Moving Blog Sites

When I started this blog, I was newly engaged and had begrudgingly agreed to leave my business, my friends and family behind to move with my then-husband-to-be to Subic.

Anticipating a lot of  down time, I decided to start a blog just so I could chronicle my life as a lonely housewife. (I also wanted to passive aggressively get back at my very private husband for making me leave my comfort zone by oversharing our life together. :P)

My life has been a roller coaster since. Unlike I had anticipated, I actually had a life in Subic and my ties in Manila continued to grow; so I had less time to write than I thought I would.

Neverthless, this journal has been gratifying and cathartic. I look back at my  posts and realise how much I’ve actually grown and how much things have changed.

This year, armed with a new determination  to live a more purposeful, thoughtful and blissful (borrowing your catchphrase Martine!) life, I decided to start a bigger, better (and prettier) blog.

With a mixture of pride and school girl giddiness, I’d like to introduce you to “Head Full of Brains, Shoes of Full of Feet” my newest journal, and the chronicles to my continued attempts at “adulting.”

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To everyone who followed, read and messaged me here in my Desperate Subic Housewife blog, thank you! I seriously, seriously had very low expectations on reader turnout so it always comes as a pleasant surprise to me when I get positive feedback. (Hell, even getting “likes” make me kilig)

I hope you continue reading my new blog. I promise to ramble less often! 🙂

Cheers to living a less desperate and more mature life! 🙂

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DIY: Picture to Wood Transfer

If you’re my friend on Facebook, you’re probably not a stranger to my recent obsession with upcycling and other artsy crafty endeavors. Most of the projects I started are sort of cop outs though. I just basically steal ideas from Pinterest and ask trusty carpenters or other much more creative people to execute. This is the first actual diy that I’ve done on my own.

I ended up doing this particular endeavour by accident. When we were currently fixing the house and having furniture made, my husband suddenly decided that he would start a DIY project. It was pretty simple, he wanted to make his own art by wrapping wooden planks with fabric or pretty paper. So he asked our carpenter to make him 16 square planks from the left over wood. The problem was, he never actually started on his  DIY . So we had this pile of wood that was gathering dust and taking up space.

After a year, I finally got tired of waiting for him to start his masterpiece. So I just looked through my extensive collection of pinterest pins for something to do with the wood.  (I’m the biggest digital hoarder. I mindlessly save pegs just in case I need the information in the future.) I came across a couple of websites  and decided, it’s easy enough for a bumbling non-crafty person like me to try out. Among all my pins,  I find these three websites to be the most helpful: Oleander Creek, Craft Unleashed and Sew Creative). Since we (more me, actually) were too kuripot to have our wedding pictures framed, I opted to use those for my new diy. I’m no better than my procrastinator husband though, since it actually took me another freakin’ year to start on the project.

Finally, after sourcing for a reliable printer and scouring the internet for the stuff that I needed, I decided to give it a go. Disclaimer however, wood transfer is not an exact science. And I mucked  up (and continue to muck up) a lot.  (It was pretty dumb of me to take on 16 pictures on my first attempt anyway.) But it’s also rewarding when you actually churn out nice, albeit accidental, pieces of artwork. Each piece being different from the next. So totally worth a go in my book. 🙂

WHAT YOU NEED

1. Wooden plank/s (size depends on you)

2. Gel Medium

Gel medium. I bought mine from Deovir Arts. They have several branches online, but I purchased this, along with the Mod Podge and Paintbrush via Deovirarts.com. (Side note: if you don't find any of these items, you can message them via the special orders tab. They reply pretty quickly).

Gel medium. I bought mine from Deovir Arts. They have several branches around Metro Manila, but I purchased this, along with the Mod Podge and paintbrush, via Deovirarts.com. (Side note: if you don’t find any of these items in their page, you can message them via the special orders tab. They reply pretty quickly).

3. Mod Podge (or any kind of  liquid glue, I’m guessing, I like Mod Podge though  because it doesn’t streak, clump and it gives out a glossy finish)

I  bought the original one, which gives a glossy finish. Also bought from Deovir Arts.

I bought the original one, which gives a glossy finish. Also from Deovir Arts. 

4. Paint Brush (if you’re working on more than one picture, it’s better to use two. One for the mod podge and another for the gel transfer)

5. Sponge or an old towel

6. Laser print copy of the picture (should be the size of the wood you’re going to use), printed in reverse (especially important if you have words on your picture!)

Notice that I had them print the picture in reverse...

Notice that I had them print the picture in reverse…

7. Old expired credit/membership card (optional)

8. Patience, lots and lots of it.

WHAT TO DO: 

1. Brush on a generous amount of gel medium (2 thin coats should do the trick) on the wood. Some people recommend brushing it directly on the picture. I prefer brushing it on the wood because the paper kinda wrinkles when you place gel medium directly on it.  Make sure you spread it evenly too and don’t forget to apply on the edges of the wood. FullSizeRender 2

2. Take your picture and place it image down on the wood.

3.Smooth out as much as possible to make sure there are no air bubbles. You can use an old card to smooth those air bubbles out.

4. The picture has to be exactly the size of the wood, so cut out excess portions if needed.

5. Leave overnight. (Some people say 5 hours should do the trick, but I’m more comfortable leaving it overnight)

Notice that this particular piece has an air bubble forming on the upper right side of the picture. Tsk, tsk.

Notice that this particular piece formed an air bubble on the upper right side of the picture. Tsk, tsk.

6. The next day, dampen a towel with warm water. Place it on the picture for 5 mins. You can also take a wet sponge and dab the picture with this.

I used a warm, damp towel instead of a sponge.

I used a warm, damp towel instead of a sponge.

NOW COMES THE FUN BUT MOST TEDIOUS PART: (YOU MAY WANT TO DO STEPS 7&8  on a sink. This can get really messy)

7.  With a damp index finger, start rubbing off the paper until you see parts of the picture coming out..

8. When you’re done, let it air dry. You might notice that little clouds of paper still adhering to the image. So just repeat process #8, until necessary. PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE

Your picture will have this cloudy appearance until you have successfully rubbed the all paper residue off.

Your picture will have this cloudy appearance until you have successfully rubbed all the paper residue off.

9. When you’re satisfied, make sure that your work is completely dry, then brush on some Mod Podge for extra protection. As an added bonus, Mod Podge (at least the regular one) gives your picture a nice,  glossy, professional -looking  finish.

Mod Podge makes sure that image permanently sticks to your wood. It also gives a nice, glossy, picture-looking finish

Mod Podge makes sure that the image permanently sticks to your wood. It also gives a nice, glossy, picture-looking finish

ALL DONE.

My finished

My finished “works of art”, all with varying degrees of booboos.

Probably one of the more polished -looking ones.

Probably one of the more polished -looking ones.

My first attempt, not only did I get a multitude of air bubbles, I got really frustrated and started rubbing the picture off with the rough end of the sponge. It looks like a scorned ex-boyfriend decided to perform voodoo on the picture. The husband thinks it has a mysterious, I-sank-in-the-Titanic feel though, so he thinks this is a keeper.

My first attempt.  Not only did I get a multitude of air bubbles, I got really frustrated and started rubbing the picture off with the rough end of the sponge. It looks like a scorned ex-boyfriend decided to perform voodoo on my picture. Husband thinks it has a mysterious, I-sank-with-the-Titanic feel though, so he thinks this is a keeper.

ROOKIE MISTAKES

Ok, I’m not sure if I’m just an arts and crafts dud but I haven’t come up with a picture that’s totally “damage-free”. They end up tearing on certain parts, especially around the edges. I find that these imperfections give my “art work” a vintage feel, so I normally don’t mind them. It is a bummer when I end up scratching out  someone”s face though so I’m actually thinking of having some pictures reprinted and starting the process  all over again.

In the meantime, here are some rookie tips that could help you avoid the problems that I encountered:

1. This project works best with wood that has a more or less smooth surface.  The wood frames that I used were uneven and had natural crevices all over. Plus I carelessly just stacked them somewhere for over a year . (A couple of them even had permanent water marks because our helper mistakenly decided to place newly watered plant pots on top of them to protect our hard wood floor.) So, no matter how much gel medium I used, the pictures would not adhere to the uneven surfaces.

2. Avoid air bubbles. Air bubbles are your enemy!!  Air bubbles indicate that  there are certain portions of your picture that are not sticking to the wood. So naturally parts of the images in these portions won’t transfer properly.

3. Avoid the temptation of adjusting your picture if you ended up placing it off -center on the wood. Results are disastrous.

4. Use a clean paintbrush. Pretty duh I know. But I was working on 16 pictures. Plus, I was working in phases (4 pictures at a time) and  was using one brush for the gel medium and the Mod Podge.  No matter how much I vigorously cleaned the brush after using Mod Podge, globs wouldn’t come off.. Remember that you have to put the gel medium as evenly as possible, and a dirty, sticky brush just won’t work. (On a side note, if you need to clean a brush that has hMod Podge residue, check out this video.)

5. Cut edges of picture. Picture would stick best if there are no paper edges  sticking out. So if your picture isn’t exactly the size of your wood frame, or if you accidentally placed it  off centre (guilty), just cut the protruding portions out.

6. Avoid the temptation of putting on more mod podge/gel transfer when you start rubbing off the paper and you notice that certain portions are peeling. You will just end up with messy globs that won’t come off. And it will not prevent “un-transferred” portions from peeling .

7. Do not use any abrasive material to rub off the paper. In my case, I used my fingers so it’s more controlled. Other people use sponges so it’s faster. Just don’t use the rough portion of the sponge like i did in the beginning. 😛

GOOD LUCK!! 

Favorite Restaurants: Gourmet Garage

Friends who go to Subic end up usually asking us where to stay, where to eat or what to do when they’re here. So I decided to start posting about our favourite places in Subic. Disclaimer though: I am a creature of habit and comfort. So if you are a backpacker, an adventurer or just someone who likes hole in the wall places, I am sadly not your girl. People end up  really liking my recommendations however, so I guess I do have some credibility when it comes to these things. For my first ever favourite places post, I decided to do a feature on Gourmet Garage.  It’s one of the first places you’ll hit when you enter the Freeport. Because like I said,  we’re the kind people who don’t like having to scour side streets for a decent meal, Gourmet Garage was the first ever Subic  restaurant we tried (chains like McDonald’s and Shakey’s don’t count).  Honestly,  we weren’t really expecting much since we literally just hit the first place we saw. We had no idea that we would stumble upon a gem however. Who would have thought that our laziness would eventually pay off and lead us to one of our all-time favorite hang outs.

THE PLACE Gourmet Garage is a deli where you can buy well,  gourmet food. They have a nice selection of good quality meat, cheeses, chocolates, truffle oils and salts, saffron and all that fancy shcmancy cooking stuff that I know nothing about. To showcase their products, they turned a part of their place into a cozy, comfortable restaurant. So all the ingredients that they use in their food, you can actually buy in their deli.

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Watch out for the Gourmet Garage sign when you hit the Freeport area. It’s right across Petron, and in between Adidas and Starbucks.


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The restaurant area is small but comfortable.


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Their deli is well-stocked with just about anything fancy that you need. They even sell gift baskets that you can fill up with your goodies. A perfect gift for your boss, your significant other’s parents or just about any person you want to impress.

WHAT TO EAT  They have a small but really good selection of comfort food ranging from salads, sandwiches, rice dishes, pasta and classic desserts that is a bit more upscale than your usual family restaurant. So it’s one of those places that is classy enough to take your discerning not-so-easy to please Tita but is also simple enough for your picky nephew’s 3-year old palette. You can order straight from their menu or pick up a steak or pork chop from their freezer and ask the counter to cook them. They also like going for themed specials, so occasionally, they would add seasonal  all-Persian, all-American or all-Filipino menus. There’s even bibingka every Christmas season. MY  FAVOURITES: gourmet bacon and eggs, tapa and eggs for breakfast, the raclette spread for merienda and javier’s burger with parmesan truffle fries for lunch or dinner.

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Javier’s burger with parmesan fries. Disclaimer: This is not the actual portion of the fries. I stole a couple before I remembered that I needed to take a picture


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My all-time favourite burger. I seriously get hungry whenever I think of this cheesy, juicy, delectable goodness.


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Tender Tapa with scrambled eggs. (Another disclaimer: I did not eat the burger and the tapa at the same time okay? I was with my husband and he had this. #defensive)


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Their freezer is always stocked with different kinds of chocolates. They also have various imported ice-cream.. (Reese’s icrecream bar FTW!!)

