking for new music or blogs to obsess over, or hanging out with friends over a good meal at either a recently-discovered restaurant or an old favorite. It's both an exciting and boring life, my heart sings with joy at the thought of it all the same. The first couple of months this year had a few notable moments and I was glad I mostly had my trusty though sickly camera with me wherever I go.

Waffles and lattes at such a hip and artsy cafe with the sisters-for-life during "Christmas break" at home | Korean barbeque for an advanced 22nd birthday dinner with the family after our little portrait session

The cutest interiors of the quaint pasta and burger nook we had our high school barkada's rather late annual Christmas get-together | Back to reality, after-church brunch with the then-baby girls now-kolehiyalas in our 'hood

The heavenly goodness of locally-made durian and strawberry-banana ice cream, a treat from the sweetest bosses | Babysitting these not-so-baby big boys once again, during their short trip home for our cousin's wedding

My no-goodbyes-only-see-you-laters cake date with Gelibean (ala mode for me, of course) | Chopped off ten inches of my long locks for charity, reminding myself that #itgrowsback, and the #tfiosfeels began

Our most important Sunday meal and somehow taking our sister brunch game up a notch by coincidentally showing up in dresses | Got a bouquet inspired by sunset hues delivered to a best friend's office on her special day

Hope you too have enough reasons to smile every day, and don't you ever stop adding more to that list. Have a good one!

"Keep good company, read good books, love good things, and cultivate soul and body as faithfully as you can." — Louisa May Alcott



Not so long ago last year, our dear country has faced many a tragedy in only a matter of months. But we have proved time and again that no earthquake, siege, or typhoon can weather the Filipinos' resilience and bayanihan spirit. We've seen their strength, hope, and willingness to help one another amidst the adversities, and it's at moment like these that make me proud to be a little brown sister. And to be immersed on the ground and to witness then document these said inspiring stories makes me love my job even more.


"There are no strangers"

We were welcomed to the Circle with open arms and felt right at home. And by dusk to dawn, we graduated from sharing bunk beds that go as high as three levels, sturdy swinging hammocks, sleeping bags comfortably lying on the sand, common bath and charging/hangout area filled with paint materials, card and board games, ukuleles, and beanbags, and the sea with its roaring waves to surfboards, sunblocks, rash guards, and cover-ups, overpriced no-frills meals and unhealthy munchies, and secrets we'd rather keep to ourselves.


Puppy love and pastels

My beautiful cousin married her best friend and the love of her life last January and I had the privilege to be one of her bridesmaids. The wedding was simple, lovely, and rather intimate (considering how big a family we are) you couldn't tell how crazy the weekend prior was for our entire clan as we "lived under one roof," just like old times, and bonded nonstop over microwavable potluck meals, all sorts of competitive card games, and walkathons in the mall or trips around metro.


With arms linked and hearts for the nation

It's been a long time coming when finally our most-anticipated and thoroughly-prepared-for Salubungan Workshop has seen the light of day in mid-January. Hundreds of student, youth, and government leaders from across the country made their way to the heart of the nation to learn more about taking their nation-building advocacies to the next level. Along with our commissioners, we gathered experts on the field of advertising, media, community development, and business to impart to the participants on how to up their causes. We also had a few tricks up our sleeves and a couple of surprises in store for our guests.


Excuse me as I process my feelings

By the end of this week I found myself in a State of Grace and let me tell you, I am more than Okay. The experience truly deserves a real-time update before these thoughts and emotions I hold dear will inevitably be lost in the void, so I'm putting the eventful half a year's worth of interesting stories waiting to be written with wonderful photos waiting to be shared on hold for now.


Clear as day

We started the year brighter than usual, with a lovely portrait session during the golden hour(s) thanks to our awesome photographer friend, Nong Von. His works are beyond amazing and it had been a habit of mine to browse through his Tumblr and Instagram back in college, when I was bored and oftentimes in the comforts of the dorm room. I can't help but swoon at each and every photograph, especially those shot on film. So as you would have guessed, this shoot was a dream!


The restless in gentle ground

Immediately after Christmas Day, the sisters and I traveled all the way to Dumaguete to have a much-awaited catch-up with our dad, who was assigned there for his job since mid-2013. Roaming around the little city was also on the agenda as we first timers wanted to discover what this new, uncharted land had to offer.

