For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been the kind of person who honors traditions. I stick to the same plan every year, never really changing what I’ve grown accustomed to doing growing up.
Every birthday meant I’d have my friends over, have them sing me a birthday song, I’d blow out the candles and make a wish with my eyes closed. Even the food would be the same: lasagna with my mom’s bechamel sauce, orange spare ribs, and jungle juice (a recipe taught by my high school English teacher of all people, lol). When we were still living in Xavierville, the night would not end without a midnight walk to the park. History would repeat itself over and over again.
Until one year, I didn’t want a party. My friends still surprised me that year, but eventually, we also moved out of our house. I could no longer have friends over. And my birthday tradition was suddenly gone. Or so I thought.
It simply changed. I celebrated with smaller groups and stretched my birthday into weeks. My awesome friends even surprised me by pooling together money, so I could buy a new oven a few years ago. These past few years, I’ve tried to go on a birthday trip when I can and when I have the funds to splurge.
Christmas is another tradition that has constantly evolved for me. From getting our stockings filled with chocolate and toys when we were still living in Marikina to heading over to my Lola’s place in Iba to open gifts after midnight. I remember my parents would take us shopping for clothes and gifts on the 24th because there were hardly ever any people at the mall anymore. That and my mom is just really last minute, haha.
I used to complete Simbang Gabi with my parents—first in the Xavierville chapel then eventually in Gesu. Then when my mom passed away, I just stopped going completely. Maybe one day, I’ll go again.
The year before she died, we spent our holidays in Olongapo, where we had Noche Buena at a Korean restaurant that oddly served Filipino food. It feels so long ago, but I still remember the tiny tree my brother brought along with gifts for all of us.
And when Mira came along, we all got excited seeing her rip her gifts open and excitedly play with her new toys right away. I would bravely drive us all the way to the South just so we could spend Christmas Eve with her. These days, you can’t even get me to drive myself to the grocery. LOL.
Maybe this year will be different again, but it doesn’t worry me. Traditions are great, but they’re also not permanent. They can fade, linger, and sometimes transform, depending on your situation. Maybe they stay the same for as long as you need them to.
Technically, I saw it on the first day of December, but leading up to it, I was listening to the Broadway recording of Waitress. I saw a video of this kid Adrian singing “She Used to Be Mine” and then eventually, ending up singing it live on Broadway. I cried watching both videos, of course. When they announced the Manila production, I knew I wanted to see it. I expressed interest in the show, but didn’t really find anyone to watch it with until I asked two of my friends who magically said yes. I knew all the songs, but I never Googled the story, so I was pleasantly surprised at the ending. But also, was not prepared for it. *tears* Ahh! I’m so happy I got to watch it. PS Sara Bareilles needs to come to the Philippines, ASAP!
Still thinking about all the yummy things we got to eat in Taiwan. When I booked a trip to Taipei, I knew that I wanted to eat all of the things. And I spent my birthday doing just that. #blessed
It’s so funny how 2018 has really been a year like no other. This year, I completely missed the Cheer Dancing Competition—the only thing I truly care about during UAAP season. And yet, I found myself watching the UP-Adamson nail-biting game from start to finish. Of course I was thrilled when they won! TBH, I’m not sure how I can watch another game, but my friend Chinggay managed to convince me to watch Game 2 live tomorrow. LOL! Here’s hoping I don’t collapse from stress, hahaha. (Also, how cool would it be to watch the UP MBT win a game live??)
I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts this year, and this live episode of How I Built This is probably one of my favorites. I’ve always been in awe of Emily Weiss and what she’s done with beauty. First, with her blog Into the Gloss, which is one of my favorite beauty websites to read (I love them so much, I follow a bunch of their editors online). Then, with Glossier, which probably makes up 75% of my beauty products (Milky Jelly Cleanser and Cloud Paints 4 eva eva). I love how she took something so simple (and relevant to a lot of people) and built her brand by listening to her would-be customers. Haters will say it’s all smoke and mirrors, but I’m a believer.
Could not possibly let my birthday pass without buying myself any presents, right? (Shut up, I know the trip was already a gift to myself. Haha!) Some of my favorite things: these Marquina slides, which I got on sale, and a Strange Mercy shirt that says, “The Universe Provides.”
