Year-ender: 2014

I often forget how incredible, significant, and fateful the past year had been. I always swore 2014 will be my year (as annoying and overused that phrase was, and still is), and this is how I felt even before the year actually started. I knew I was bidding the longest chapter of my life goodbye, setting foot on new adventures, transitioning into the phase of adulthood—things just felt so right and everything seemed to fall into place, finally. Maybe this is the year I’ve been praying for and waiting for so long, I tell myself.

But that one thing I was looking forward to all these years—is the same thing that has kept me miserable during the latter part of 2014 (the -ber months, go figure). There are decisions I’ve made, well-thought through or on a whim, that still trouble me even up this very second; so many what ifs and whys that cross my mind. It is rather painful to talk about; however, I believe that the emptiness and gloom that certain days may have caused can never supersede a year’s most wondrous happenings.

And with that, here are some of the wondrous happenings that made up the past year:

Visited the dreamland.

The land of milk tea, the songs and shows I call familiar, Mandarin Chinese—Taiwan is the place I call my dreamland, after all. Such a timely trip that happened days after graduating from high school and months before turning 18 years old—talk about a grad gift and debut rolled into one—which makes it extra memorable. Ever grateful to our nicest, most gracious hosts, Ate Joanna and her husband, for welcoming us into their lovely apartment during the first half of our trip! I love Taiwan. Always have, always will.

Excited is an understatement. Months prior to the trip, I remember endlessly scouring through blogs for suggestions on what to eat and where to go, with the aim of having a perfect itinerary (I was going to the dream destination, must not put any second to waste!). I listed even the littlest of details, from train stations to alight at to survival travel apps to download. Finally, things were settled weeks before departure, and I was contented with and even quite proud of the itinerary I had come up with. As stated on my journal, Jiufen on Day 2, Longshan Temple and CKS Memorial Hall on the third day, Shida as the last stop before departure to the airport. Perfect!

And the funny thing is, none of that happened. Not that I mean that they didn’t happen on the day they were assigned on, but they just didn’t happen. At all. Because, apparently, something much bigger was bound to happen, and it was when I…

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Saw my idol live and up close.

This is easily the biggest surprise that’s happened to me—ever! I don’t know how this story is believable at the least because it’s as if some kind of twisted fate decided to play on me during this particular time and it’s like one of those rare, genuine moments spurred by happiness where you tell yourself, “I can’t believe this is happening.” Thing is, I was able to attend a meet-and-greet of my favorite C-pop singer while I was in Taiwan. It was an event that was announced days before our trip, so imagine how coincidental that was. Having booked the trip in December of the preceding year, I could not even fathom how it fell right on our trip! And it was not just any singer whom I only know one or two songs of, whose name I often come across—it was an artist whose songs I sing the lyrics to, whose music accompanies me in my daily commutes, whom I call my ultimate idol.

This is why our trip to Taiwan didn’t go as things were planned. It’s still something I kick myself for, because of multiple destinations on the itinerary unseen; things on the bucket list still waiting to be fulfilled. But in the end, I got to fulfill a lifelong dream. With the time it takes to get to Taiwan, almost quicker than a terrible traffic jam, I’m always meaning to give it another go!

Talk about something totally unexpected and unplanned. As I wrote on an older post, maybe it’s luck, maybe it’s fate, but seeing Khalil Fong live was a dream. come. true.

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Explored a bit more of the world.

Truth be told, I never would have even imagined that I would be able to travel again after Taiwan. Taiwan was the country set for 2014, no more, no less. Another surprise hit me again, having been given the opportunity to visit the United States last summer. Always thankful and grateful. And again, I never expected how much I would enjoy our stay there, with me who is farthest from being a ‘Western’ person and all that. I’m happy that quite a lot of places were squeezed in during a rather quick stay. It’s such a happening place where good vibes just surround you wherever you go. With the warmth and hospitality our relatives and family friends have shared with us throughout our stay, a country a thousand miles away easily still feels like home. I’ve grown to love the States and it’s a country I see myself going back to (definitely easier said than done; we’ll see how saving will go!).

And then there was the yolo-worthy jaunt to Singapore which happened during the first few weeks of university! I’m not one to skip school just because because it’s really not me—I may have taken that statement back when I agreed to go. But if you ask me, it’s not something I’m willing to do again (here’s to hoping I don’t take it back again, haha). Luckily though, I only missed a day of school (as opposed to supposedly two days) and it was of a non-credit subject. Yolo gone right, I say.