As it turns out, Dumaguete was the perfect place to unwind and chill, especially after spending half the day at sea then on the road, getting there via ferry and bus. On this mini-vacation, we lost track of time as we mostly lounged at our dad's place, playing endless rounds of tong-its and pusoy dos, channel-surfing through reality television shows, or updating our social media networks through the tiny screens of our cellphones.


Home for the holidays

There's definitely no place like home, especially during the holidays! A rundown:

We met up with our "longest" friends in a quaint cafe in the metro to do our annual exchange of Christmas gifts and I'm so glad Virgie loved the mix-and-match combo (a black tank top she—knowing her—would wear a sweater over, a purple blouse which somehow resembled rose petals, and an adorable floral skirt I wish I owned and didn't include in the package) I gifted her as much as I enjoyed shopping for them earlier that month. It came with an unsolicited piece of best-friendly-bordering-motherly advice, "Dalaga ka na, dapat dalaga ka naman mamayo." Best Secret Santa award, yes?


Like clockwork

Just when I thought that the busyness was over...well, it was just getting started. My overwhelming but bearable October, November, and December in MalacaƱang was filled with days out of the office, overtimes, and weekend work. Thankful for what has been the gift of grace under pressure.



"Together or apart, no matter how far apart, we live in one another. We go on together."

I'm genuinely glad I still get to see my best girls in spite of the crazy lives we're living.


Retracing a dear old timer

When they told me we were headed to Nueva Vizcaya, I caught a glimpse of my seventeen-year-old lovestruck self in a momentary flutter, giddily snickering in the background. It was about time I got to see the place for myself after years of utmost curiosity and now-long-gone connection. But the prospect of enduring yet another road trip under the long-haul category (at least eight hours) snapped me back to reality and easily washed away the tinge of excitement. In truth, the wake up call was needed.


Finding the light

"Get excited about the little things. About wearing a new outfit for the first time. About Sunday brunches with your best friends. About the new cute guy in your class. About finding an extra dollar in your pocket. About anything that even remotely makes you happy because as you grow up, passions fade and enthusiasm gets mistaken for foolishness. So don't let the grey world stop you from shining."


The thing about reunions

September swung by the same way I flew to and from home: quick and easy, but still worth the while. All of a sudden, the airport felt like jeepney terminals and train stations leading me to my sisters on any given weekend. It was nice. My calendar was filled with many a reunion, all of which long overdue. An insightful and encouraging time with our spiritual/life coach at our favorite American diner. To keep tradition, the better-late-than-never coming together of graduates from our high school, those who braved to thrive at the nation's capital. Welcoming our youngest America-based uncles who returned to the nest for a month-long holiday. Refreshing afternoon coffee dates with our best girls. And finally, two years of our little angels, Shiloh Tristelle and Summer Veronique. Life could not get any better than that.


Chill pills and heartwarmers

I've been meaning to go back to Baguio for the longest time. And that's such a shame for someone who claims it well may be her favorite place in the Philippines, granted her undeniable love for the great outdoors and the perennial sweater weather the city offers. That said, each trip up the mountains remains unforgettable.


Wolf in proudly-Pinoy clothing

August also saw me amongst the sea of squealing Twihards when Jacob Black came stomping in onstage for a rather overwhelming fan meet and greet in the arena thanks to his endorsement deal with Bench. Don't get me wrong, I like Taylor Lautner. I adore him as a little tot playing the fiesty Sharkboy with all his wonderful adventures and can never forget how he sneaked his arms over young Alyson Stoner's shoulder on their cute movie date in the second installment of Cheaper by the Dozen. If I had to choose, I was on Team Jacob too. Plus I also commend the heartthrob hottie for his choice in women, dating my girl Selena Gomez and later her best friend, whom Lautner had the same first name with which made it confusing yet easy for fans do their thing, Taylor Swift. But I wouldn't go out of my way just to see him the size of a Ken doll in a place crowded with loud teenage girls. He has no Zac Efron effect on me that way (Sorry for missing your visit back in 2012, babe, America was calling).


Stairways to the clouds

The Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao had us lost for words. And its very sight last August was quite enough for us to forgive and forget the horrible weather which cancelled the forum we sucked up the ten-hour trip from the metro for, the one we have been preparing for weeks.


Sisterhood everlasting

It's true what they say about growing up: the real world is hard to get by alone. And for someone who has been catapulted into the "independent adult" (emphasis on the quotation marks) stage and figured this out earlier than most people, I choose to cling on to the friends, the sisters who have stood by me through thick and thin, through good times and bad, despite the distance and time apart. As we celebrated National Sibling Day yesterday (April 10th, despite what everyone in my social media networks say, gyfs people), I honor them—those based in Manila at least—on this #flashbackfriday (photos taken mid-2013), before it's too late.