PLUS POINTS

The ambience is comfortable, casual, quiet and cozy. The setup is perfect for nice, intimate meals with family or friends or even small productive meetings. I like bringing my laptop there and working alone too. (No wifi though so you have to steal from other establishments). Their smoking area outside is shaded and cool  so you can stay there for hours without feeling the need to sneak in for aircon. Servers are also really friendly, polite and efficient. They belong to the dying breed of waiters who actually anticipate your needs  before you can even  ask for anything. Even the manager is really nice and is willing to accommodate special requests and reservations. I remember recommending this place to a friend who wanted to have a special brunch for her barkada’s birthday. She called them and was surprised that the manager was willing to create a special menu just for them. Not only that, THEY SERVE ALCOHOL!!

PRICE POINT That’s the only thing. Food is pretty pricey especially when you consider portions. Most of the dishes range from 250-700, with steaks setting you back up to 1000++ php, depending on the size of the cut.

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More pictures of the pretty, homey interiors


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ALCOHOL!!


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The shaded dining area in front can be quite cool despite the overbearing heat in Subic

Gourmet Garage is located Rizal Highway cor. Argonaut St., Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Olongapo, Zambales. You can call 047 250 2672 for reservations.

Stuff I Learned in My 2- Year Marriage

Last year, for anniversary I tortured everyone on  Facebook by adding albums and albums filled of our wedding pictures. (My oc-tendencies at work. Once I posted a couple of pics, I couldn’t stop until I’ve “completed” the project. Our photographers took thousands of shots. So….) Anyway, this year, in an effort to be less insufferable, I decided to  just post  in my blog so people who don’t feel like seeing them don’t have to.

To make the post a bit more relatable, I decided to write about things I learned about marriage. It is a long douschey post, you’ve been forewarned.

Prenup photos taken by Joshua De Guzman.

Prenup photos taken by Joshua De Guzman.

What I’ve learned from marriage so far:

1. It’s not easy but it’s not excruciatingly hard either

Every so often I scroll through my Facebook feed and I see my married friends being total saps (no judgment here, just stating a fact. I think we are the king and queen of social media sappy). They rave about the “brekky” that husband made, how #blessed they are to have found a partner who totally gets them, how beautiful their wives are after giving birth etc. It’s pretty awesome, really. But during my inquisitive moments I wonder what the score is between these couples. Are they really #blessed or do they fight more often then they’re letting on? Is hubby’s brekky really scrumptious? Did wifey really look gorgeous or did he secretly think she’s looked better?

The thing is, being one of those sappy married couples, I know that marriage is not always beautiful and blissful and easy. Sometimes, it is hard to feel #blessed when your husband keeps you up at night with his snoring. And I’m sure he threw up a little in his mouth when he first walked in on you washing your underwear in the sink because you had a “girly accident.” It is hard to feel in sync when all you want to do is watch the gurgling baby on The Insider and he’s keeping the TV on the sports channel because he has to watch another blow by blow analysis on NBA’s season drafts. AGAIN (#hugot).

But to be totally fair, although marriage isn’t a breeze, I wouldn’t call it hard too. You see I was ingrained in my Catholic school mind (the nuns’ way to keep us from marrying early?), that marriage is 99.99% sacrifice. It involves a lot of hard work, forgetting about your own wants and needs and catering to your partner’s.

The thing that made this worse was both my husband and I came from bad relationships. With each other. Rocky and tumultuous wouldn’t even cover how awful our awful moments as boyfriend and girlfriend were. We were seriously dysfunctional and everyone would always say, “Kung ganyan kayo ngayon, pano pa kaya kung nagpakasal kayo?”.

Ofcourse things started improving gradually before we got engaged. But I was sort of bracing myself for the storm that I thought was supposed to inevitably happen because we were still trying to adjust to each other. I was pleasantly surprised however, that things were smooth-sailing. Sure, there were squabbles here and there, but for the most part, we’re really happy.

I think being together for so long, we experienced growing pains while we were still dating. And because we stubbornly stuck to each other, by the time we got married, we’ve learned when to push, fight and insist and when to back off, lie low and to give.

Not only that, but I realized that having a partner makes certain things easier. We’re a team, so he takes care of the big picture, like our finances, so I can sweat the small details like the maintaining the household.

At the most superficial level, I have an automatic date for weddings, parties, events and every kind of gathering. But more than having a go-to companion , it’s also comforting to know that from hereon onward, I never have to go through any kind of crisis alone. I automatically have someone to lean on when things get difficult. I must admit, my husband was beyond wonderful during the period when my mom was sick. I don’t think I would have had the strength to go through those tumultuous times if it weren’t for him.

And I’m not too shabby in the support department either. He’s expressed how reassuring he finds my presence too, especially since the career he’s chosen for himself can be dishearteningly stressful. (It also helps that he stopped living like a college boy because of me.  At the very least, he can eat something aside from Andok’s and sleep comfortably in sheets that are washed regularly.)

So I guess in essence, these past couple of years made me realize that sure, marriage involves a lot of sacrifice and hard work, but it also involves companionship, support and teamwork, so In the end, everything balances out.

2. TRANSPARENCY IS THE KEY

This actually isn’t very difficult for me, because as you probably guessed by now, I’m an over sharer.My life is pretty much an open book and I have no qualms about sharing my experiences or talking about how I feel.

My husband however, is private and secretive by nature. He does not like it when people inquire about his day to day activities nor is he in the habit of sharing his emotions.

But the thing that I realized while we were going through that dark period in our relationship was that small secrets lead to bigger ones and it eventually snowballs and spins out of control. This is especially true when you’re bottling up negative feelings. All these small resentments build up, and before you know it, you’re totally caught up in this dark bitter web and you act out and end up hurting each other.

So before  we got married, I insisted that there should be no secrets between us.  My husband, on his part, because of all our experiences, readily agreed. So far, it’s been working for us. From the tangible things like knowing each other’s passwords, being privy to each other’s financial standing to more intrinsic stuff like talking about how we feel or how certain traits of the other annoy us, even to gross stuff like underwear washing,  we’ve pretty much kept everything open. (Ok to be perfectly blunt, I was not born yesterday. I know that every so often, there are certain things that my husband does that I don’t know about, regardless of whether he’s keeping it from me because I simply didn’t ask or if it’s more deliberate. He is who he is after all, and being private doesn’t disappear overnight.. But I’m grateful that as difficult as it is for him, he’s trying his best to keep his end of the bargain. On my end, I really don’t pry as much as people think I do. I think I just like the idea of being able to when I want to without being made to feel like I’m some sort of psycho, but in all actuality I’m too lazy to snoop).

I remember reading some article about how it is essential to keep some sort of mystery when you’re married. It supposedly makes your relationship more exciting. I don’t know, maybe I’m just old and boring, but I’d rather have trust and stability rather than excitement. I’d rather have the security of being able to fart, scratch or shave in front of my husband (Don’t judge me. He’s a boy and therefore has done equally gross, if not much grosser, stuff in front of me) knowing that doesn’t change how he feels about me. For me having no secrets help you relate with each other better. I think we stopped fighting like telenovela characters because we finally (after a decade) learned to understand each other. And that wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t allow ourselves to be completely comfortable and transparent with  each other.

Also, openness fosters trust. And there’s no better feeling than knowing that your partner is secure enough to trust you with all aspects life and vise versa. (As an added bonus, because he’s so willing to share stuff with me, I don’t feel the need to go all ninja on everything that he does. So he gets the space that he needs. I think I’ve been reverse-psychologized.)

Plus,  I’m of this belief that you can only say you really love someone if you know everything and have seen everything about that person (the good, the bad and the ugly so to speak) and still think that he’s wonderful. And I have to say, after everything that’s been said and done, I can honestly say that I lucked out with my husband. 🙂 So yes, if there was a transparency advocacy (sort of like the ones breastfeeding moms have), I’m willing to be a douschey spokesperson. 😛

Taken during the SMART color run. :) Getting sweaty and having rainbow coloured powder  all over your face do not make for great prenup vanity shots. But it sure was hella fun. :)

Taken during the SMART color run. 🙂

  1. Sleeping when angry actually a good thing sometimes

So this was something I had a hard time with. Because I’m a talker and I don’t like leaving things unsettled, I can discuss feelings until I’m blue in the face.

My husband however, has a threshold for talking about unpleasant things. Not only does he get agitated, he gets sleepy. I’m serious. I can’t count the number of times we’re in the middle of a heated discussion and the minute there’s a lull, I look over, and there he is nodding off!

This used to drive me nuts. But after years of forcing him to wake up to finish the discussion, I finally resigned myself to just let things  go. So I would go to bed in a huff, seething and contemplating how satisfying it would be to smother him with a pillow while he’s sleeping. After a while though (a long while. It took some time to get used to having unrequited feelings), I begrudgingly realized that letting things lie is actually more productive.

Cognitive psychologists say that when our brain solves problems, it gets used to a certain pattern of thinking. This is especially true when you’ve been trying to work out things for a long period of time. So sometimes its best to take a break, (solve another problem, sleep whatever. As long you don’t think of the problem at hand,) to give your brain time to reboot and come up with fresh methods and solutions.

After trying it his way, I realized that my husband, after he wakes up, is more receptive to talking. And on my part, I’m usually less stubborn and more coherent after a ceasefire. (I turn into a stuttering, sputtering mess when I’m upset. Which really is unfortunate because my husband is an articulate lawyer, so he goes all legal on me especially when I don’t use the right words in my fit of emotions. It’s still fair game though, because I just go all psych up his un-introspective ass, which then brings him into the sleeping stupor I was just talking about.).So now, when things reach a stalemate, we both just readily sleep it off.

The thing is, husband and I both have strong, volatile personalities. And we’re the sort of people who need to simmer down before finding a proper compromise. It’s not always instantaneous though. For really serious stuff we have passionate opinions about, it would take days to resolve (this has happened twice since we got married). We would sleep angry, talk a bit when we wake up, butt heads, go about our normal day like nothing happened, then talk about it again, get angry, then sleep it off again. And the cycle would go on until the problem gets resolved.

That’s the thing though. Even if it gets drawn out. it eventually gets resolved. Maybe that’s the main thing that’s what makes this method effective for us. We don’t just forget about the issue after a restful night, (At least I don’t. I’m a nag. So I will never allow him to forget anything 😛 ) we keep at it until we find a suitable resolution.  We may sleep in a huff for a few days, but in the end, it becomes worth it when we finally put a long-standing issue to rest.

  1. Marriage can get routine and monotonous

I was thinking about it a couple of months back. And I realized that for most part, what makes marriage difficult is not the disagreements and the fights. In our case, although these upheavals don’t really make things easier, the years of fighting have sort of made us aware of how to deal with each other when there’s conflict. As a result, the fights that we experience now are too few and far between for them to make a really big impact.

What I’m learning though is that you also encounter a different kind of problem when things are uneventful. Because let’s face it, blissful and good feelings aside, marriage, for most part involves a lot of everyday routine. You wake up with the same person every single day. You do the same things day in and day out. You deal with the most mundane, unromantic problems like fixing the leaking roof, repairing light bulbs and you argue about the most boring things like who gets to use the bathroom first in the morning or who gets the remote every night.

And although all these relationship gurus tell you how crucial it is to keep the excitement in your marriage, it’s not always feasible. I mean how can you whisk your partner away on a vacation when you need to save up to fix the leaking roof? You want to force yourself to go on date nights but you are just both too tired and too lazy to do anything but veg out infront of the TV. Even conversations get stale when you’re with the same person day in and day out.

This many not win me points with these relationship experts, but I guess what I realized is that dealing with monotony of marriage becomes easier when you embrace the fact that it’s inevitable. I mean don’t get me wrong, every so often we do something to make the other one special. But after a night of warm and fuzzies, the following day you still have to face going back to an uneventful day of changing light bulbs and watching stupid movies on HBO.

I guess being able to accept the fact that just like anything in life, marriage involves a lot of good days, bad days and days that are ho-hum makes the restlessness more tolerable, the infuriating days more acceptable and the fun ones more enjoyable.

Maybe I’m just getting older or have an unusual threshold for monotony, but I find comfort in doing the same things every day. Like I mentioned in a previous post, I always believed that there are good and bad aspects to every thing. So sure, the routine of marriage can get boring and tedious, but you can also derive a certain security and contentment from it. It’s incredibly reassuring to know that I don’t always have to be on my best behavior every day, I don’t have to always be delightful and interesting for my husband to love me. He just does.

Or maybe I’m just lucky. Because  I married my best friend. And I genuinely enjoy just being around him. Even if he’s totally ignoring me because he’s playing his NBA game on his phone. Even when he’s telling about incredibly dull bills that were  passed in congress (he once tried to explain to me the nuances of the anti-cattling law. Why? Why do I need to know such things? Do I look like I want to own cattle??). Even when he falls asleep while we’re in the middle of an argument.

The great thing is, when you’re with your best friend, even the most mundane routines can sometimes be fun. Our days are now spent discussing the proper care for succulents or ruminating about buying this particular brand of tuna because it’s cheaper by the gram. But see, we can be talking about foliage, politics, household stuff, showbiz chismis or philosophy…. we can be on a trip, out on a date, or just vegging out at home…or we can not be talking or interacting with each other at all and it’s surpisingly okay.