While I don’t think I’ll be able to go out of the country anytime soon, I don’t feel the slightest bit of disappointment. I’d like to think bigger things are in store, and other things can wait. Hoping that the adventures I’ve always wanted to have in the Philippines turn into actual photographs and stories this year.

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Got a spot in an international video contest.

How this came to be was quite accidental and the most random thing ever, and it’s something I owe to this blog. I published a guide on how to get Korean tourist visas for students a long time ago. It garnered quite a few comments a year after, with people presumably my age asking for help on the requirements. Checking if the info I had written was still up-to date, I clicked the links written on the post, which led me to the embassy’s official website. There was a pop-up window minimized all the while, and only realized it when I exited all my window’s tabs. What’s this? I asked myself. It was about a video contest sponsored by the Korean government and Arirang TV, of all things! I was excited as I could relate, and immediately thought of submitting an entry. Storytelling and video-editing on the theme, To me, Korea is—count me in.

In September, I received an e-mail stating that I had won an award for my submission! What I felt was beyond shock and surprise, because of the submissions close to 800 entries. Wouldn’t have thought they’d consider some random girl’s annoying gabbing and blabbing, haha. But really, it’s such a humbling feeling. All the winners were also invited to the awards ceremony in Seoul last October, ah! I didn’t think it was necessary for me to go though, as I was one of the many who won the consolation prize anyway (of course, I would have loved to experience it, but priorities). It was broadcasted on Arirang TV (starts at 16:28).

Just today I received my prize and certificate (delayed, but still so thankful) and would love to write all about this soon (hoping school doesn’t get in the way…). I’m rather embarrassed to have my video posted up on here because to be honest, my work still makes me cringe even up to this day, haha. But if anyone’s interested, it’s very easy to find, I promise—just dig in deeper into this blog. It can be seen somewhere.

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One word: college.

I now know the feeling of failing an exam in the first semester of college, having a terrible day because of a bad commute, wading in the waters of Taft River. I also now know the feeling of waking up to a day of school without being bothered and disturbed by many different things, being yourself and who you really are, and being injected with positivity and optimism. But here’s something I’ll be brutally honest about: college really wasn’t what I was expecting it to be, but I’m praying, just praying, that tomorrow will be a better day.

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Hi, hello! I’m alive.

Can’t believe that I’m actually able to write on this space again, which is something I’ve been itching to do these past months. All the 600-word paragraphs I have been writing are nothing but essays on worldly issues, independent films, sociopolitical development… maybe interesting, maybe boring. I have been waiting for this day, and I am relieved that day is, well, today.

It’s been too long; so many things have happened. I don’t even know what to say anymore.

I just want to write, and it feels good to be doing this again.

Into the new world

This 127-day summer is on its end. I’ll be slipping into a new set of uniform consisting of casual clothes, making my way through the unfamiliar halls of a building I’ve yet to enter in a few. Years and years I have yearned for this chapter in my life to finally unfold, and now that it’s only a sleep(less) night away, I can only wish for so much. I’m quite ecstatic, really.

It’s a plethora of feelings, as I would say. Maybe it’s now the perfect time to be myself, and that is, to be who I really am, or to be who I am supposed to be. Unafraid. Secure. Certain.

Summer ’14 was nothing short of amazing. It’s not going to be easy leaving the summer I will be forever grateful to and for; one that has nurtured my senses and greatly fostered my growth as an individual. Learnings irreplaceable, experiences unforgettable. It was a indeed a summer of coincidences, with one unexpected event that just led to something else and then to something even better, sometimes even worse.

Setting foot on the land of my dreams, meeting great and wonderful people here and there, catching up, up close and inches away from the person I call my biggest inspiration in life, exploring a bit more of the world, learning and improving, leaving a print of footmarks in the unlikeliest of places, getting pushed out of the corners of my comfort bubble… I am humbled and fulfilled. These past four months left me dull and hanging, yet at the same time, gave me a list of adventures I never thought I’d encounter. Definitely, it wasn’t all perfect, and whether I regret certain things or not is moot. I’ve come a long way. It was a very lengthy wait, but all in all, I am thankful.

There were a few points on the bucket list I’d never expect to cross out and memories I never thought I’d possibly make… at least not anytime soon, but I’m truly happy. And with a whole new set I’ve yet to meet, here’s to hoping a whole lot more.