December is here and I don’t know if I’m ready for it, but guess what? It doesn’t matter. d:
I booked this trip back in March, so we took our time planning our itinerary. Lucky for me, I was traveling with my good friend Mimi, who is probably the most organized person I know. We listed the places we wanted to go to and built our trip around that. It was only my first time traveling to Taiwan, but it was going to be Mimi’s third time, so I wanted to make sure we didn’t do too many repeats for her. We settled on visiting Shifen, Jiufen, and Taichung apart from Taipei.
We set out two days to travel a few hours out of Taipei and booked a private car to get to Taichung and a bus tour for our Shifen and Jiufen day trip. Would 10/10 recommend booking a car through Winner’s Tailor-Made VIP Tour if you want a hassle-free way of getting in and out of the city. We also booked our airport transfers with them. The rest of the trip was spent exploring our area in Ximending and checking out the art spaces in the Huashan and Songshan districts. Since our flight out was early Tuesday morning, we spent the entire Monday walking around (for almost 12 hours!), making sure to make a night market stop (we ended up in Raohe Street Night Market) before heading back to our hotel.
Where we stayed
I have to admit I booked Hotel PaPa Whale solely on how it looked. Haha! The reviews it got on Booking.com were pretty good and its location was ideal—not too far from all the action in Ximending, a 10-minute walk from the Ximen station, and generally a quiet area compared to the central area of the district.
Shifen Waterfall and Jiufen Old Street
My only request was that we spend my birthday at Amei Teahouse in Jiufen. Little did I know that it would be raining the entire day and we would be soaked by the time we headed to the teahouse. We arrived at GaKuDen bakery where we picked up some bread (and cake for some candle-blowing later that night) before hopping on the Klook bus that would take us to our first stop: Shifen Waterfall. By the time we got to the drop-off point, it was already drizzling. I had brought a long a pocketable parka, but by the time we made our way down from the waterfall viewing deck, I was drenched. I ended up buying an umbrella before we headed to the tracks.
I skipped the sky lanterns (please consider its effect on the environment before you participate in this tourist trap) and just checked out the shops lining the tracks at Shifen. I wanted to try the peanut ice cream, so I was waiting for my order when a familiar voice asked, “Masarap ba?” To my complete surprise, Patty was standing in front of me with her backpack and everything. She followed us to Shifen straight from the airport because she’s awesome like that. I wish we had my reaction on video because I’m pretty sure it was pure shock. I had invited her to come along, but she told me she was out of leaves. LOL! Apparently, she and Mimi had been corresponding the entire time trying to figure out where she could catch us. Thankfully, our Klook guide Michael let her join the bus (she also purchased a voucher) heading to Jiufen.
We arrived at the Jiufen drop-off past 5pm and it was raining very hard. The wind was strong and since our clothes were already soaked, we were freezing! Jiufen is a hillside village that has about 200 steps to the top, where the street is lined with shops. There are several tea houses lined with paper lanterns in the area, but we headed to Amei, which is supposedly the inspiration for the location of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. I was already exhausted at this point, and I had to pull myself up the steps just to make it to Amei. We were directed to a table outside and we had a view of the pretty lanterns a few steps below. We decided to enjoy our tea and skip the rest of the trip up the stairs and head back down when it was a few minutes before our meet-up time. Our oolong tea was served with an assortment of snacks. I enjoyed the sesame crackers, mung bean cake, and pineapple cake the best. You could also purchase these along with tea sets and souvenirs at the shop. They gave us complimentary postcards with a beautiful photo of the tea house. This was easily one of the best parts of this trip for me. We headed back to the city and we polished my two cakes (one chocolate and one cheese) before we completely passed out.
A day in Taichung
We were surprisingly up early the next morning for our day trip to Taichung. Taichung is about two hours away, so we wanted to make the most of our day. We originally planned to go the DIY commute route, but realized that we might have trouble finding taxis in the city. We opted to book a private car that made our trip stress-free. Our driver Will was helpful (answered all our questions and gave tips on which spots to hit back in Taipei) and, more importantly, spoke English.