We decided to do a prenup shoot in our alma mater, because that's where we met.  It's an added bonus that the campus looks lovely especially during the Christmas season

We decided to do a prenup shoot in our alma mater, because that’s where we met. It’s an added bonus that the campus looks lovely especially during the Christmas season

  1. There is really no formula so I just wasted your time

I spent a good 6 pages preaching about what I learned in the 2++ years we’ve been married, (and the 11++ years we were in a relationship prior to that) but the truth is, the most humbling thing I really learned is that there is no formula to successful relationships.

Relationships, living together, marriage, as long it’s  working, seem so mind-glaringly simple. So simple that sometimes you can break it down to five smug points in a personal blog.

But when it’s not working, it can get so overwhelmingly complicated that you sometimes can’t even begin to imagine untangling the mess you find yourself in. In your head, you’re doing all the “right” things but you guys are still in a rut.

I  think it’s safe to say that I’ve been through both, (with the same guy. I can’t emphasize that enough) so I kinda know how it feels. And it’s one of the reasons why I’m so wary about coming out too preachy in this blog post.

Who am I to talk about love and marriage (with my measly two years of street cred) when our greatest minds can’t figure it out. Some experts say that relationships work if the two parties are more or less similar. (Same level of education, attractiveness etc) Some say that there is value to the old saying, “opposites attract” .

Ofcourse there are universal things that you can adhere to. In order for a relationship to work there has to be trust…communication. My favorite theologist/philosopher (Scott Peck. Ateneo, Theo 141 FTW!!)  is of the firm belief that love is a decision. You have to commit to loving a person everyday even if you don’t feel like being very loving, even when the person isn’t acting very loving to you.

But even these universal bits of wisdom lead to more questions. How do you foster trust? How do you begin to communicate better? If you made a decision to love the person but your partner isn’t as committed to love you back, what is your threshold? When is enough, enough?

If there’s one thing that I adhere to, is that everything is relative. And every relationship is different. So what works for us, may not work for other couples. I know of married couple who sleep in separate rooms because they find that having space makes them appreciate each other better. Or the exact opposite, I know of people who have to do everything together. There couples who are ages and cultures apart, but seem perfectly happy. And there are those who are uncannily similar that they’re starting to physically look like each other. So props to all of you.. It takes a certain kind of strength to make a relationship work, no matter how staid, no matter how unconventional.

On the other hand, I also seriously and sincerely feel for couples who end up parting ways. Some of them seem so perfect together that it’s quite a shock that things didn’t really work out. But props to you guys for being able to discern when to let go too. Breaking up is never easy, regardless of the circumstances. It also takes enormous strength to be able to figure out that it’s time to move on, pick up the pieces and start fresh.

I guess at the end of the day, you just follow your gut. You and your partner are the only authority that you should listen to when it comes to your relationship. And you are the only ones who can discern what’s best for you.

So to my better (?) half, cheers for the years of trying to work things out. I almost always never get mushy without cracking a joke, but I appreciate everything that we’ve been through. Thank you for meeting me halfway, for putting up with my quirks and for committing to love every single imperfect part of me.

2014 in a Nutshell

Okay, So this post is late as usual. I wanted to post something new-yearish early January, But since I procrastinated again, I only finished this blog entry yesterday. In an effort to make this post relevant, I’m officially claiming my Chinese ancestry and posting this in time for Chinese New Year.

Anyway, I normally don’t do years in a nutshell. At the risk of sounding old and well, lack luster, new year was like any other day of the year for me.

In my mind, new year doesn’t necessarily mean new you. Neither does it symbolize new beginnings. You can decide to change ANY TIME, you don’t have to wait for the last day of the year for that.

But last year was different. Because of all the changes I’ve experienced, I feel the need to hold on to memories, and at the same time document the lessons I’ve learned just so it’s out there and I can’t take them back.

Anyway, I digress again. Before my introduction hits one full page, here are the significant things that happened to me in 2014.

LOSING ONE OF THE PEOPLE I LOVE THE MOST AND GETTING UPROOTED

Losing my mom was by far the most painful event that happened to me this year. People who know me know how very close I am to my family. Moving may have physically distanced me from my mom, but it strengthened my emotional attachment to her.

Needless to say, losing her was a big blow. But more than dealing with the grief of her passing, the death of my mom sort of made me feel like I was officially being uprooted.

It’s very hard to explain, but having lost my dad four years ago, my mom, I felt, was the only connection to my core as a person. She knew me even before I was born and had witnessed me go through one transition to the other. And now that she’s gone, it felt like a part of my history has been severed.

Aside from the emotional loss, there was also a more tangible, physical loss. When my mom passed, my brother and I decided to start selling our parents’ properties. And that includes our child hood home. Although we both acknowledged the practicality of the decision, preparing to sell the house we grew up in just highlights the sense of loss even more.

When I was trying to describe how I felt to my husband, he said something that was uncharacteristically poignant (uncharacteristic because although my husband is very logical and even astute, profound and poignant are not really his strong suits), he simply said, “I think Pi, that you now can start living your life. You’ve lost your last excuse.”

Those words hit me hard, because I have been holding back from figuring out what to do with my life. And my go-to excuse was always my family. Whether it was not focusing on my masters/work because my dad was sick, holding back on financial risks because my mom might need the money eventually or even not being totally sold on living somewhere unless my mom was with me permanently, I always used my family as an excuse not to go all-out with living.

But the sad thing about was, my parents never asked me to do these things. Nor would they be happy knowing that I was stopping myself because of them. And although these decisions were made out of love, I can’t claim they’re totally unselfish either. At the end of the day, there was a small part of me that acknowledged that it was just really much simpler to consider other people than to figure out what I really wanted.

So when my husband said what he said, I realized something important. I may have lost my roots, but I’ve also lost the last excuse I had not to fly.

Easier said than done I know. I’m still of the impression that nothing I gain moving forward can compensate for losing my parents. But I owe it to both my mom and dad to make something out of the life they have given me. And I owe it to myself not to be encumbered by grief and lost memories and to make something out of the void that was left behind

I guess that’s the hidden beauty of grief. You may lose something of great importance, but the emptiness also leaves you with a bit of space to grow.

 

Walking down the aisle with my mama at my brother's wedding, early of last year. Hard to believe how she could have been perfectly fine in this picture, only to succumb to a terminal illness months later

Walking down the aisle with my mama at my brother’s wedding early last year. Hard to believe how she could have been perfectly fine then, only to succumb to a terminal illness months later

 

DEVELOPING NEW ROOTS

I’ve talked extensively (and insufferably) about how much we love it here in Subic. And how living here has given us the much-needed break from everything that was Manila.

But truth be told, for a good period of time, that was all Subic was. A break. At the back of our minds, Manila was still home. And I think we held back on getting attached to things here because we knew my husband’s job was temporary and eventually we would have to pack up and leave.

Practically speaking, we never made drastic changes to the house. All improvements that we initiated were temporary. All the furniture we brought in and the ones we had made are detachable (and not built in), so we could easily just dump them in the truck when the time came to move to our “real” house. And even most of our personal stuff have been  kept in our respective places in Manila.

As for personal connections, until last year, we pretty much kept to ourselves. Moe had work colleagues, but we never socialized with any of them. Socializing was reserved for family and old friends in Manila (that’s why our trips back were always so hectic) and Subic was our “couple-time”, sort of an extended retreat from other people.  We neither had the time nor the inclination to make lasting relationships with anyone here.

But that started changing last year. All of a sudden, moving to Subic permanently became more and more attractive. And we started taking steps towards this goal .

We started thinking of buying (or long-term renting) the house that we live in and making more (expensive) lasting improvements.

Even more importantly, we started opening ourselves up to new people and forming deeper friendships. We now have a handful of friends that we sort of consider our family in Subic and over the last few months, have started developing more meaningful bonds.

I guess the biggest lesson I learned from living in Subic is to just be open and to just go with the flow. My life pretty much revolved around the same radius for 30++ years. I lived in the same house for 3 decades without feeling any inclination to leave, my best friends were the same friends I had in highschool and college and the new friends that I ended up making all pretty much came from the same background. (Filipino, Catholic school, had the same circle of acquaintances, the same upbringing).

But ever since I started thinking of our stay Subic as Book 2 in my life chronicles (instead of just a short chapter from the same old story), I was rewarded with so many new possibilities. All of a sudden, I started noticing career opportunities in a field I had never considered and making great friends whom I would have never even met had we not moved.

It sounds pretty cliché, but I realized that the only way you could grow is when you embrace the unfamiliar. If you just tentatively venture out on your own terms when you feel like it, then you’re missing out on relationships, experiences and possibilities that you could not have imagined because you were holding on to your comfort zone.

Celebrating our birthdays (mine and Bianca's) with some  of the new friends we got close with in Subic

Celebrating our birthday last year (mine and Bianca’s) with some of the new friends we got close with in Subic

ACKNOWLEDGING THE CHANGES IN ME AS A PERSON

The last five years was a roller coaster for me. In that short span of time, I’ve experienced the most humbling failures, the most intense losses and the most devastating heartbreaks. But at the same time, I’ve also experienced the most intense happiness and the most profound contentment. I was also able to test my strength and ability to bounce back and had the privilege of feeling the immense love and fierce loyalty of the people around me.

Because of all these, I found myself changing drastically. All of a sudden, the values and traits that pretty much made the core of me started shifting. I realized I wasn’t as feisty and opinionated as I used to be.  I seem to have lost the pure fearlessness that I had when I was younger. I’m also not as empathetic and “accessible” (for a lack of a better term) to other people.

Even my physical appearance has changed. From a fashion-conscious waif, I have officially retired my extensive collection of stilettos and am now a (pleasantly) plump thirty something who goes around in pajama shorts and beach slippers.

I have noticed these changes almost as soon as they started happening (well, that was one thing that never changed, I’m still uncomfortably introspective), but I always thought they were temporary. I thought they were just after-effects of all the life-changing events that have been happening to me.

But after a couple of years of having different instinctive inclinations, I started to realize that, hey, maybe this is permanent. Maybe I’ve really changed and I will never revert back to the old me.

It’s sounds quirkily surreal, but now that I’ve acknowledged the changes in me, it feels like I’m starting to get to know myself again. And just like every new person that I meet, I feel a little bit hopeful that I’ll form a good relationship with her, but there’s still an acknowledgment that I might not like her at all.

It’s a bit tough, because old me and I actually got along. And it’s not that I think old me is better than new me. (I’ve always been of this belief that traits are neutral and each value has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on the situation and how it’s utilized. For example being a aggressive gets the job done but people can find you offputting. So there are always two sides of the coin). But I’ve gotten used to old me. Like I said, I’m a pretty introspective person. And after living with the same me for years, I’ve become really predictable to myself. I knew instinctively how I would react to a given situation and have learned over time, to appreciate myself.

But I guess the theme for last year really was embracing changes and embracing the unknown. And this applies not just to external things but to intrinsic stuff as well. Who knows, this new me may be better suited to the new environment I find myself in. It may overcome the grief and old hurdles that old me couldn’t overcome.

 

So this was a 2009 picture of me, before my life started changing drastically. I chose this picture because it just showed how  vain I was. I was helping my best friend Boogie shop for his birthday shirt, but I couldn't resist taking a selfie to check if I looked nice too. It's also a wonder how i could walk from shop to shop in my ridiculously high stilettos (unfortunately not shown in picture). On a side note, me carrying around a big bottle of water was a staple, even back then.

So this was a 2009 picture of me, before my life started changing drastically. I chose this picture because it just showed how vain I was. I was helping my best friend Boogie shop for his birthday shirt, but I couldn’t resist taking a selfie to check if my outfit was alright too. It’s also a wonder how i could walk from shop to shop in my ridiculously high stilettos. On a side note, me carrying around a big bottle of water was a staple, even back then.

2015 me. My husband had to force me to pose with the flowers he gave me. And although I was wearing a dress (it was our anniversary after all) I literally just grabbed the first one I saw even though I had worn it recently (vain 2009 me would have balked). Dressing up now also means wearing closed flats instead of the usual flipflops/beach sandals.

Literally my latest picture.  Not only am I bigger, but in contrast to selfie-whore me, my husband had to force me to pose for this because he had just given me my new cotton flowers.  And although I was wearing a dress (it was our anniversary after all) I literally just grabbed the first one I saw even though I had worn it recently (vain 2009 me would have balked). Dressing up now also means wearing closed flats instead of the usual flipflops/beach sandals.