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Some incoherent thoughts and possible grammatical mistakes at 2:29 in the morning, but I’ve been meaning to ponder on and express my emotions on certain things that have been bothering me lately. And this time, it’s not really all about me.

So I’ve been wanting to blog lately. To write about the recent places I’ve been to, thoughts on this so-called new chapter unfolding in my life, musings on many different things. But I just don’t have the heart and will to do so—I’ve been taken aback by the current happenings in the world. Reading about the news and watching the headlines these days are such painful tasks to do. When you watch about little children and civilians in this side of the globe shamelessly being shot and killed and innocent lives of people in passenger planes taken away in an instant, it’s not very easy to write about your own wants and aspirations. It feels very selfish of myself to do so quite frankly, when all these people’s lives can never be taken back. A plane full of individuals with hopes and dreams that can never be fulfilled; all gone too soon.

“The best things in life come unexpected.” I’ve always been a keen believer of this quote because of many concrete happenings, but not at this time. It’s just so wrong in all ways possible. Had the passengers known that the hours they spent inside the airplane would be their last, would they have boarded it?

Just at this very hour I was watching various clips and coming across news stories about the MH17 tragedy, and even up this point I cannot stop shedding tears. Everyone on the plane had different life stories. 298 people who hailed from different nations around the world; 80 were innocent, young children who had their whole lives ahead of them, but have been put to an end just like that. But I think what hit me at the greatest magnitude are the Indonesian-Filipinos who died on the flight, especially the kids, who I have been reading so much about, whether on the local news or international headlines. Knowing that they were actually on their way to the Philippines for a family reunion hurts a lot. The son really had a promising future and budding career in his life in the Netherlands, and seeing his last post on his Instagram with a face that displayed much enthusiasm in the airport breaks my heart. I am highly disturbed. Terrible, terrible it is. As I refresh the link, more condolences from people around the world consume his page. Sterkte, they say.

There was a 14-second video posted by a passenger showing how everything was just fine minutes after boarding the plane—people just casually stowing their bags in the overhead bins as the pilot is announcing a few reminders. Passengers excitingly posted snapshots of their passports and boarding passes on their social accounts with uplifting captions. It hurts so much viewing the Instagram accounts of the victims, knowing how they absolutely had no idea that that selfie they took would be their last, and that their adios and see you later hashtags would mean so much more. I can’t help that all of this bothers me so much.

These people could have already landed at their respective locations in this side of the world, enjoying the heat of summer spent with their loved ones, back at their beloved homelands, attending conferences that could nurture their passions and skills, or starting new beginnings. And that’s why it hurts. This act of violence and terror could have been something prevented. Why did this even have to happen? It is beyond comprehension. How completely devastating and heartbreaking it is. It’s hard to accept how all of this is not just a nightmare we can simply shake off or wake up from. This is real. This happened. To muster up courage at a time like this is not the easiest thing to do, and I can only imagine the immeasurable grief and pain that the victims’ families and friends have to endure right now. I knew nobody of the passengers before this ill-fated event occurred, but I don’t feel quite indifferent and detached. My heart and prayers go out to all the victims and their loved ones. In how the current situation is being handled, I pray for transparency, truthfulness and certainty.

2014 so far has been a really good year to me. It really has. But when you see that the world around you is troubled and shaken, you can’t help but realize how little of a being you are—small and powerless.  How the universe isn’t in need of your accomplishments and happiness at this time; when it pleads for something so much more than that.

What a year to live in right now, really. Everything is just so unbelievable and indescribable. Life is so unfair. There are no words.

127-day summer bucket list

“Sounds like a title of a movie!” my aunt said when I mentioned that one Tuesday in April was the start of my 127-day summer.

I was so overwhelmed knowing I’d have four months of absolutely no school, where I could spend everyday lazing around without the feeling of regret. I deserved a break—sleeping in, bumming around, with a bevy of blogs at my fingertips as I spent endless hours in front of the computer screen. Bliss, I say.

But I felt something was quite wrong. I then realized that such routine was not something I wanted to do for the next hundred days. This summer of three figures might never happen again, so I might as well spend it in a productive manner. After all, this summer’s way too long to even be doing nothing. To save my sanity, I’ve got to look for things to do!

So on the 21st day, I ended up with a list of what I ought to achieve. Today’s actually Day 100 (so fast yet so slow!), and I barely have a month to tick everything off:

Get a summer job.

