Wednesday, May 31, 2017

My Heart is Rooted in the Philippines #MyAseanStory

I pretended to be strong the day they left me behind. I bravely put on a smile and hugged each one of them as tight as I could. I fought the tears that were desperately trying to fall.  I knew if I cried it would be harder for everyone. I could tell they were also fighting the same battle. The moment they left, everything in front of me became a blur. The tears came running down. I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I thought my heart was going to explode.

That was the day my parents and my brother left for the States.

I was over 21 when my family’s immigrant VISA came. Due to age restrictions, I was ineligible to go with them. Thus, I stayed and agreed that my parents would petition me later.

The first few days were the most difficult. Our tears would always muffle our voices and prevent us from having a good conversation.  Every special occasion that went by brought an ebb and flow of loneliness.

The days turned to weeks, the weeks to months, and the months to years.

The nagging ache of missing my family persisted. The feeling never ceased but the intensity diminished until it became more bearable.

It has been more than two decades but the void is still there.

I believe that God has a plan for each one of us.  I think I was destined to stay.

I was always eager to hear my family’s stories. I formed a tapestry of thoughts of their lives in the US.  They adjusted well in the foreign land.  I felt happy for them but as time passed, it dawned on me that I couldn’t see myself living in the States.

At the end, I chose to stay rooted in the Philippines. It wasn’t an engineered decision. Everything just fell into place. I didn’t wait for my papers to get finalized before getting married. It was a decision that made my application void.

I think it was meant to be.

I cannot picture myself living outside the Philippines. It’s a very beautiful country and I don’t think I can ever feel at home elsewhere. I've traveled outside the country and it always feels good to come back home. I’ve lived in the Philippines all my life but there are so many places in this country that I still yearn to visit, explore and experience.

Where else can you see the most beautiful beaches?  The Philippines has always been known for its immaculate beaches.  One of my favorite adventures is island hopping at Caramoan Islands, located at the far eastern end of Camarines Sur in Bicol region.  I fell in love with its powdery-white sand beaches, sandbars that constantly appeared and disappeared along with the tides, pristine aquamarine waters, and amazing limestone formations.

Where else can you see a volcano with a perfect cone? I was mesmerized the first time I saw Mt. Mayon in Bicol. I’ve seen many pictures and videos of Mt. Mayon but nothing compares to seeing it with my own eyes. According to local folks, not all tourists are lucky to see Mt. Mayon during their first visit. Legend has it that Mt. Mayon only shows her full regal beauty to those who are pure at hearts. I feel honored that she blessed me and my travel companions with her presence, unmasked by clouds on our first day in Bicol.

Where else can you enjoy the freshest bounty of the sea? Whenever I go to Roxas City Capiz, the Seafood Capital of the Philippines, I always feast on the freshest catch of the day including different kinds of fish, shell fish and crustaceans. I’m particularly fond of the delectable Diwal, also called Angel Wings clam. The Diwal shells resemble angel wings when they are fully opened.

Where else can you swim with whale sharks?  Swimming with the butandings in Sorsogon was an exhilarating experience. I was overwhelmed by the size and awed by the beauty of the whale sharks, fondly referred to as the gentle giants of the sea.

Where else can you see amazing waterfalls? I’ve seen many waterfalls in the Philippines and each one is unique and breathtaking.  The most recent waterfalls I visited was Ditumabo Falls, also called the Mother Falls located in San Luis, Aurora. I remembered traversing a rocky path and being rewarded by the astounding beauty of the falls. The water was refreshingly cold. The sound of the waterfalls was almost deafening as I got closer and closer to it.

Where else can you fall in love with the people? The Filipino people are naturally kind, friendly, generous, and helpful.  Pinoys are resourceful and creative. Best of all, Filipinos have the strongest spirits. They are resilient people. They always find a way to recover from adversities.  Pinoys always overcome the toughest challenges and regain their smiles.

I'm so thankful I stayed.

I still miss my family. I'm always happy to see them when they come home for vacation.

I'm happy where I am. My heart will always be rooted in the Philippines.


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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Six things we can learn from children

My article first published on Philippine Online Chronicles on January 12, 2016.

“A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.” – Paulo Coelho

Children may not have a lot of experience and knowledge about the world but they have ideal qualities that many adults have long forgotten. Kids can help remind us of little things that matter most. They can give us a better perspective of life. Sometimes adults get lost in the sea of responsibilities that they forget how to open themselves to the sense of wonder and exploration. If you think about it, children are gurus of true happiness.

The journey to adulthood may have made us forget some of the essential things in life but it’s not too late. We can still relearn and embrace the life lessons from childhood.

1. That another day is a chance to start anew

Adults like to carry around negative emotions like excess baggage. When things go wrong, adults have a tendency to get mad, lay blame and hold grudges.

Children find it easy to let go and face the next day with optimism. When you are young, each day is like a fresh start. They open their doors to new opportunities and exciting experiences. Children leave past disappointments and failures behind and try again without doubt and hesitation.