 

So that’s my 2014 in a nutshell. Normally I would say that I hope 2015 would be calmer and less unstable, but truth be told I’m not really sure if that’s exactly what I’m hoping for anymore. Because last year may have been difficult, but it also forced me to grow up. So universe, whatever you have in store for me this year, just bring it on.  I’ll try my very best to trust and learn from the process.

 

 

 

Mom’s eulogy

Posting the eulogy I wrote for my mom. Disclaimer, this is not the exact one I delivered during the funeral.  I didn’t exactly finish the eulogy, so I had to say things on fly. In fact, the day of her funeral, I was panicking  and freaking out because I was only half way through. I think I was feeling pressured because not only do I detest speaking in public but because my mom had such a vibrant, loving personality, and I was afraid that I couldn’t really encompass  the kind of person she was with just a few words. In any case, I tried to reconstruct the things I said from memory the best I can. Best efforts I know, but I still feel this does not do justice to how good and wonderful my mom was.

Before anything I just wanted to thank everyone for the love and care you’ve shown mama. It’s really heart warming to see how she was doted on by the people around her.

Saying goodbye to mama has been bittersweet. On one hand, there’s a sense of happiness and relief. Happiness because she’s now with my dad, her forever crush. We know that losing papa took a toll on her, and although she was surrounded by people who had deep affection for her, we knew that deep inside, she was always longing to be with my dad.

Relief because her suffering has finally ended.  As you all know, my dad battled with a long painful illness. When we found out that my mom had liver cirrhosis, my one prayer was that she be taken quickly and painlessly, and she doesn’t suffer the physical, mental and emotional turmoil of someone with a chronic illness. When she passed away, in a way, I was very grateful. Because although I knew she was in so much pain, she did not suffer for very long. Not only that, but we were blessed with the opportunity of being with her and telling her that we loved her one last time. It gave me comfort knowing that when she died, she was at peace.

Despite all these things, I’m heartbroken. She was such an integral part of my life that I can’t imagine going on without her. I will miss calling her everyday, talking about nonsensical stuff like showbiz chismis, my latest domestic escapade or her latest social booboo. I will miss having her stalk me online, checking my facebook everyday or demanding that I write something new in my blog. I will miss going home on weekends and helping her with candy crush stages she could not finish by herself or teaching her how to do certain things with her phone or ipad (sidenote: she never remembered any of the tricks I taught her).

At the same time, I’m  feeling a bit wistful. I’d like to think mom lived a full life. She married her one true love, had (in my biased opinion) awesome children, had a good career and was surrounded by great friends and a loving extended family. The one thing she wasn’t able to experience however, was to have grandchildren. This really makes me sad because I know she would have been a wonderful lola and would have spoiled our kids rotten. It’s also a shame that my future kids would not have the honour of meeting such a remarkable, engaging and fascinating person.

I was thinking about what I would say if my son or daughter  asked how their lola was like. So I tried to come up with a few of mama’s most distinct traits, all of which in my opinion, encompassed who she was as a person.

She was fashion.

For as long as I could remember, mom had a great love affair with clothes, shoes and bags. No matter what the occasion was, she made sure that she looked chic and put -together. She was always in tune with trendy styles and was not afraid to wear clothes that would be perceived to be pang- bagets. Mom was so meticulous about her appearance that, even during a life-threatening emergency, she refused to leave the house without blowdrying her hair.

I remember accompanying her to the hospital during her scheduled checkups. She would usually be in a slip dress, colorful flipflops ( she couldn’t wear shoes anymore) and big shades. I would be in leggings and an old shirt, carrying her bag. I seriously looked like her yaya.

Mom always took pains to look her best. She always looked beautiful. But whatever beauty she projected outside, really could not hold a candle to the beauty she had inside.

Mom had new EQ when it came to new clothes, bags and outfits. She would wear them even if there was no occasion. She refused to step out of the house unless she impeccably dressed

Mom had no EQ when it came to new clothes, bags and outfits. She would wear them even if there was no occasion. She refused to step out of the house unless she impeccably dressed

She was also melodramatic.

This was I think one of the most exasperating yet one of the most endearing things about my mom. She had a way of exaggerating even the smallest of pains and magnifying the most trivial of hurts.

She was really a very emotional person and would even cry while watching her telenovelas. I would never forget this one particular moment. I was in college, I was coming home from school. I saw mama sitting on our front porch. She didn’t bother turning on the lights, so I only saw that she was crying when I was right in front of her. Alarmed that something was terribly wrong, I dropped my bags, sat down beside and immediately asked her what why she was upset.. At first, she wouldn’t tell me. But after a lot of urging, I finally got her to ‘fess up. Ang sabi nya sa kin, “wala, iniisip ko lang kasi, papano kaya kung katulad tayo nung mga squatter dun sa sine na pinanood ko.” Kakainis di ba??

Seriously though, mom was the kind of person who wore her heart on her sleeve and more often than not she would let her emotions get the better of her. I think being melodramatic however, was also the reason why she was such a good person. She had a strong sense of empathy, and could feel the pain of people around her, and because of this, she always found it in herself time and time again, to be there for those who needed her.

With my dad. It was amusing how she would still get kilig with my dad even after almost 3 decades of marriage (they  celebrated their 30th before my dad passed). It was even more amusing because my dad was totally deadpan and didn't exactly do a lot of things to merit her school-girl giddiness. But in her mind, they were Claudine Barretto and Rico Yan. Hahaha.

With my dad. It was amusing how she would still get kilig with my dad even after almost 3 decades of marriage (they celebrated their 30th before my dad passed away). It was even more amusing because my dad was totally deadpan and didn’t exactly do a lot of things to merit her school-girl giddiness. But in her mind, they were Claudine Barretto and Rico Yan. Hahaha.

She was supportive.

Mom was my very own personal cheerleader. It didn’t matter what the endeavor was, whether it was finishing a masters in psychology, starting a business or even becoming a housewife, she was proud of me and would brag about my “accomplishments” just the same.

It would get a bit embarrassing because they way she boasted about how I picked the “perfect” color scheme for my house, you would think I had won a Pulitzer price or had invented the cure for aids.

She was such a supportive mom and was just happy to see us happy. I think this is one of the things that I will miss about her now that she’s gone. I will miss the security of going through life knowing that whatever happens, I would have someone cheering me on.

Mom showing off our house. I later found out that she was bragging to everyone about how brilliant I was and how I had turned into some model housewife overnight. Mom seems to think everything I do is brilliant, so now I think I'm the sh*t even though I have nothing to show for.

Mom showing off our house. I later found out that she was bragging to everyone about how brilliant I was and how I had turned into some model housewife overnight. Mom seems to think everything I do is brilliant, so now I think I’m the sh*t even though I have nothing to show for.

She was generous.

Mom was such a giving person. I  remember a conversation we had once. She explained that although she was grateful that we’re comfortable, the sense of happiness she had was incomplete because she knew that some of our relatives were struggling. So she would extend help as often as she could, because she couldn’t stand seeing her loved ones have a hard time..

Her generosity extended even to people she’s never met. On more than one occasion, mama would pay for some random stranger’s medicine or groceries just because she saw that they didn’t have enough money to pay for their purchases. I guess you could say that she was the kind of person who wanted to lift people up along with her

Vacation in Palawan with the rest of the clan. Mom refused to take vacations without the rest of our extended family in tow (even if she had to make everyone libre, present boyfriends/girlfriends were always included) so we always ended up monopolizing the whole plane and resort. For this particular trip, we had to ride a small, commercial airplane. There were only 2 passengers who were not part of our group.

Vacation in Palawan with the rest of the clan. Mom refused to take vacations without the rest of our extended family in tow (even if she had to make everyone libre, present boyfriends/girlfriends were always included) so we always ended up monopolizing the whole plane and resort. For this particular trip, we had to ride a small commercial airplane. There were only 2 passengers who were not part of our group.

She was funny.

No matter how bad things got, mom never lost her sense of humor. I think this came from the fact that she just embraced herself and embraced life, no matter what her circumstances were.

For instance, she would be the first one to laugh at herself whenever she made a mistake. I remember how she used to entertain us with stories of her probinsyana booboos when she first came to Manila. She was just so comfortable with herself and her fabulousness that she would be the first one to find amusement faults. This trait really endeared her to everyone, and those who knew her saw her so-called “flaws” as charming and quirky instead of offputting.

When she got sick,  we derived strength from the fact that she remained upbeat, and would still joke around with us. I remember in the ICU, we were given the news the mom needed another pigtail. (A pigtail is a contraption used to manually drain liquid from certain organs in her body). Much to our surprise, mom was very game for the second procedure, and even claimed she needed a new bag, and since we weren’t inclined to give her one, this would have to do.  It was incredible seeing that even during the most trying moments, she still found the strength to laugh and entertain us with her antics.

Playing candy crush while getting dolled up for our wedding. :P

Playing candy crush while getting dolled up for our wedding. 😛

7. She was brave.

Ok, so those of you who knew her very well would understand that brave isn’t usually an adjective you would use to describe mama. To use a word from Quezon, she was panglawin, in every sense of the word. She would get nervous over the littlest things, and her blood pressure would shoot up if she had to do routine medical tests. I remember this one instance where she almost had to be confined because she couldn’t handle the pressure of going through a CT scan.

But we saw a different side of her when she started taking a turn for the worse. Everytime the doctor told us that certain major procedures had to be done, Det and I would freak out, because we had this idea that mom wouldn’t be able to handle it.

There was this one particular instance that she had to undergo dyalisis for 48 straight hours. If you knew mom, you would know that just the concept of dyalisis was traumatizing for her, because she saw my dad go through it for many years. We were really scared that would be the death of her. But she shockingly she was able to cope with it with as much grace and humor as she could muster.

I think at the end of the day, she gathered up enough courage to go through all these medical processes because she wanted live. More accurately, she wanted to live for us. And that was one thing remarkable that we realized about mom. That despite her natural tendencies, she was willing to bite the bullet and brave anything for the people she loved.

Sometimes I think that maybe that’s why God gave her such a painful illness. Maybe she had to realize her own strength. It was comforting knowing that before she passed she was able to overcome a lot of her fears, and was able to realize that she was stronger than she gave herself credit for.

This was shortly after my dad passed. Mom thought it would be a good idea for the 3 of us to take a quick vacation. Little did Det and I know that dad's chronic illness had taken its toll on our finances and that mom's business was in trouble. Even though we were adults and could perfectly handle these things, she  wanted to shield us from the burden as much as she could. So she took us out anyway because she felt we all needed it.

This was shortly after my dad passed. Mom thought it would be a good idea for the 3 of us to take a quick vacation. Little did Det and I know that dad’s chronic illness had taken its toll on our finances and that mom’s business was in trouble. Even though we were adults and could perfectly handle these things, she wanted to shield us from the burden as much as she could. So she took us out anyway because she felt we all needed it.

She was loving.

Mom did not only make connections with people, she built relationships. From her immediate family, to her cousins, nephews, nieces, apos, friends, down to the people she kept business relationships with, mom was loved by everyone. She treated the people she dealt with a genuine warmth that was neither customary nor expected. And that’s why people loved her.

The day she passed away, despite her suffering, mom still had the grace to ask us for permission to let go. Infact, she only allowed herself to after we reassured her over and over that we were going to be fine. And that she didn’t need to worry about us any longer. In the throes of pain, she apologized to US for not getting better. It just showed how what an amazing she really was. Even in her last moments, she was thinking of the people she loved

Mama, I just want to reassure you again that Det and I are fine. You’ve given us all the love, care and support we could ever ask for so it’s now time for us to go off on our own. Please know that we will always keep the lessons you taught us close to our hearts. We will be brave because you taught us to be brave. We’ll keep our chin up because you taught us to laugh through adversity. We will love and respect everyone around us because you taught us to care genuinely care for people.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank certain people who were there for mama every step of the way. I was a trying to come up with a list but it became so overwhelming. she loved all of you so much, and each one of you made her life so much fuller, so much happier and so much more complete

(Commercial: The list was seriously very long. And i remember I was blubbering my way through it, but just in case you’re all reading this, again, thank you. Words cannot express how you all touched mom’s life. Now I fully understand that your bond with with her went deeper than formal titles/roles of brother, cousin, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, friend, business partner, client etc. . Cliche as it sounds, you were everything to her. And she lived a full life because of all of you).

With that, I would like to invite everyone to join us as we say goodbye to mama.  I know this is a devastating time for not just for us, but for everyone here. But let’s take a page from mama’s life and find joy and humor in this occasion. Instead of focusing on her loss, let’s all celebrate her life and remember all the funny, happy times we had with her.