White hat's on

I got hooked on the amazing political thriller that is Scandal around the same time I started working in our side of the world's White House and you could only imagine how much of a giddy fangirl, taking her obsession to heart and all, that made me sound. In fact, I was in the middle of my season two marathon when I was sent on my first assignment on the field literally on my first day. There I was able to squeeze in a few episodes while on the road and during our down time.

But mind you, I'm no Olivia Pope or any of her associates. I'd like to think, however, that I may be called a "gladiator in a suit" (or business casual, in our case) in my own right. I believe anything is possible if we all work hand in hand to make this country achieve new heights. That said, I have always wanted to serve this great nation and I can't be more glad to be doing so with my writing.

This opportunity has exposed me to worlds I could not have been to alone and under any other circumstance and to inspiring lives which continuously motivate me to write. Each day I have seen the seemingly-impossible turn possible because of the bayanihan spirit which resonates around the Philippines amid the inevitable natural and man-made disasters. The experience has been humbling, to say the least.

It's no walk in the park, in all honesty; serving the "bosses" aka fellow Filipinos has its trade-offs.


Placefulness and transitions: a study

What better way to rediscover oneself than in transit? More so, the morning light can illuminate even the darkest corners of a troubling mind.

With this lovely sight to welcome each day, our beautiful home of a college dorm will be seeing more of me · Accepting defeat after two hard, commute-filled months: the concrete jungle just wasn't for this restless soul· Alone at my sister's condo, with the sunrise that greeted my John Green (reflections- and emotions-filled) week · So comforting that for first time in a long time, our family was complete on Mother's Day and in my happy place · Stuck in EDSA on a rainy June day instead soulsearching at my godmother's basement or jobhunting in the city · And yet another last hurrah: Pico de Loro with the relatives to bid our respective "summer breaks" goodbye

Leaving this door open

I'll let you in on a little secret: I used to think I had artist potential. Not the type with the chart-topping albums nor who stars in a blockbuster film, just your regular visual artist kind. No, I never aspired to be one of the big shots who create masterpieces through a flick of a paintbrush in a canvass or some complicated molding of clay: I was simply content with doodling on the back pages of my notebooks back in grade school and later tear and give them to my friends.

I wish I kept up with the hobby, I would've been really good at it at this rate—what with my willingness to learn, the art books I have been gifted with, and the considerable practice I can get myself into. Shortly after, however, I traded my sketchbook and pencil to lined papers and pen. I let my passion for words take over my love for drawing because I couldn't see my knack for sketching thrive at this day and age. (And don't even get me started on my fear of failing/mistakes, remember you're talking to a girl with a dash of OCD here.) There are no regrets though, my so-called talent in journalism and communication brought me to heights I'm sure my meager skill in the visual arts couldn't.

But every once in a while I find myself craving for art and aesthetics not even the arrangement of letters and words could satisfy...



Through out the course of my my short, two-months journey of working at the travel magazine, I took necessary pit stops, entertaining a handful of interesting, creative ideas whilst on trips or being stuck at the office. I must admit, they all seemed brilliant at that time. But one that stood out the most and actually saw the light of day was my simple photo series which allowed me to share to friends and family where "my office" was on certain days with the aid of my okay-quality camera phone. Eventually my little project welcomed the possibility of on-location Skype dates and later (d)evolved to the usual documentation of somewhat typical office affairs. As all things, however, it was fun while it lasted. Until the next crazy adventure! (More snippets after the jump.)


Sun-kissed salutations by the sea

My short time in Subic around the same time last year was quite special. Truth is, there was nothing I wanted more than to get off my office chair and go someplace, anywhere but in the city. And who can blame me, I've been bitten by the travelbug long before I was hired and taking official trips for the magazine's book project (on travel, no less!). Besides, I really needed to take a breather, being swamped with revisions while carrying a heavy heart and all. So our little by-the-bay getaway assignment could not have come at a better time!

Only having been there twice and both for its famous water theme park, I didn't really know what else to expect. With sheer anticipation, I realized that it had been a while that I'll be exploring a town for the first time--the best kind of feeling! But as soon as the excitement finally kicked in, exhaustion immediately caught up. Hannah and I slept throughout the entire drive up north and woke just in time to be welcomed by beautiful, mountainous landscapes with giant trees on one side and the peaceful bay with large ships on the other, all while on wide, wide roads.