Kids may fall several times but they always manage to get back up on their feet. When adults are bombarded with challenges, they tend to focus on the number of failures. The harder it is to recover, the more they lose sight of their goals.

Children can teach us to hang on and just keep on trying. Success is never far behind when you give your best. Patience and perseverance are keys to realizing your visions.

2. Pay attention to the little things in life

We are often so absorbed with our work and responsibilities at home that we neglect the beauty around us. Problems and worries of everyday life can easily weigh us down. Sometimes adults would rather bury themselves in their work so that they could temporarily forget their troubles.

Time can restrain us. Many adults are always in a hurry to beat deadlines and pay bills on a regular basis. We are not aware that life is passing us by.

Children can teach us to stop and smell the roses. Take time to slow down and appreciate the beauty that is all around us. Embracing the richness of life can help calm the mind and the senses. Finding peace can help us focus better. Sometimes a break is just what we need to boost our energy and concentration.

3. To face each day with courage and confidence

The young welcome each day with confidence and courage which allows them to enjoy life better than adults. Children are not afraid of taking risks. Their innocence makes them more open to new experiences.

As we grow older, fear becomes a result of what we have learned in the past. For instance, an adult knows better than to touch a burning candle because he knows he will get burned. In this context, fear prevents one from getting hurt.

Adults are often ruled by different fears. Many grown-ups are afraid of the unknown, being ridiculed, being rejected, being judged, and the uncertainty of what might happen next.

Balance is important in life. It’s alright to use past experiences to guide us in making better judgment but fear should not limit us from trying new things.
People can enjoy life more by setting aside fears of failure. How will we know unless we try?

4. Take time out and have fun

Play is not just for children. According to, play is a way to “fuel your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and emotional well-being.”

Many of us become slaves to our duties, commitments and responsibilities at the workplace and at home. We end up being so overwhelmed with tasks that we barely have time to relax and have fun. As we grow older, we dismiss the essence of play.

In this modern world, adults’ idea of fun is often watching movie marathons at home, engaging in online games, and browsing social media sites. Many of us have forgotten about energetic and carefree play that gives us renewed vigor.

Find time away from your modern, serious and hectic lives to have pure fun. It can be as simple as riding your bike with your spouse, friend or child. How about blowing bubbles in the air or running around the lawn? Get a chalk and draw on the pavement. Better yet, use it to draw a good old “piko” (hopscotch) pattern on the ground and play with the whole family. Fly a kite, catch a Frisbee, play fetch with your dog, chase butterflies, and so on.

Keep in mind that play can relieve stress, stimulate the mind, inspire creativity, and improve relationships.

5. Learn to give without expecting anything in return

Most adults are open to helping, giving or sharing with others but they often expect something in return. In the journey of life, many of us have learned that a favor merits a return favor; perhaps not immediately but later on.

Children can show us how good it feels to give unconditionally. The young ones give without any hidden motives. Adults can re-discover how to give without expecting to get something out of it. The happiness of showing kindness and generosity to others can be its own reward.

Let kids remind us of how wonderful it is to extend a helping hand without strings attached. Meaningful contributions make both giving and receiving a heartwarming experience.

6. Open your heart to forgiveness

Children are the epitome of forgiving and forgetting. One minute kids can be fighting over a toy and the next minute, they are giving each other a tight hug.

Adults find it harder to forgive. Pride often gets in the way of reconciliation. When adults get hurt, they often become resentful. They carry a grudge that amplifies the pain.

Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. When we forgive someone, we give that person another chance. The young can teach us that forgiveness can free us of further pain.

Photo c/o Pixabay. Public domain.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Minecraft Inspired Birthday Snack Bags

My little man is celebrating his 10th birthday tomorrow.  His birthday happens to fall on a school day.  He's excited to spend his special day with his classmates.  As a simple way of celebrating his 10th birthday, Yohan will give snack bags to his classmates.

Yohan is such a big fan of Minecraft so his dad and I thought of making custom-made Minecraft bags. We bought green fabric bags and printed a pattern of the Minecraft Creeper.  Jules traced the pattern on an illustration board and used a cutter to define the significant parts.  With a bit of black spray paint, we managed to mark each bag with a Creeper's face. 
A snack bag won't be complete without goodies. We're going to fill each bag with chips, biscuits, pretzels, chocolates, and juice. Every bag will have a tag to mark Yohan's 10 birthday.
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Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite

At the end of the day, everybody wishes to have a relaxing and worry-free sleep. We all need to get our daily dose of sleep to recharge our tired bodies and prepare ourselves for the following day. Sometimes, people experience trouble sleeping. When little parasitic insects are secretly lurking in your bed, it’s tough to have a good night’s sleep. Bed bugs are oval, flat and generally have reddish brown color. They love to hide in the crevices of the bed, headboard, and even furniture during the day. Bed bugs love to strike at night especially when you’re sleeping. Their sole diet is blood of people and even animals. Bed bugs relish in biting the exposed skin of a sleeping person or animal. Although bed bugs are not known to carry diseases, their bites can cause discomfort and itchiness. Don’t let these pesky bugs ruin your evenings. Bed Bug Control Georgia can help solve your bed bug problem. Bed bugs are great survivors. Imagine, they can live for several months without feeding on blood. They can also withstand extreme temperatures. If you notice black and oval shaped specks on your bed that look like apple seeds, then there’s a big chance that you have a bed bug infestation. Protect your family from these tiny troublemakers.