Mom's cover photo. Taken at their company's 10th anniversary. (It was the nineties okay?? Do not judge my Chinese hostess look. It was very chic at that  time. Looking back, even my brother and dad looked hopelessly outdated. Only my mom looked perfectly timeless. I guess that's why she chose this as a cover photo. Hehehe)

Mom’s cover photo. Taken at their company’s 10th anniversary. (It was the nineties okay?? Do not judge my Chinese hostess look. It was very chic at that time. Looking back, even my brother and dad looked hopelessly outdated. Only my mom looked perfectly timeless. I guess that’s why she chose this as a cover photo. Hehehe)

Even mom’s funeral was a testament to the kind of life that she lived. Everyone was emotional, and the place was filled with people who were not only paying their respects but really who cared for her and were genuinely grieving for her loss. But true to mom- form the emotions were diffused when we started playing ABBA. 😛  In the end, she got exactly the send -off she wanted- one that started off with a lot of drama but ended with quirkiness and good vibes.

Our Relationship in Selfies

I was supposed to post this on our boyfriend and girlfriend anniversary, but I procrastinated and totally forgot about it. I rediscovered it when I reopened my blog to post something totally different.

I figured it would be apt to post it right now, since it’s nearing our wedding anniversary anyway.

Just to give a brief background, I used to be a vain, vain girl. So our relationship (at least before we got engaged) was well-documented. Not only did I overshare in my previous social media sites, but I took a lot of selfies (even before selfies were invented).  So just to put all the pictures into good use, I figured it would be fun to create throwback post of our relationship.

1. 2001. One of our first “official pictures” together. This was taken in a neo print booth in  Enchanted Kingdom. Notice that Moe still had a full head of hair. And wtf is up with my under cut? ( I seriously thought I looked cutting edge chic). (P.S. I posted this in a previous blog, but this was the only 2001 couple picture that I found of us)

moeandpia(highres)

2. 2002. On a roadtrip to Tagaytay. We were still in college and had lots of time, but no money. So mooching off free attractions like Sonya’s Garden was in the itinerary.  I got a kick out of the fact that my boyfriend knew how to drive, so never mind that we just went around in circles. He was DRIVING. I felt very adult.

sonyas garden, roadtrip

3. 2003. We felt it would be romantic to have a picnic in the campus field (Belfield) during the Xmas break. Neither of us knew how to cook, so I stole leftover Xmas food from our refrigerator. At a certain point, I lay my head on his lap. A car passing by screamed at us for PDA’ing. I was Catholic-girl-school bred and was mortified. That ended our “romantic” day out.

M0e and pia2,picnic,bel field

2004. It was the year that he entered law school and joined a fraternity and I literally never saw him.  My bff kept me entertained by inviting me to go clubbing more often than usual. Moe, did not get the pull of dark, smoky, over crowded- rooms  and blaring music  (he also did not see the fun in hanging out with individuals who were high on alcohol and, to quote Billy Joe, “what-not”) so he never went with me even if he had the free time. This was taken in Italianni’s in Greenbelt, we grabbed a quick dinner before I headed to Temple (do not judge me, I’m that old. By the way, I took this picture with a palm pilot. How’s that for old).

Italiannis

2005. My parents spent their 25th anniversary with the rest of the clan in Palawan and invited Moe along. His idea of a nice leisurely morning  was kayaking around the entire island, so he was burnt to a crisp. I just watched him huff and puff through this activity while leisurely tanning and sipping on vodka tonic. :p

Last fw pics b4 we leave

2006. We decided to check out the “new” resorts in Laiya. We did not plan the trip through and brought very little money. We ended up in a dinky resort that was filled with men who had just gotten out of prison and were out on a vacation . How we get ourselves in these situations, I have no idea.

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2007. No picture. We were on a break. Hehehe.

2008. Boracay. Moe had just graduated from Law School and was studying for the bar. He spent most the beach trip studying, and I spent most of it drinking. 😛 (The story of our lives)

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2009. Look who finally passed the bar!

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2010. My best friend’s wedding. We were both not in a happy place,  but we had our picture taken anyway. 😛

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2011. Moe had just moved to Subic. In his efforts to convince me to move , he took me Kamana. I  was still not happy about it, but the prospect of being near places like this made me more open to the prospect. I’m pretty predictable that way.

2011. Moe had just moved to Subic. In his efforts to convince me to move , he took me Kamana. I still was not happy about it, but the prospect of being near places like this made me more open to the prospect. I'm pretty predictable that way.

2012. We had just gotten engaged and decided to join the prenup bandwagon. Bad idea. We were not very comfortable doing serious-lovey-dovey poses. Our poor photographer (Joshua de Guzman), made the most out of it, and we got really great pictures out of the process. Notice the tortured look on Moe’s face though.

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2013. Our wedding day. Still the same problem with the lovey-dovey poses. Jorem Catilo was a whiz, because we got great shots, must have been excruciating for him however. 😛

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2014. Celebrated wearing matchy shirts by taking a selfie.

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2015 Our latest picture together taken during Moe’s fraternity brother’s (and groomsman) wedding. This is the only couple picture we have so far.

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Looking back at these pictures I realised certain things.

1. Moe’s hair loss is inversely proportional to the amount of pounds I gained.

2. Our relationship dynamics have gone through significant changes. We are less volatile for one thing. I’d like to think it’s because we have managed to find some sort of balance and we now can express ourselves as individuals without compromising the other’s growth.  But I think it’s also because we have mastered the art of learned helplessness and had gotten too old and too lazy to fight.

3. Although certain things have changed, the core of what kept us together remains the same. We really are each other’s best friend. And no matter how insufferable we find each other, we really do still enjoy hanging out and talking to each other.

On Being Blissful: The Things that Make Me Happy

Okay, so people who have known me for years know that by nature, I am a whiner. It’s not that I was a given a bad lot in life, I just find it oddly cathartic to whine. I also used to have this notion that whininess =honesty: So if you share your troubles with others, or if you give them a heads up that you’re not totally keen on what they’re doing to you, then you’re being upfront. And I’m all for being upfront. So I end up whining. These reasons were exacerbated by this crazy superstition that I swear by; I believe you can preempt an unfortunate event from happening (or getting worse) if you talk about it. For me, it’s as if I’m giving a heads up to the universe, “hey, I’m on to you. So whatever practical joke you’re about to play on me, stop it.”

The thing is though, I realized that all my whining has made me a Debbie Downer. You know those people whose facebook statuses you hide on your wall just because they’re always so emo? Well I became one of them.

And it’s not just about what others thought of me too. I always prided myself on being able to be alone for long, long periods of time without getting bored or restless. But my whining had slowly infringed on my “me time” and I got to the point where I would get really anxious thinking of all the “problems” and “injustices” that I had to go through.

That’s when I realized that things have got to change. I mean, it’s one thing to be perceived as insufferable by others. You can’t please everyone after all. But if you can’t stand your own nega vibes, then dude, it’s time to take a chill pill.

Last year, a few months after I got married, I started a gratitude journal. The idea is everyday I would write about things that I’m thankful for. My list isn’t always major or life changing. Sometimes, I just tick down simple stuff, like being able to sleep well the night before (I’m an insomniac so that’s actually pretty major) or being able to make edible cream of mushroom soup from scratch (ok, again, if you guys know how much of a dud I am in the domestic department, that’s actually pretty major too). But I noticed that as the weeks passed by, listing down all these happy things made me realize how good my life really is.

One of my blog mentors, Martine (her blog is pretty awesome, makeitblissful.com), gave us an assignment and asked us to write down things that make us blissful. Much to my surprise, it didn’t take long for me to come up with things. What actually made it harder was narrowing my list down;  so now I’m forced to divide my list into two. The significant list and my cutesy simple things list.

Posting the significant one first. Will publish my cutesy list next time.

Being married and more importantly being married my husband

 I will not get into details because I plan to write a long, sappy post about our relationship to commemorate our boyfriend-girlfriend anniversary (yes, we still celebrate that. After being together for more than a decade, we feel that it’s still more of a feat than the measly 1 ++ years we’ve actually been married).

I find I find that being married has given me such peace and happiness in life. And knowing that I married “the (right) one” has made things even more blissful.

We’re not always passionately, “The Notebook” happy.. I think our marriage is more like a Tina Fey-Steve Carrell movie than a Ryan Goslin-Rachel McAdams one. We don’t spend our days sharing our hopes and dreams while holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes. If anything, because we’re technically an old couple, we skipped the honeymoon period and went straight to practical and mundane. But simply put, I married my best friend. And when you’re with your best friend, even the most boring of activities, like grocery shopping or driving across SLEX every single week can be quite entertaining.

And just like my bffs, I feel totally secure with my husband. I can say the most inappropriate things (he’s usually more inappropriate anyway), cook the most inedible meals and examine my newly -acquired wobbly bits indifferently because I know at the end of the day it will not change the way he feels about me. (Well, there was a moment of doubt when I miscalculated the amount of chicken needed for a recipe and ended up just giving him 2 pieces. He seriously looked like he was contemplating why we were together at all. :P).

Even during supposedly poignant, loving moments my husband and I just end up bursting into inappropriate laughter

Even during supposedly poignant, loving moments my husband and I just end up bursting into inappropriate laughter

Needless to say, we were not poised and composed during our wedding program

Needless to say, we were not poised and composed during our wedding program

Family

There’s a saying that goes you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends. The funny thing about it is, even if I was made to live a different life, I would still choose the family I have now.

I remember my husband telling me how he finds it baffling how my parents (dad included when he was still alive), my brother and I could spend hours and hours and hours just talking to each other. That’s when I realized how incredibly blessed I am to be part of a family that I actually like hanging out with.

My dad, was my confidant and my source strength. My mom has always been my cheerleader, the one person I could count on to not only to support me, but to make me feel like I’m the sh*t. My brother never fails to make me make me laugh with his absurd sense of humor even when I’m in the throes of one of my heartfelt melodramas.

Like other individuals who spend an enormous amount of time together, we have our fair share of squabbles. We also tease each other mercilessly, without regard for each other’s self-esteem. At the end of the day however, we sincerely love and respect each other.

The great thing about it is, over the years, I’ve gotten to appreciate my extended family as well. I used to whine (I did mention I was a whiner) about my parents being overly-involved with the lives of our relatives, but truth be told, my life wouldn’t be fun without all my quirky uncles, aunts and cousins.

The last Christmas we spent with papa

The last Christmas we spent with papa

My brother and I like goofing up in front of the camera. Mom was clearly not on board. She wanted her beauty shots

My brother and I like goofing up in front of the camera. Mom was clearly not on board. She wanted her beauty shots

My close-knit extended family

My close-knit extended family

 

Friends

I’ve been blessed with a great set of friends. I’ve known most of them since I was in my teens  and we sort of started hanging out because we had certain things in common (going to the same church group, being in the same block in college). But despite having outgrown all these common things, and despite us having somewhat disparate lives, we’ve managed to keep our friendship intact.

I know that these friends are for keeps because we’ve been through just about everything together. We’ve comforted each other through heartbreaks, deaths, career and financial upheavals, and have celebrated new relationships, marriages, child births and promotions together. I also know they can’t get rid of me that easily because I’ve managed to worm my way into their families’ lives as well. (I lived in Taytay, so I was a squatter for most of my college and young adult life. I shamelessly took advantage of their parents’ hospitality and would spend days at their houses. I’ve become such a familiar fixture that even their long-time house helpers would get cheeky with me. Whenever I visit my friends’ houses, they would unabashedly ask me why I’m not pregnant yet and would offer unsolicited advice on how I can loose my “excess” weight)

Truth be told, I would have been perfectly content with just my “childhood” friends. And I could live a happy life not making any more new friends. But because the universe loves me, I’ve been blessed with more people in my life. Some of these people I’ve met through work, some through my husband and surprisingly, a handful through our brief stay here in Subic.

These friends may not have know me when I was a skinny, poufy haired, outspoken teen, but my bond with each of them has grown surprisingly deep despite short time we’ve known each other.

So I guess life has a way of compensating for the things I lack. I may be a pauper in terms of finances, but I definitely have a lot of true friends I can count on (many of whom are not paupers and I could potentially mooch off of if the need arises. :P).

I love my bff's!

I love my bff’s!

My college friends back when most of them were still based in Manila. Viber still keeps us pretty much updated with each other's lives

My college friends back when most of them were still based in Manila. Viber keeps us pretty much updated with each other’s lives

These fun, awesome people  are my husband's best friends, but since we're married I'm claiming ownership  as well. :)

These fun, awesome people are my husband’s best friends, but since we’re married I’m claiming ownership as well. 🙂

 

My crazy work friends. None of us stayed  long  in the company we worked at, but it was long enough for us to form our own clique.

My crazy work friends. None of us stayed longer than 2 years in the company where we all met, but apparently that period was enough for us to form a lifetime clique.

Our whataspp group is aptly named the vodka girls.  As you can tell from the picture, we end up getting plastered every time we meet up

Our whataspp group is aptly named the vodka girls. As you can tell from the picture, we end up getting plastered every time we meet up

 

With our new subic friends. We pretty much lived a staid, isolated life in Subic. And then we became friends with Sam and Ledh,  all of a sudden we had a social life.