I’ve done quite a few way back in grade school, like being a cashier at the neighborhood barber shop. Looking back, considering how young I was back then, to be sitting at the counter for ten hours a day, with sums of cash and a stash of coins by my side was such a huge responsibility for a kid to handle! Little talks with customers, handling daily reads to those in line, counting change… indeed, it was an experience I certainly enjoyed.

Well, I’ve been doing some ‘freelance’ graphic design on the side (this is just a fancy way of calling the layout designs for the price lists/calling cards I recently created for the barber shop), and it’s something I immensely enjoyed doing. Also, my dream of working as a barista for some milk tea or coffee shop will never fade away.

As I am entering uni life in a few, having summer jobs that equate to actual job experiences can be something I could place on my resume. I was actually this close to being an English and Math tutor to grade school students! But there was a catch: I was asked if I was capable of teaching Chinese (yes, Chinese) pinyin, but I just couldn’t give a straight yes—because, well, teaching Mandarin?  That should be saying a lot of my skills, but I clearly suck, to even begin with… I can’t even teach myself the right things, so that certainly put an end to it. Okay, here’s the deal—not the wisest thing to do, because why would I teach Chinese to Tsinoy kids? Haha. Case closed.

Exercise… well.

I’m the epitome of sedentary. I do nothing to exercise, not because I don’t see the need to, but because I just don’t want. This is something I really need, but never had the motivation to even start.  The only exercise that I actually enjoy is biking, which I get to do once a year (or not even). I’ve been looking for a type of exercise I’d genuinely enjoy. I’ve attended a session of yoga and I liked it. Even the most basic of movements was challenging yet so calming! I never got it right on the first try, but the simple poses aren’t anything strenuous and neck breaking (literally), so I’m hoping this would encourage me to start and get moving.

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Get back on hobbies (piano, dramas, snail mail).

My tedious academic workload is what I blame for not being able to do the things I enjoyed doing. My piano skills are at its rustiest; recently, I was asked by people I’ve met for the first time to play my ‘best’ piece, and it was so scantily played I just embarrassed myself (well, what’s new?). I’d like to get back again my ear for playing. As much as I say that watching drama is one of my favorite things, ironically, it’s something I barely get to do. I remember talking to a friend who said that she was watching six Korean dramas all at the same time, and I said that the total number of dramas I’ve finished doesn’t even go past that. It’s something I need to do again while school’s still a month away. And, of course, exchanging postcards is happy happy joy joy for me. For some reason, postcards here in the country are so limited to touristy types that there aren’t much unconventional ones available. Gladly, I got a postcard book from the souvenir shop at Getty Museum and it features around 30 artwork postcards, so in the next few weeks, I’m hoping to be able to send to and receive from strangers across the globe.

Read books.

This is one of my regrets as a student. I really regret not reading books in high school! Book reports aside, I never finished any novel of interest. I did start reading a few, but never got past halfway of anything. Not being able to read is what I blame my poor vocabulary (my browser history has numerous *insert word here* meaning searches on Google that add up on a daily basis, this is real) and my less polished, incoherent writing on. If I had regularly read, I’m pretty sure I would have done so much better during the entrance exams and become more eloquent. Books on hold are The Alchemist, The Joy Luck Club, and Chinese Cinderella.

Brush up on my Chinese.

I always strive to be better at Chinese. My goal was never to be fluent because that’s pretty much an elusive dream, but to be proficient at the language is quite attainable. My progress is clearly turtle slow (three years and still can’t handle a continuous dialogue, why oh why), and I try to pick up what I can, whether by channel-scanning or singing along to Mandopop. If my Chinese were much better, I could have confidently asked for discounts at the night markets to get a good bargain. But even so, I felt that my Chinese raised exponentially when I went to Taiwan, and that only means that I should engage myself more in actual conversations, letting go of the anxiety when making a fool of myself. But, errare humanum est, as they say, only from our mistakes we shall learn!

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And travel, of course, haha.

As I was listing all of this down, I knew I was missing something but couldn’t really put a finger on it. And then I remembered, oh right, travel! How can I forget this one? Exploring new places is my favorite thing to do. I’m not constantly traveling, but I am always itching to be on the go. An Intramuros walking tour or Pasig River and Manila Bay ferry cruise, why not? For now I’d like to do more of local travel, as it is when I am truly at my happiest, I say again! But near or far, I’m always game for anything at any place.