Friday, March 29, 2013

40 Random Things (Part II)

Continuation ....

21.  I believe that if you can’t say anything nice, it’s always best to keep quiet.
22.  A little kindness goes a long way.  Never underestimate the power of a kind gesture or a smile.
23.  I’m always fascinated with nature. I love watching the sunrise and the sunset. I love seeing flowers bloom, butterflies fluttering, and birds singing. The full moon never fails to catch my attention.
24.  I love capturing special moments. Taking pictures make me happy.
25.  I regret many things in life. I learned that in order to attain peace within, the first step is letting go. Once you do, moving on is easier.
26.  The people you love can sometimes break your heart too. Open your heart to forgiveness.
27.  Driving still remains a dream. May be one day, I can find the courage to go behind the wheel.
28.  I’m not a perfect mom but I’m trying my best to be a good one.
29.  I’m thankful for my writing job. I learn something new from every topic I write.
30.  Kare-kare will always be my favorite Filipino dish.
31.  I don’t want to think of myself as a middle-aged woman. I always want to feel young.
32.  I love bags. I wish I could buy as many bags as I want.
33.  I have a small closet. I wish I can have a walk-in closet in the future.  
34.  When the Internet is down, I feel down.
35.  I enjoy watching horror films even though my fear always gets the best of me. The Walking Dead is currently my favorite TV program.
36.  I’m thankful to modern gadgets.  I can easily connect with my loved ones in the States.
37.  I’m happy that Bruno, my Labrador is still going strong at the age of 13.
38.  I have my own share of flaws. I’m impatient, impulsive and I tend to worry about small things.
39.  Life is full of opportunities. Never be afraid to try something new.
40.  I don’t know what the future has in store for me. I only pray that God will continue to bless me and the people I love. 

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40 Random Things (Part I)

Today I turn 40. It's another milestone in life that I'm grateful for. Let me share 40 random things I've learned, realized, and discovered in this lifetime. 
  1. It’s never too late to start exercising. I’m thankful that I found the motivation to walk and run around the village. 
  2. 8K is possible after all. Who knows, maybe I have the strength and endurance to run/walk up to 10K.
  3. Biking is fun. I just bought a mountain bike and I’m rediscovering how fun it is to be on two wheels. 
  4. It feels great to lose weight and enjoy shopping again. When I was overweight, I was always frustrated when I go shopping for clothes. I just hope I can maintain my weight now. 
  5. I can finally wear dresses again.
  6. Getting gray hair is not the end of the world. Thank goodness for hair coloring products. 
  7. I have the best parents in the world. They are kind, understanding, generous, and selfless. I love them very much. 
  8. I admire my brother for being so wise and responsible in life. I may be older than him but sometimes he’s more like my kuya. 
  9.  My yaya (nanny) has taken care of me since I was a baby. I’m blessed that she chose to stay with me all these years. 
  10. I'm thankful to have a loving, supportive, and kind husband.  He gives me strength and hope.
  11. I have a wonderful son who inspires and motivates me to face challenges and continue dreaming. 
  12. Home is where the heart is. I realized that there’s no better place than home. 
  13. Life is not perfect but once you overlook at the imperfections, you’ll realize that life has so many beautiful things to be grateful for. 
  14. Life is a learning process.  There's always something new worth discovering and exploring.
  15. Disappointments are part of life. Learn from your mistakes. When you fail, there’s no harm in trying again. As long as there’s life, anything is possible.
  16. I cannot please everybody. It’s a waste of energy to get rattled by what other people think of you. 
  17. Focus on the positive things in life. 
  18. I haven’t conquered my fear of heights but I gathered the courage to ride the Ferris wheel and the roller coaster. I’m still hoping to experience the zipline. 
  19. I love happy endings. I will always be a romantic at heart. 
  20. People come and go but real friends are there for keeps.
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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Earth Hour 2013

My family took part in the tree planting activity as part of the Earth Hour celebration. Planting trees is a rewarding activity especially when you see the seedlings grow bigger each year.  It's our own little way of helping Mother Earth and contributing for the future. 

Last night countries around the world joined forces to observe the biggest environmental event for the year - Earth Hour 2013. We switched off our lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.  The darkness signified the people's concern for the planet. 

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mornings are Never the Same Again

I discovered the joys of walking every morning.  My body feels more energized ever since I started this healthy exercise routine. I started with 30-minute walks but now I can easily walk for an hour.  I also do short runs in between. If I could bring back time, I would have done this a long time ago.

Walking around the village is great for the body and the spirit as well. I find myself reflecting about different things while I walk.

I bought this brightly colored Nike Free as my walking partner.  I love how lightweight and comfortable they are on my feet.

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