We left our hotel a few minutes after 8:30 and made it to our first stop, the Zhongshe Flower Farm, a little before 11. There were so many fields to take pictures of (and with), so we spent about an hour just going around. We made our way to Calligraphy Greenway for lunch (where we had a bit of trouble ordering, haha), and walked the stretch to look at some art. I realized belatedly that the shops I wanted to see were on the side streets and not the main road, so we didn’t get to see them. We were running out of time, so I just made mental note to go back if I ever find myself in Taiwan again. Our next stop was the Rainbow Village, a military housing that’s painted in all the colors of the rainbow. A retired soldier does all the painting and he’s usually in the area, so you can meet him and take a photo with him. After taking all the photos we could, we headed to Miyahara, excited to try the delicious ice cream we saw online prior to our trip. The space where it’s housed was an old optical shop that the pineapple cake-making company Dawn Cakes transformed into a gorgeous store. I kid you not, it looks straight out of a Harry Potter book. The Honeydukes-like store sells all kinds of treats from cookies to chocolate to cheesecake and other delectable pastries. We made our way to the ice cream place only to see an extremely long queue. Since we were already running late on our schedule, we knew there was no time to wait in line. We relegated to buying a cheesecake to share and took as many photos we could. The packaging was so beautiful, we actually took home the box! Our last Taichung stop was Chun Shui Tang, the home of the original pearl milk tea, circa 1983 (a full year younger than me!). We opted to visit the original store since we were already there. If we had more time, it would’ve been nice to sit down and try some of the dishes served here, too. We still had about two hours of travel ahead of us, so we took our pearl milk tea to go and enjoyed them on the way back to Taipei.
We’re only halfway done, but I’ll reserve the rest of our Taipei adventures for my next post. Up next: All the good eats in Taipei, creative parks, cute shops in Dihua, plus all the Eslite branches we visited. Haha! Are you headed to Taiwan any time soon? What places did we miss? Let me know so I can visit the next time I go!
I’m definitely a sucker for throwback playlists and when this popped up on my Twitter feed, I spent the next hour bobbing my head to it. People who don’t know me that well are surprised I used to be one of those people who spent Fridays and weekends “in da club.” For someone who doesn’t even really drink alcohol, I spent a good chunk of my college years in bars because I loved dancing. Now all the dancing I do is in the bathroom or in my room. LOL.
I follow a bunch of food accounts on Instagram, so I get the most random cooking prompts. This month, I made some pumpkin bread out of a boxed soup mix (it wasn’t seasoned with herbs or anything, so I figured it would work). I was worried the soup would go bad so when Bon Appetit regrammed a photo of someone who tried their recipe for Pumpkin Bread with Maple Butter, I got to work. The loaf came out a bit underbaked (could have probably used an extra 10-15 minutes in the oven), but we finished it before the weekend, so I think it’s fine.
Got a job next month that requires me to test a recipe for a cake I’ve never made before, so I’m excited about that. Hopefully I get it right the first time.
For the full moon in Taurus, I did my usual tarot spread but this time I didn’t pick a specific part of my life for each card. I set a general insight for each based on the questions by Ethony (Chinggay sends this to me and Ines—our tarot support group—twice a month) and came out with a list to guide me through the next month.
It’s Scorpio season, which means I’m turning another year older soon. I like to think of my birthday as my New Year, a chance to make new resolutions, hatch new plans, and conquer undiscovered dreams. I’ll turn 36 on a plane and wake up in a new city I can’t wait to explore. Will tell you all about it when I’m back.
I’m reading This Could Hurt by Jillian Medoff, about this company called Ellery and its HR department. I initially downloaded this because of the pretty cover, but now that I’m deep into it, it’s giving me major Summit flashbacks. It’s interesting to look at it from a different side and it makes me wonder if it’s close to what happens in real life.
I’m a sucker for espadrilles and abaca things, so I finally caved in and got myself a pair of Padma mules from munimuni. Was casually scrolling through my Instagram feed when their post popped up and they were promoting free shipping. I mean, how could I ignore it, right? I love it so much and keep praying it doesn’t rain every time I wear it out, which is almost all the time now.