With our new subic friends. For a good year, we pretty much lived a staid, isolated life here. And then we became friends with Sam and Ledh, all of a sudden we have a social life.

 

Living in Subic

Okay this is another reason why I think my whining does not do any good. When my husband (who was then my boyfriend) first got an offer to work in Subic, he practically had to drag me here kicking and screaming. I spent many blog posts describing how I lamented my fate. I was seriously dreading the move, especially since I was going to be away from family and friends. But just a few months of living here and I was already eating my words.

Now, my husband has to drag me kicking and screaming every time we need to go back to Manila (still whining, I know).

Living here has filled me with such an inexplicable calm. I surprisingly love having to live away from all the “noise” that I used to thrive in back when we were still in the city.

Again, will not elaborate because I plan to write a post about why I love Subic as well. But please allow me a moment to gloat because I can’t help myself : No traffic. No floods. Enough said.

To level expectations,  this is not our view every morning.  This was actually taken in Kamana, where we got married. But why would you want to live in Manila, if you could be minutes away from this??

To level expectations, this is not our view every morning. This was actually taken in Kamana, where we got married. But why would you want to live in Manila, if you could be minutes away from this??

Home <3

Home ❤

 

 

Finding My Passion

Everyone who knows me knows that I’ve struggled with finding what I really wanted to do. Among all the careers I tried, I stuck with psychology and counseling the longest; mainly because I was genuinely interested in the field, I’ve invested so much time and effort training for it and because I was getting feedback that I was good at it. Also, at the risk of sounding immodest, being able to discern how to help people in that manner came quite naturally to me.

The funny thing that I discovered about personal callings however, is that it’s not always a matter of what you’re best at. Sometimes it’s really a matter of what makes you happy. And for people like me, those  things don’t necessarily coincide.

There are two things I realized that I want to do: I want to continue being a stay at home wife (kids are not yet, and may potentially never be, in the picture) and I want to do freelance writing.  The weird thing is, I’ve never actually considered myself good in either one.

Growing up, my family used to tease me about how helpless I was around the house. I couldn’t even boil water for crying out loud. And I’ve never operated a microwave until I my husband left me alone a couple of days after we got married with nothing but wedding food leftovers. (I had to read the manual from cover to cover before having the guts to push any of the buttons).

But once I got the hang of things, once I learned how to plan meals, cook, budget, clean, and basically do stuff to manage a household, I found myself loving every aspect of it. I’m quite proud that our helper can go on a vacation for a couple of weeks and I could boldly proclaim that I could manage without her. I love being able to anticipate my husband’s simple everyday needs and being able taking care of them even before he could ask. I love researching on new cleaning products and new recipes and trying them out. Weird I know, but scrubbing faucets until they’re shiny fills me with more satisfaction than any of my other jobs ever did.

The same thing goes with my writing. I’ve never been a total dud in this department the way I was with keeping house. All through out my academic life, I was always placed in advanced English and writing classes. But I also knew very matter of factly, and without a trace of insecurity, that I was never at par with my incredibly talented classmates.

In our college English class, my teacher (the great Doreen Fernandez, may she rest in peace) gave us mock awards at the end of the term. My classmates got “Most Likely to win a Pulitzer award” or “The Next Newberry Award Winner”, really cool literary stuff. Guess what I got? I got “Most likely to be a Seventeen Magazine Editor”. So see, I sort of knew early on that I was never going to have an illustrious writing career. Infact, when I graduated, I tried my hand in various fields, but I never even tried to get a job as a writer.

I rediscovered my passion for writing however, shortly before I got married. There is something about finding the right words to communicate your thoughts  that I find incredibly fulfilling. It’s also quite rewarding to know that you can fill people with a multitude of emotions by just putting certain words and ideas together.

Realistically, I know that being a housewife will not pay the bills. And freelance writing may help augment our expenses but it will definitely not send our future kids to Brent (if we stay in Subic) or Ateneo (a non negotiable for my husband if we go back to Manila). So I’m very open to doing other things in future if need be.

But I’m so thankful that at the very least, after years of trying on different hats, I’ve finally found a couple that actually fit.

 

So this is one of the first meals I cooked by myself.  It doesn't look like much, but I swear, it's yummy!

So this is one of the first meals I cooked by myself. It doesn’t look like much, but I swear, it’s yummy!

 

 

One of the things that give me absolute bliss. My friends and I are in the middle of setting up a customised book business.  Shamelessly plugging since it's my own blog anyway. You can message any of us for details. :)

My latest passion. My friends and I are in the middle of setting up a customised book business. Shamelessly plugging since it’s my own blog anyway. You can message any of us for details. 🙂

 

Reading through my list, it dawned of me that the things that make me the happiest are pretty basic. But I guess that’s the beauty of being blissful. It sounds incredibly simple, but I now seriously believe the cliché that was constantly being shoved down my throat by all the religion and philosophy classes that I took; happiness is being able to really appreciate the things you have.

When I gradually I let go of this belief that life is a struggle, I realized that being happy isn’t really that complex. You don’t really have to search long and hard for bliss. Happiness isn’t something that you have work for. You already have everything that you could possibly need to be happy. All that’s left for you to do is to recognise it.

 

 

 

My Father The Hero

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It was my dad’s birthday last June 7. He would have been 64. A week after that was father’s day.  Tomorrow, we will be commemorating his fourth death anniversary. As a way of remembering his life, I decided to write about the 7 things I miss the most about him (7 was his lucky number. Yes, daddy was not cryptic).

One of my favourite pictures of me and my dad. I posted a backstory of this picture series in Instagram.  They wanted to take a picture of me with my cousins. But I would throw a fit and would refuse to be in the picture unless my dad carried me.  Notice the big smug smile on my face when he finally complied

One of my favourite pictures of me and my dad. I posted a backstory of this photo series in Instagram. They wanted to take a picture of me with my cousins. But I would throw a fit and would refuse to be in the picture unless my dad carried me.
Notice the big smug smile on my face when he finally complied

His “practicality” with money

My dad was kuripot. Unabashedly so. His prudence with money was so legendary that when he was in grade school, he won a national award. He was the thrifty boy of Makati. (My uncle, his older brother, beat him and won the regional award, the thrifty boy of Rizal. Yup, being frugal runs in the family, although sometimes it skips a generation or two. :P).

His stinginess was a running joke among the four of us and we loved to tease him about it. I started appreciating his money-savvy ways however, when I was much older.

You see, the fascinating yet perplexing thing about him was his abhorrence for credit. For him, if he didn’t have enough money to pay for something upfront, then he wouldn’t buy it. Borrowing was reserved for essential things like starting a business or investing but never for “happy” stuff like cars, gadgets or clothes. Infact, he first applied for a credit card when he was well into his fifties. And when he finally got one, they gave him a 5000 php credit limit because he had hardly had any credit history.He always preferred, as much as it was reasonably possible, to pay for his purchases, big or small, with the money he had on hand.  

I realized however, that my dad was not totally, hopelessly kuripot. He was just very prudent with his finances and was uncomfortable spending on big things that he thought were unnecessary. And, thanks largely to the influence of my shopping-loving mom, I noticed that he eventually seemed to enjoy indulging himself and his family a little bit more.

I remember distinctly when he started loosening his purse strings. He had asked me to buy him a bunch of stuff from National Bookstore, and he had around 50 bucks leftover. When I tried to give this back, he very gallantly announced that I could “keep the change.” Naks.

Seriously, he really had a good attitude towards money. If he didn’t have enough, he learned to adjust. If he had more than enough, then he splurged on a couple of small indulgences and saved/invested the rest. Money was just money. It was merely a means to a prudent end. He was never consumed by it.

This is pretty much my dad's usual gear every day. He wasn't big on designer labels and would pretty much wear whatever anyone gave him.  There was a time when he was much older , that he got into La Coste shirts (my mom would give him a bunch when she felt guilty about shopping for herself. Hehehe ). He had no idea how much they cost however, so he once gave me 1500php to buy 2. He expected me to give him back the change.

This is pretty much my dad’s usual gear every day. He wasn’t big on designer labels and would wear whatever anyone gave him. When he was well into his fifties, he got into La Coste shirts (my mom would usually give him a bunch when she felt guilty about shopping for herself. Hehehe ). He had no idea how much they cost however, so he once gave me 1500 php to buy 2. He expected me to give him back the change.

 

His high threshold for pain.  

My dad was a rock star when it came to enduring physical pain, and this was especially evident when he got sick.

I remember our frequent emergency room visits.  Because of his high tolerance for discomfort and kuripot tendencies, dad was always very reluctant to go to the hospital. Mom would usually have to wake me up because I was one of the few people who could convince him to go. (It wasn’t because of our exemplary father-daughter bond. I would just unashamedly play on his stinginess. What usually worked was when I threatened him that if he didn’t go to the ER right at that moment, things would get much worse, and we would end up having to spend more on his confinement.)

Because we know that he wouldn’t have agreed to come if he wasn’t feeling really, really bad, we’re usually frantic in the ER. I, in particular, would get quite insufferable and would badger the nurses and doctors to attend to him immediately. Dad however, would remain unperturbed. When doctors would ask him how he felt, he would just calmly munch on crackers he always had with him, and respond “Medyo… hindi normal. May konting shortness of breath.”

Doctors would give me a patronizing, we’re-dealing-with another-illogically-panicky-relative look and proceed to methodically run tests on him. But sure enough, when they get his results, several long agonizing minutes (sometimes hours) later, they would find out that his oxygen levels are really low and he’s in the throes of a massive heart attack.

(Taking this moment to express my beef with Medical City, which was the closest hospital to our place. We were in the ER a lot! They never seemed to have any sense of urgency and would never listen to the combative, half-hysterical daughter)

Even during his regular dialysis sessions, dad was a trooper. While everyone else was crying or giving the attendants attitude because the four- hour procedure was just so uncomfortable, dad would happily flirt with the nurses, listen to his ipod and sing very loudly to the Beatles.

He explained to me once that, pain was a state of mind. And most of the time, what really gets to us is not the physical sensation itself, but the fear that we feel when anticipating the pain. So he just simply willed himself to relax every time he knew that something excruciating was about to happen him.

I think his ability to control his body and discipline his reaction to pain is one of the reasons why he lived as long as he did despite having multiple chronic medical conditions. Everyone who knows him agrees that my dad passed away, not because his body involuntarily gave way, but because he decided it was time to let go.

My dad and I during one of his regular dialysis sessions. My brother bought him big ass earphones so he could listen to the  Beatles properly. They also served as his earmuffs.

My dad and I during one of his regular dialysis sessions. My brother bought him big ass earphones so he could listen to the Beatles properly. They also served as his earmuffs.

His calm, serene nature

My dad was not only a pro when dealing with physical pain, he also had this unwavering calm about him.   It was very rare to see my dad showing excessive signs of distress.

During my teenage years, when my bratty emotional angst was at its peak and my outbursts would make even Gandhi forget his vow of non-violence, I could count the number of times dad raised his voice at me. Even in the midst of a crisis, dad always, ALWAYS kept his cool.

When we were kids, a good part of our house burned down. During this time, Papa was in Quezon for some business thing.  His office got a hold of him and insisted that he go back home ASAP. (This was pre -cellular phones so communication wasn’t easy). The only thing they would tell him however, was that there was a family emergency. According to the guy who brought my dad home, he was completely composed in the car, and did not give any kind of nervous energy. This was how their conversation went:

GUY: Cool na cool kayo boss ah.

DAD: Wala rin naman kasing magagawa.

GUY: Ano sa tingin niyo nangyari?

DAD: Walang sinasabi sa kin eh. Siguro grabe kasi pinauwi nila ako agad… Sana wala lang naospital. O naaskidente.

GUY: O kaya sana walang sunog no boss?

DAD: Kung sunog ok lang. Basta safe pamilya ko.

Guy: Solved na problema niyo boss! Wag na kayong mag-isip masyado! Nasunog bahay niyo!

Sure enough, when my dad got home he surveyed the damage and methodically proceeded to take charge of the situation. His reaction did not at all mirror the devastation wreaked by the fire. Because he was calm, any lingering trauma that the incident caused was quickly erased from our minds, and pretty soon we were regaling him and my mom with funny anecdotes of how we dealt with the crisis.

That incident pretty much described how our family dealt with any kind of difficulty. Because of my dad’s unwavering composure, we grew up with an outlook that everything was going to work out. Every unfortunate event became just another funny story we could entertain our relatives and friends with. As long as dad remained unfazed, we were unfazed.

The thing is, for an old school kinda guy, dad really had a new age  Zen attitude. Simply put, for him, sh*t happens. And you could either whine and lament on the unfairness of it all, or you could roll with the punches. As one of his favorite, go-to expressions go (take a moment and imagine him saying this to me, his melodramatic daughter while I’m blubbering, sputtering and crying), “Ganun talaga.”