Marching on

Back when we were all students, March had always seen us say goodbye to something so special: the past crazy school year. It comes along with memories of almost-always mediocre grades, often buzzer beater projects, and the times we concentrated on how the teacher never failed to end his statements with "Are you following?" rather than how to get the derivative of a certain equation. It's at this time of year that I reminisce on our glory days which was schooling season and wish I had done better than I already did: had been more meticulous with both my problem solving and grammar, conquered my fear of giving a ridiculous answer or raising a stupid question during class discussions, and gone the extra mile with my outputs instead of turning in sloppy last-minute ones.

Usually this trip down memory lane has caused nothing but trouble: logging back on and digging through my then-public blogs which I have abandoned since, and being up all night playing detective, figuring out what happened between high school sweethearts and how in the world someone ended up in the honor roll. No worries, I have my trusty ol' online journal to back me up with enough evidence. But as far as I'm concerned, high school had always been a favorite subject for my time travel of sorts. And right now I can't help but miss it all, especially my dear alma mater.

When my valedictorian of a youngest sister graduated last year, it was that one final farewell to the place our family called home for the past nine years and just the thought of it brings tears into my eyes. The least we could do was hold onto each other tight and say our goodbyes together. We flew home to applaud the purple league for finishing the gruesome four years of being in one of the countries' top science high schools. We all took turns in receiving and putting on/turning over Kendi's countless awards. Much to our surprise, Mom and our roster of sisters were celebrated as well...


The perfect recipe

My spirit may have been beaten down by the end of the first half of 2013 after experiencing road block after road block, but I don't really have much to complain. All these, even though they bring painful and haunting dilemmas, are ingredients to a strong and full life. The other half of the equation is what I'm after though, which are the uplifting things found along the way. I'm so blessed to have my friends and family as a solid support system through out this journey...and of course, the beyond-satisfying meals and heartening experiences we spend our golden time on together.

Pub cheers post-foodtrucking with the gang · Endings and beginnings · High school batch in Manila?!


Paradise long found

Summer is well on her way and I am more than ready to jump in, what with the shortest hair I've had in forever and my unusual sunburn after being out in the field weekend after weekend (intended spoilers, eep!). Consider me a proud daughter of the Sun! In the Philippines, Boracay is the go-to place not only during the summer but for any chance tourists and locals alike could get. The clear, pristine waters and the white sand beach is what the people have been coming back to in this little yet self-sufficient and fun-filled island.

These Bora features have always been familiar ground to me as my family vacationed there almost every other summer back when I was a kid. Over the years, I grew out of the usual family bonding to be spending a good few days in the famed white sand beach with different crowds. That had been an experience on its own.

Last year's March visit was truly unforgettable. When I applied to the travel magazine company I worked for same time last year, I knew going places would be a huge part of the job. But never did I imagine that there would be time for "play" as well. I recall coming in on my final interview only to be told that I got the job and asked if I wanted to join the staff outing in Boracay three weeks from then—now that's what I call instant benefits! Besides enjoying the company of such interesting strangers/soon-to-be-friends, we made the most of the perks which came with working in the publishing industry. Of course we still had to squeeze in some work while we're at it. It pays to be productive and keeping your head in the game, we had an impending deadline to meet. Anyway, back to the party...


Filling the void

I'm still alive, yes. Just trying my hardest to keep up with such a hectic month. Although I'm grateful to always find the time to squeeze in some me time by scouring the Internet for artsy, inspiring things. Glad to be able to pause right now and be reminded to just keep pushing, courtesy of this amazing quote and the incredible video that follows:

"Pursue something so important that even if you fail, the world is better off with you having tried." ― Tim O'Reilly

Looking forward to get back to the regular programming of this sweet blog o' mine. Keep on keepin' on, kids!


Easy breezy

I have always liked the idea of the countryside. And Tagaytay on a weekday seemed to have fit in the picture perfectly. The greens and tall trees, the fresh breeze, all sorts of cabins here and there, and with barely any car or familiar face in sight... There's nothing quite like it, a quick escape from the busyness of the city and the stress at the thought of it brings.

More importantly, spontaneity and Tagaytay seem to be one and the same. And despite my best interests, I learned that the hard way. Unaware that go signals from the city tourism office to photograph public spaces were not that big of a deal (I had been waiting for them all week, to no avail...which made me believe our overnight visit will be postponed indefinitely), I had to borrow the smallest tees of my guy cousin who lived right across the street from our office...