Then, I ended up dragging my best friend to the Ideal Vision sale to peep the 32-peso (I couldn’t believe it when I saw someone post her pairs online) frames. TBH, I’ve been wanting gold frames ever since watching Maniac on Netflix and obsessing over Sonoya Mizuno’s Dr. Azumi Fujita. I ended up getting a P700 Ralph Lauren gold pair plus one P32 vintage frame in matte copper that reminds me of my very first pair of glasses. Took me a while to find a pair that didn’t have any scuffs and scratches, but it was worth it. Got my eyes checked (yay, my grade didn’t go up in the past year) and had some multi-coated lenses installed (only waited 30 minutes!). Hopefully I remember to wear them regularly.
And just like that, we’re down to the last two months of 2018. How crazy is that?
As I’m nearing the end of my mid-30s (I will officially be in my late-ish 30s next month), I’m finding that there are still many, many things I could care less about. I recently shared an old The Everygirl article about things that get better after 30 and had a couple of people reply about how liberating it is to not care about what other people think of you slash think what you should be doing. I couldn’t agree more, but I didn’t wake up one day and immediately stop caring. I think it was a slow and careful process to get to this point—and I know I’m not completely disconnected from people’s opinion of me just yet.
So, I figured I’d put together a list of things I know some people (including myself, on at least one occasion) judge other people for and think you should continue doing and not give a shit about what people say about it. Life is too short to edit yourself just so no one else will rag on you. I mean, let them worry about their own lives, right?
I will take a million selfies and I’ll post them (or not). When did it become a crime to take a photo of yourself? I think it’s normal. Who cares if it’s a teensy bit narcissistic? I mean is it wrong to like how you look in a certain light or in a certain angle? And if you don’t like taking selfies, well, nobody is forcing you to take them. Plus, you are more than welcome to mute/unfollow me if you don’t like seeing those things on your feed. I swear, it’s fine.
Laugh out loud. Sure, there are days when I’ll giggle in secret and talk in my indoor voice, but laughing with all that I’ve got is pretty awesome, too.
Find out about a bad movie and watch it anyway. I’ve been warned. I know what I’m getting into. So, it’s completely my fault for wasting my own time. Haha!
I’ll put on makeup when I want to and skip it when I feel like it. We’re always trying to make people feel bad about their choices. Not enough skin care, too much makeup, or even both. But it’s all a matter of preference, right? I mean, when I wake up to good skin, of course I’ll skip everything but moisturizer and bask in it. But does it make me high maintenance to spend a few more minutes on blending out my eye makeup, perfecting my winged liner, and figuring out how the heck to contour my cheeks? So what if it does. I enjoy it and I’d like to think I look good after those extra 15 minutes in front of the mirror.
Take photos of my food. It’s not even so I can post it on Instagram stories. Sometimes, I just like recording what I consume. Sometimes I look at them as reference for illustrations or they serve as a makeshift catalog of food I enjoyed. Sorry in advance if we’re sharing a plate and you’re embarrassed when I stand up to take a top shot of our spread. LOL!
Shamelessly self-promote. Because my #1 fan is myself and when I’m proud of something I worked on, you best believe I shall broadcast it everywhere. You can choose not to click it, anyway. So.
Pull tarot cards and read my horoscope. As long as it makes me feel good about life, I shall continue doing it. I like that tarot cards have been a way for me to make sense of all that goes on in my head and that certain horoscopes remind me that things will turn out fine. You don’t have to believe it, but I do. (:
This isn’t even all of it, but I’m pretty sure you also have a similar list. I guess what I’m just trying to say here (if it weren’t clear enough) is if you’re not hurting anyone and it makes you happy, you shouldn’t be sorry about doing something. You don’t need to explain your reasons and no one should make you feel bad for it!
And in the most awkward segue, speaking of my 30s, I guested with Chinggay on our friend and fellow Future Media Empire cohort Patty‘s podcast. We talk about being single in our 30s and being fine (or on the way to fine, anyway). Give it a listen if you want to!
A year ago, today, I left my 12-year job in digital publishing, where I was working for a website I considered my life’s work. I lived and breathed our website for the better part of that decade. That meant the brand was basically my lifeblood.