When things aren't going your way, keep calm and videoke. (he got a kick  when he saw that his psychedelic shirt matched the funky upholstery by the way)

When things aren’t going your way, keep calm and videoke. (he got a kick when he saw that his psychedelic shirt matched the funky upholstery by the way)

His fun-loving childlike vibe

Until the last few years of his life, my dad, every morning, would baby talk my mom, coaxing her to stay at home instead of going to work or running errands.

Taking that disturbing yet endearing anecdote as a springboard, dad was really a child at heart and never really outgrew the simple pleasures of life.

While everybody else’s dads were busy playing golf and networking with business associates, dad was busy with his pellet gun competition with my brother and showing me his vintage matchbox collection. He was the perfect dad to have around when we were kids because he would wrestle, fly kites, catch spiders and play hide and seek with us. He never thought of these activities as merely “stuff you had to do to bond with your child”.  He genuinely enjoyed them. Sometimes more than we did.

He was kinda little Prince-ish in a sense because he would talk about the stuff that really mattered to us. He and my brother would have in-depth conversations about video games. He would engage me in long-ass discussion on Guns n’ Roses and how Slash was the best guitarist, ever. (He couldn’t relate with my New Kids addiction though, and was totally outraged when I boldly proclaimed that they were way better than the Beatles).

Even his hobbies were pretty unsophisticated and child-like. He would spend hours on his work room building stuff (more on that later) and would be perfectly content watching boxing or Animal Planet the whole weekend. (I remember how he would gleefully exclaim every time a predator would catch an antelope or some other prey after  hours of tense hunting, “Uy! Dali si kolokoy!”)

Because of my dad, I learned that the simplest things were the funnest. And you can keep on enjoying yourself like a kid even if you’re burdened with “adult” responsibilities.    

My dad clowning around with me. He had just suffered from a massive heart attack and was unconscious for days. He felt well enough to pose for a funny selfie however.

My dad clowning around. He had just suffered from a massive heart attack and was unconscious for days. He celebrated being able to breathe without the aide of a machine by posing for a funny selfie with me.

His creativity  

My dad loved making stuff. His workroom was his happy place and and he would spend hours building, creating, repairing or taking things apart.

He could construct anything with his hands and was pretty indiscriminate about what projects he would engage in.

He obsessively worked on various endeavors from practical stuff like making tables and repairing broken gadgets, to sculpting little statues and drawing posters and even to sewing costumes and repurposing old t-shirts.  He once decided to create an AM radio from left over electrical pieces and used an old intercom as the casing just because it was fun.

All my cousins have at least one costume made by dad. I remember for one school activity, my brother won an award for coming as a banana that my dad sculpted from paper mache (Yes a banana. He went to a Catholic school that had no concept of cool. The whole class was made to dress up as fruits. The other section had to dress up as religious leaders. So my banana brother shared the stage with a tomato, a rabbi and a monk during the awards ceremony. I’m not making this stuff up).

Growing up, we rarely had to call “a guy” for anything. Whether it was a leaking faucet, some faulty wiring , a broken vhs player or even a torn shirt, we expected my dad to fix it.

It’s one thing that I really miss now that I have my own household. I would try to channel my dad every time I would engage in a new DIY project (Apparently creative genes are not inherited because I always ended up with dismal results). My husband also gets a lot of judging looks every time he calls the maintenance for repairs.

Who needs store-bought cakes when you have daddy? (Disclaimer: lola baked the cake, he just designed it)

Who needs store-bought cakes when you have daddy? (Disclaimer: lola baked the cake, he just designed it)

His Intelligence

Okay, this is going to sound like a daddy’s girl gushing about her beloved papa’s extraordinary talent. But dad was a genius.. My lola, always claimed that among her highly intelligent brood, my dad was the smartest (she had an MA in guidance counseling and had the standardized tests to back it up).

All of her children were extremely accomplished in school and received various awards. Except unfortunately, for my dad. He was, how do you say this nicely, the least academic. Papa hated school and actually flitted from one university, and one course to the other.

He however, absorbed information like a sponge and knew a lot about everything.  Before Google was invented, my brother and I had our Papa. And we would badger him with questions for school or just because we’re curious about mundane, everyday things. He usually had an answer for everything we threw at him, and if he didn’t, he would patiently research on it and would try to explain things to us in a manner that we both understood.

Even for aches, pains and other medical problems, we expected my dad to fix things. Most of his recommended methods and medicines produced great results, so I still swear by them until now. (Well except maybe for his weird attempts to practice acupressure. I used pretend that I was all better just so he would stop pressing on my palm.)

But I guess aside from being incredibly proud of having an smart father, what I learned from my experiences with him was that academic success does not really measure intelligence. Even before I took up psychology in college, I had this appreciation for how every person had a different way of learning, and consequently also had different ways of showing their intelligence. I also learned not to automatically dismiss anyone, just because they did not have the same academic or work credentials as more “learned” people, so to speak.

Likewise, I also realized that it’s not enough get good grades or to have a prestigious job to be considered intelligent. Although school will give you the much-needed tools to build on, knowledge and skills are more importantly acquired through observation, a voracious curiosity for things, an openness to try new methods and and a genuine love for learning.

My dad and his older brother, my papa andy. They had the same cardiologist and would occasionally have appointments together.

My dad and his older brother, my Papa Andy. They had the same cardiologist and would occasionally have appointments together.

His Love for Family

Although my dad was well liked at work (we were actually quite overwhelmed by all the touching anecdotes shared by his colleagues and associates during the wake), he really did not have friends he hung out with on a regular basis. My dad instead, devoted a lot of his attention to his family. Infact, when he was growing up, his main barkada were his cousins. And towards the last few decades of his life, he considered his oldest brother as his best friend.

My dad was  not the demonstrative, affirming type. I don’t think he ever verbally said that he loved me. Even his demonstrations of love were not grand or poignant. But I felt it. And even when we were at odds with each other, I never doubted it.

You could never call him sweet nor was he a romantic. He showed his love the same way he dealt with life; in a cool, subtle and almost pragmatic manner. I remember one Christmas, mom wanted a purse. As with any other female, she did not care if it was functional, she just wanted a pretty one. My dad happily presented her with one of those trendy body bags, because in his words, it was big and had ‘lots of pockets’.

Despite his cerebral tendencies however, dad had a gentle, caring and considerate side.

A few years after my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she came to live with us. My dad, no fail, would talk to her every night. Even when it got to the point that she lost the capacity to respond. Even when he knew that she didn’t understand a word he was saying.

During their retirement years, he gave up his beloved sports channel and started watching my mom’s telenovelas instead, so she didn’t have to leave the room to watch TV and they could spend “quality time” together. He would even watch them when my mom was away, so he could give her a blow- by -blow when she came home.

Whenever my brother and I were sick, my dad would always  be on top of things and would spend sleepless nights comforting us. When I developed a cyst in my ovary, he offered to go to all of my checkups with me, even when he was going through regular dialysis sessions himself (I declined of course).

When we were growing up, a lot of cousins (most of them from mom’s side of the family) came  to live with us. Dad, who valued his privacy, never said a word and loved all of them like their own children. He even became a valued confidant to most of them.

There is a quote from Maya Angelou that went, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I think this best exemplifies how my dad lived. He did not have a lot of over the top achievements under his belt and lived a pretty staid life. But for those of us who had the privilege of getting to know him, he was a superstar. He touched each and every one of our lives in a poignant, almost inexplicable way. He inspired us with his strength, made us feel secure with his calm optimism and taught us to see the good in others by seeing the good in all of us.

Another light-hearted moment during my Tita's birthday.

Another light-hearted moment during my Tita’s birthday.

The Clan the night after my dad's funeral. We spent hours regaling each other with dad anecdotes.

The Clan the night after my dad’s funeral. We spent hours regaling each other with dad anecdotes.

 

Living In Subic: My JEST and Aristocrat Adventure

I’ve been living in Subic for a little over a year now. And I always rave about how nice it is here. But the truth is, aside from a handful of resorts and restaurants, I haven’t really explored a lot of the area (quite unfortunate since I very smugly present myself as a local).

So when I got an invite from When In Manila to to participate in a Subic adventure, I grabbed at the opportunity. Ok. Grab is a strong word. Anyone who knows me gets that my idea of a good time does not involve exerting any kind of physical effort. But playing tourist in my new home seemed too good of an opportunity to pass up. Plus, they said we were going to eat at Aristocrat, so I was sold.

I met up with the rest of the group at JEST Camp. JEST is short for Jungle Environmental Survival Training. It’s one of the more popular tourist places here in Subic. The park is set up with various exhibits, demonstrations and activities to teach you about wildlife, and well, surviving in the jungle.

ON MY ORNITHOPHOBIA

Ok, before I talk about the birds and the exhibit, let me first indulge my narcisstic streak and talk about me. I am not an animal lover. I appreciate a cute puppy once in a while, but that’s it. I’m most especially terrified of birds. I blame this on two separate incidents in my life.

When I was in preschool, I was attacked by a goose. Sounds funny now, but it’s true! Our classroom was near the mini zoo. And although the monkeys were kept safe in cages, the turkeys, the goats and the geese pretty much roamed free. I was on a way back to the classroom with my friend, and there were bunch of geese blocking the path that we usually take. My classmate, who was infinitely smarter than I was, ran away and took an alternate route.

Because I was confrontational even as a child, I decided no biggie, and just started plowing my way through the flock. I must have triggered their protective instincts or something, because the next thing I knew, one of them extended its neck and started after me. I ran to the classroom crying like mad. (According to one of my closest friends, who was in the same class as I was, I was sobbing and wailing, “Kinagat ako ng oc-oc!” Ofcourse, turns out, I was unscathed. (Melodramatic child=melodramatic adult). It was terrifying anyway.

Decades later, with the wild goose incident safely repressed but not forgotten, I went to visit my old alma mater’s zoo. My old school had an environmental thrust and spent millions on building a zoo to raise wild-life awareness. It was then that I encountered the deadly cassowary.

For those who don’t know what a cassowary is, it’s a scary looking bird that’s almost the size of a respectable carabao. Its enclosure in the zoo was a measly mesh cage. Since it was grunting, growling and was clearly not in a good mood, I decided to keep a distance. My then-boyfriend (now sadly my husband) decided it would be funny to thrust me nearer the cage. It pounced and I was almost bitten yet again. So see, I have every reason not to be friends with birds.

Moving to Subic though somewhat altered my outlook on feathered creatures. One of my best friends married an avid bird photographer. And because I’m supportive, I would climb up the roof and spend hours stalking the ones that visited our backyard so he and I could compare notes. They were pretty. But I haven’t actually forgiven them for traumatizing me. It was only when I visited the Magaul Bird Park that I completely made peace with them.

THE MAGAUL BIRD PARK

Our JEST tour started quite pleasantly. Carlo, our our very entertaining tour guide, took us around different bird enclosures to show us their collection. And they had a lot! I later found out that the birds that they have cannot be seen in the Zambales forest. Infact, aside from a handful of local birds, most of these birds were imported from different countries.

We saw a variety of different species such as hornbills, parrots, cockatoos etc. We were also given helpful tidbits as we went from one birdcage to the next. (For instance, did you know that most male birds are prettier than their female counterparts? So the more colourful or “feathery” they are, the more the females will find  them cute.  This is their version of swag).

A lot of the birds were endangered. And collecting them and showcasing them to the public was not only their way of improving our knowledge of the various species, but also preserving them as well. Because our rainforests are slowly depleting, these animals stand very little chance of surviving in the wild. At least in a controlled environment, they can easily be fed, given the proper medicine and vitamins, and even be set up with a suitable mate. Sounds like a sweet deal.

They were especially proud of being able to successfully breed a type of hornbill called Kalaw, an endangered species found in the Philippines. Ok, so despite myself, I have to admit these birds were pretty awesome. Some of them were huge and colorful, some looked furry and cuddly. But more importantly, they looked like they weren’t inclined to bite my hand off.

One of my favourite birds from the exhibit. They look like fat and cuddly maya birds, but they're actually a type of sparrow. Adorbs!

One of my favourite birds from the exhibit. They look like fat and cuddly maya birds, but they’re actually a type of sparrow. Adorbs!

Curly-haired piegons!!

Curly-haired piegons!!

 

No bird exhibit would be complete without cockatoos.. :)

No bird exhibit would be complete without cockatoos.. 🙂

Macaws. According to my avid bird enthusiast friend, these types are very exotic and highly sought after.

Macaws. According to my avid bird enthusiast friend, these types are very exotic and highly sought after.

 

The Palawan Hornbilll.  This particular type can only be found in Palawan. See  that funky looking on top of its head? that's made entirely out of keratin.