When I was suddenly without a job, I felt lost. Spending 10 to 12-hour days immersed in my work, my life became all about the job. I identified as an editor and I slowly forgot anything outside of it. I don’t think I did it consciously, but it happened.
The past year has been a year of learning and unlearning for me. Weeks of debating with myself if I enjoyed something because I was really interested in it, or if I was conditioned to because I was exposed to it all these years. I questioned whether I was really good at what I did, if I had anything else to offer. I wondered if I genuinely loved what I did or if I had grown accustomed to it because it was all I ever had to do.
I suppose when you devote an inordinate amount of time and effort to something, you begin to lose yourself in it a little bit.
I suppose when you devote an inordinate amount of time and effort to something, you begin to lose yourself in it a little bit. There’s nothing wrong with that—I don’t regret those 12 years. I am who I am now precisely because I put in the work all those years. I accept all that came out of it—good, bad, and everything in between.
I learned to value myself and the people around me. I discovered that more than what other people have to say, what’s important is why you’re doing what you do. Just like anyone else, I crave affirmation and recognition. That’s normal, but I don’t need it to move forward. When you lose your sense of self, it’s easier to look to other people for a sign that you’re doing a good job. If they approve of you, then maybe you’re on the correct path, right? More often than not, you’ll realize that you know yourself better than anyone else. While it’s nice to be acknowledged by others, isn’t it better when you make your choices based on what you want and not because it’s what everyone else expects of you?
I’m putting in the work for myself this time.
This year, I started writing in my journal again. I wrote for myself. I pitched stories and got published in places I didn’t think I would ever see my byline. I baked more. I learned how to cook. I’ve been reading books again. I’m getting creative again, dusting off my watercolor, my nibs and ink, my paper and notebooks. I started projects with friends because I want to, not because I have to. I’m putting in the work for myself this time. It has been a fulfilling year.
There are days when I think about how broken I felt a year ago. But when I count down all the days and all the things I’ve discovered about myself and the world around me since then, I’m glad I took time to piece everything together again. I’m still in the process of figuring out who I am and what I want to do. And I’m not worried if I still don’t know for sure what that is yet. Isn’t it comforting to know that we’re all still finding out for ourselves, too?
I’m a big rom-com fan and I’m actually surprised I have not seen Serendipity in its entirety until this month. I only remember seeing the elevator scene once on HBO. I thought Nick Drake’s “Northern Sky” playing at the very end was just perfect. It definitely made me feel all warm and fuzzy way after the credits finished. It got me thinking about those songs that perfectly punctuate a movie scene. I put together a playlist of those songs. What would you put on the list?
Finally got to try La Chinesca at The Grid in Powerplant. Had the Campechano (hanging tender, chorizo, Swiss cheese, potato, onion) and Chicharron (crispy pork, chicharron, salsa fresca, onion). Both come with cilantro, but I’m not a fan so I had them remove it. Shared an order of Guacamole (Mexican avocado, onion, lime, chile, cilantro, togarashi, tostadas) with Mimi, too. Woke up the next morning still thinking of the Chicharron taco. Loved the soft tortilla it was served on. Reminds me of Tortillos!
It has officially been 9 months since I’ve gone freelance full-time and I feel it. It may seem like freelancers have it easy since they don’t have to come in and report to an office on a daily basis, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Since you need to take on different jobs depending on how much you want to earn in a month, there are days when the deadlines don’t seem to end. I’m still adjusting and learning how to manage my time wisely (aka spend less time binging shows on Netflix, haha). But on days when I do get to slow down, I try to draw, paint, or write on my journal. Here’s hoping for more days like that.
Everything in Piera Gelardi’s caption resonates with me. Sharing it here in case any of you need these words.
So I started using a shampoo bar. I’m honestly not sold on it yet, but there has been a huge improvement from Day 1. When I first used it, the bar wouldn’t lather up and I just kept rubbing it on my hair. I don’t think I rinsed it out enough, so I ended up with really waxy roots. Now on Day 6, my hair doesn’t feel greasy anymore and my locks feel soft to the touch. I also love how my waves are defined but not frizzy. I really hope my hair fully adjusts to it, so I can say goodbye to commercial shampoo (and to the plastic bottles they come in).
It’s the first day of the final quarter of 2018. How did that happen so fast?