The Palawan Hornbilll. This particular type can only be found in Palawan. See that funky- looking thing on top of its head? that’s made entirely out of keratin. (*Spouting out bird facts like a boss*.)

The toucan. I like this bird too because it has touches of Tiffany blue. :P

The toucan. I like this bird too because it has touches of Tiffany blue. 😛

THE BIRD SHOW

Admiring the pretty birds in their cages was one thing. But the true test of my tentative friendship with them was being able to sit through the bird show. And guess what? I loved it!!!

The show was done in an open auditorium. (Very important: you will not be allowed to eat during the performance since the birds might get distracted from their debut and decide they want to partake of your meal instead).

It was pretty interactive.When various species were introduced, they would walk/ toddle to the stage unassisted, or they would fly from the back of the auditorium so the audience could see them up close. Every so often, they would ask for a couple volunteers and the birds, assisted by their trainers, would fly off the arm of one volunteer to the next. Hosts would also share important facts about the various birds as they strutted their stuff.

Completely shocking, but my favorite part was the bird “curtain call” . They called on the other birds that weren’t introduced earlier in the show, and a whole flock of them came to the stage. They had exotic ducks, pigeons, chickens and yes, even (my sworn childhood enemies,) , geese. You can opt to come closer, hang out and take pictures with these birds. My new friends rushed to the stage excitedly. I kept a prudent distance.

These cuties flew right on to this kid's hands.

These cuties flew right on to this kid’s hands.

 

Mae with the Kalaw. This bird  recently became a proud baby daddy.

Mae with the Kalaw. This bird recently became a proud baby daddy.

 

Birds roaming free. Did not want to risk our tentative friendship so I took this picture while standing on a bench

Birds roaming free. Did not want to risk our tentative friendship so I took this picture while standing on a bench

Other bloggers having a field day with the birds. Missed the photo op because I was too scared to come nearer.

Other bloggers having a field day with the birds. Missed the photo op because I was too scared to come nearer.

For information on the Magaul Bird Park and the Bird show, click here

THE OBSTACLE COURSE

As you probably guessed, I am a total wuss. And, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t really enjoy sportsy activities. I am especially averse to extreme sports. In my practical and sensible mind, it does not seem like a good idea to pay for an activity that could potentially cause you physical injury. Seemed like a lose-lose situation.

But I was with a group of bloggers. And I didn’t want to be the newbie prick who refused to do anything fun. So I gamely said yes to the JEST obstacle course.

The JEST obstacle course is a 6-activity course that basically tested your ability to balance. You had to through a progression of elevated challenges that got more difficult as you go along. Each one was set a little bit higher than the previous one. By the time you ended the last challenge, you were more than 20 feet above the ground. (Yes family and friends, I actually did this).

The first leg started off easy enough. You had to cross a very thin tight rope but you had sturdy chords on either side of you that you could hold on to. Plus it was just around 10 ft above the ground. I went through this nonchalantly. And even when my safety harness started falling off and I had stop in the middle of the tightrope to wait for the attendant to secure me, I was pretty ho- hum.

Even the second challenge was a breeze. I just had to crawl through a couple of barrels suspended in the air. Sure, it shook like hell every time somebody moved, but still no biggie. My level of smugness was reaching dangerous levels.

The third challenge was what did me in. There was a tightrope again. But instead of of long vertical cords, there were ropes, distances apart, hanging from above, that you had to grab on to. So for you to be able to cross to the other side, you had to reach out and and grab one rope to the other until you the end of the challenge.

Holy crap. What did I get myself into?

Mae, my new friend, who was right infront of me, had this bright idea of crossing the tightrope sideways. That way, it would be easier to grab on to the ropes and keep your balance at the same time. I mimicked her style, and thankfully got through with my dignity intact.

So if that wasn’t hard enough, the crazy people in JEST decided it would be fun to make a challenge out of swings. So you literally had to move from one swing to another, suspended more than 15 above ground. This took a while because every time I hopped on to the next one, it would rock crazily back and forth so I had to wait for it to kinda stop before grabbing on to the next swing. Once I maintained equilibrium, I had go through the same thing. ACK!!!

If that wasn’t enough, in the middle of the challenge, I had to go through a couple of big swings, positioned diagonally. It would rock sideways if I moved abruptly.

Even harder, towards the end , the wooden swings were replaced by swing ropes. So you  just had a thin rope to step on. CRAZY! Anyway, I had no idea how I got through this without falling off, but I did!

The fifth challenge was a welcome change because at least it did not veer erratically back and forth. I just had to go through a makeshift bridge made out of rope that was a 20 feet above the ground. Believe it or not, that was a walk in the park compared to the the other challenges.

Finally, you get to slide down to where you started. Now that was fun!

For a non-risk taker like me, I found the experience oddly exhilarating! Now I get why people love these challenges. There is a sense of accomplishment that you feel when you’ve conquered something you though was physically impossible.  I actually want to do it again! (I probably lost 5 pounds from all the balancing, sweating and puffing, so that’s an added bonus:P)

I'm a totally wimp, so naturally I did not think of bringing a camera to the obstacle course. Thank god for brave, sensible bloggers who took pictures. This photo was taken by Nikko Panti. Check out his other awesome features and pictures at themisterbaks.com

I’m a totally wimp, so naturally I did not think of bringing a camera to the obstacle course. Thank God for brave, sensible bloggers who took pictures. This photo was taken by Nikko Panti. Check out his other awesome features and pictures at themisterbaks.com

The crazy 3rd leg of the obstacle course. Photo also  taken by Nikko Pantig of themisterbaks.com

The  3rd leg of the obstacle course. Photo also taken by Nikko Panti of themisterbaks.com

 

This part of  was totally cray. Probably lost 5 lbs trying to get to the end. Photo taken by another brave blogger, Josephine Arce.  Her cool blog is at josephinearce.wordpress.com

This part of the course was totally cray. Photo taken by another brave blogger, Josephine Arce. Check out all her cool posts at vivajosephine.wordpress.com

SURVIVAL TRAINING

OK, this was way cool! After we did the obstacle course, we stayed for a 30 minute demonstration on jungle survival. The Jungle expert of JEST showed us how you could make a makeshift plate, utensils and a glass out of one long kawayan.

Even more amazing, you could use the bamboo for cooking ulam, making rice and even starting fire without a lighter or a match. How’s that for badass?

They also showed us these branches called kuko ng pusa and ugpoy.When you cut them open, you could get cool, clean refreshing water! We even got to drink some. Our guide says these branches probably stored up to a liter full of drinking water. He also gave me an awesome bracelet from the tusks. What a handy tree! I think I will plant some in our backyard. 😛

JEST Survival expert showing us Baukuk leaves. These leaves can be found in the forest and can be used to cook sinigang

JEST Survival expert showing us Baukuk leaves. These leaves can be found in the forest and can be used to cook sinigang

Makeshift lutuan from bamboo.

Makeshift lutuan from bamboo.

 

They showed us how to make fire without matches or a lighter. Now we have everything we need for sinigang. ;P

They showed us how to make fire without matches or a lighter. Now we have everything we need for sinigang. ;P

Twinkle her second fill of refreshing water straight out of a branch.

Twinkle having her second fill of refreshing water straight out of a branch.

Check out my new bracelet. Very rustic chic. :P

Check out my new bracelet. Very rustic chic. 😛

THE GIANT SWING

For one of our last activities, our guide brought us to the giant swing. The idea is, you get strapped up in a swing and catapulted from 40 feet above the ground.

Sadly, after hearing my friends scream in glee and terror, I chickened out.

I figured I’d gotten enough street cred from the obstacle course to pass this one up:p  Regretted the decision though because everyone who tried it kept on raving about it. I made a mental note to bring my friends here the next time they visit. By then I would have gathered enough moxy to give it a go. Definitely a must-try for people who love the adrenaline rush.

Twinkle totally rocking the swing (corny pun intended)

Twinkle totally rockin’ the swing (corny pun intended)

Yes, it goes up that high.

Yes, it goes up that high.

The Jest Camp is located at Upper Mau, Cubi-Triboa, Subic Bay Freeport Zone. For more information on their rates and other attractions, visit their website: www.jestcamp.com

 

ON ARISTOCRAT

After our fun-filled day at JEST, we eagerly headed to Aristocrat to grab some grub. Truth be told, I was looking forward to this the entire trip. Infact, while I was swinging precariously back and forth in the obstacle course, I was thinking of the crispy pata I was about to order. I was determined not to fall and get injured, because they might end up bringing me to an infirmary and I’d have to skip the feast that lay ahead of us.

As usual, Aristocrat did not disappoint. Aristocrat is a household name in the country. They’re known for yummy, straight-up, comfort-foodish Filipino dishes.

The one in Subic had a special place in my heart. It was the first restaurant we visited when my husband was thinking of accepting a job here (we’re total fans of their restaurants in Manila, so it was a  no-brainer for us). It was also a dinner staple when we finally moved in and I did not know how to even work a microwave.

After the adventure we went through, we were famished! Luckily, Twinkle, one of the owners, who came with on our JEST adventure , was thoughtful enough to order some appetizers before we got to the restaurant, so they served the food shortly after we arrived.

We had lumpiang shanghai and calamares for starters. Those were wiped out within minutes. (Not ofcourse, before everyone started taking pictures. That’s the funny thing about eating with bloggers, everyone makes sure they take pictures of the food first before diving in. It took all of my self-control not to steal a shanghai while everyone was busy with their cameras).

Calamares is basically breaded, deep fried squid rings. The ones from Aristocrat were incredibly tender and did not have the over-gummy texture that the other calamares that I’ve tried. The lumpiang shanghai was also quite yummy. The crispy fried shanghai wrappers were generously stuffed with slightly sweet, juicy ground pork. They came with their respective dipping sauces, but they were so tasty you could eat them without any kind of condiment.

Despite having devoured the appetizers, we still had plenty of room for the main dishes. I shared an order of crispy pata with another new friend Greg, and ordered pancit luglog to boot. I also got bites full of fried chicken. (Feel free to judge me. No shame in the game, I ate like a starved refugee in front of my new found friends)

As expected, everything was wonderful! The crispy pata had loads of crispy, yummy pork skin. Normally, when I eat crispy pata, I hoard the skin and do not bother with the pork meat. But even the meat was deliciously succulent so I had a generous helping of that too.

The pancit luglog that I ordered was extremely flavorful and filling. The sauce was rich without being too overpowering. It was also served with a liberal mixture of eggs, shrimp and topped with lots of crunchy chicharon.

The others were also nice enough to share their food so I was able to try the fried chicken.  I’ve gone to Aristocrat several times, but I’ve never had their friend chicken. And, no joke. It was the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. Aside from being unbelievably juicy and crispy, the honey gave it a distinct flavor and sweetness. I loved my crispy pata, but this trumped my chosen dish big time.

After all that food, I I was understandably stuffed! Infact, I swore several times that I could not eat another bite. But the leche flan came and suddenly I was hungry again. 😛

The leche flan was worth the indulgence. It was sweet, light, creamy and surprisingly refreshing. It was the perfect way to end an incredibly filling and satisfying meal.

I also want to give a special shout out to their staff in the Subic branch. One of my pet peeves is encountering people in stores and restaurants who do not have a good grasp of their products. These guys though, knew their stuff. Not only could they identify their specialties by heart, they also knew which dish worked well with what. So it was the complete dining experience. Props for the excellent service guys!

After wiping out all our plates clean, the Manila bloggers were happily ready to go back home.  They were talking about heading to Aristocrat again for dinner. Truth be told, I was very tempted to leave my husband behind at home and jump in the car again. Another food trip seemed too good to pass up. But I was being greedy. So I reluctantly said goodbye.

Much to my delight however, they had one last surprise for us. Not only did they feed us, they gave goody bags with more GCs!! Yey!! Thank you so much for the treat Aristocrat! ( I already planned my orders in advance. Luckily, my husband loves chicken, so the honey fried chicken is in our definite must list).

The lumping shanghai and the calamares

The lumping shanghai and the calamares

The pandit luglug

The pandit luglug

The crispy para, pre chopped into bite-sizes pieces of heaven

The crispy pata, pre chopped into bite-size pieces of heaven

 

Honey fried chicken, the absolute star of the show

Honey fried chicken, the absolute star of the show

Best leche flan ever!

Best leche flan ever!

The Aristocrat Subic branch is located at Lot 2 Blk 2, Maharlika Grounds, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Olongapo City. You can contact them through (047) 252 3910 for reservations. For other Aristocrat branches, you can click here 

So that was it for my Labor day holiday. I did a lot of stuff that pushed me out of my comfort zone (in front of people I have just met) and it was pretty awesome. Thanks for the adventure When In Manila, JEST, Aristocrat and new friends! I scored enough bragging rights to be insufferable for at least a month. Until the next adventure. 🙂