This year feels like it’s going to be amazingly different.
Let me preface that sentiment by saying 2015 was a good year. An unbelievably good one. It took me to many different places. Allow me to take you to some of them.
The year kicked off on a sleepless night. I don't know what we were thinking, but we set off some noisy fireworks just as the sun was rising. It was exhilarating, amidst all the people already sleeping on the first night of 2015, to be so inconsiderately noisy and alive. (Karma was swift, as it took fifty minutes for the restaurant we all headed to afterwards to serve our January 1 pancakes. It was a grumpy, hungover breakfast, to be sure.)
The culprits/co-stars of my life since high school
That one friend you can share an eggs benedict with while writing poetry. Yes, the one who eats carbs with you and weathers emotionial storms and riptides. I hope you can also claim to have that one friend, because I feel unbelievably lucky to have her.
It was crazy how rainy it got on the day the Pope visited the Haiyan-stricken Tacloban. We flew over there because it's my mom's hometown. Needless to say, it was an emotional visit. There was mud everywhere, and the rain hit too close to home for us and for many Warays.
We watched the waves crash against the entrance of what used to be my grandfather's Tacloban beachside resort. Everything was in ruins, including places that figured so hugely in our childhoods. It was bittersweet. The waves never stopped crashing against the cracked pavement.
Tacloban delicacies. We miss "home", but 60% of that is probably because of the food, the memories associated with the taste, the craving for what was once pure and all you knew. One can only come so close. Thank god for the comfort of those dear ones who can remember.
I've learned that there will always be blue skies against any kind of ruin, eventually.
This year, I fell even more in love with myself. Make no mistake: it's a rough, "it's complicated" kind of love, but there it is, simmering and taking its time, acquiring unique flavor profiles of its own. It's like I've begun to see myself in clearer outlines. Honesty and hope. I hold on to those things.
Who are we without work? How do we compromise passion with livelihood? Does my work define me? What does "work" give me? These are all questions I grappled with. I don't think I'll stop asking them.
We were lying on the beach when this fisherman beckoned to us, selling us his fresh catch. The full cooler ate up most of the space in the car trunk. I grilled it a day later, back in Manila. It was glorious. Sometimes, impulse buys are the best decisions you can make. Especially if they're fresh fish.
This was the second loveliest sunset I saw this year. But at that time, I didn't know that, and I was spellbound. We spent a weekend away in Batangas to itch the need of "getting away". A friend's heart was broken, and remained so even after that trip. Beauty is merely a balm, and can be wiped off. We can see the most beautiful things but remain unmoved inside. (That is, until there's space to be occupied once more, and that always takes time.)
I feel so proud of this little one, for being among the top of his class and the one to deliver the graduation speech. When people ask me what his relationship is to me, I just say he's my little brother. Because it's complicated. And anyway, who needs blood for someone to count as family? This one is a treasure so, so close to my heart.
...and so is this not-so-little one. Everyday, people keep on telling me that she takes after me. I don't know what to make of that, especially when I discovered that she graffiti-d "I am a sad person, but there are reasons :-(" in front of the journal I gave her. It makes me laugh, but it sure touches a sore spot as well. She is the little sister I never had, and man, does she have my heart in tangles. At ten years old, she is already beautiful and sweet and creative and complicated and thoughtful, and I hope I can give her the kind of confidence and self-assurance that I never had during my teenage years.
The Philippines is so beautiful. There aren't enough islands to hold my feelings.
On another Philippine island on a ridiculously gorgeous summer day, sipping my favorite shake in the whole wide world. (And yes, I will be selfish about it and not say a word!)
A normal work day. Someday, will I miss this? The feeling of clawing your way to the top? Of trying your gosh-darn best to prove something? I think I will. But for now, it just feels like work. As it should.
So many idiosyncrasies we try to bridge.
Child-like wonder has a place in everything. At least, it should, for the sake of our sanity. This man didn't stop creating big bubbles for three hours. The kids, to the horror of their parents, didn't want to leave and wanted jugs of bubble juice for their own use. The softer ones caved. They went home that night with kids in sticky shirts, sleepy and dreaming of floating away in plush, soapy bubble to the horizon.
From a distance, all seems fine.
Gladiators in the modern world. Never thought I'd watch something like this live, but hey, it was fun. And on some days, that's all that needs to be said.
Special, silly moments between people you love. We are all bridges without knowing, and what a wonderful thing to be a hapless link in a chain of connections.
A friend and I threw peanut shells on the floor and reveled in our feminine charms (or lack thereof.) Basically, we got really drunk on really expensive alcohol and laughed about ourselves. We were feeling pretty special; we even wore fancy footwear that pinched our toes! Sometimes it's worth it.
Looking outward in the same direction, or at least, convincingly enough for it to look pretty on Instagram. But really. Batanes is breathtaking. Some places are worth staging shots for.
Sights that you don't often see! Wild horses running free. I mean, they write cheesy songs about moments like this, don't they?
Kids know it all: sometimes, you just gotta indulge. And with pizza and wine in front of me, I would never say NEVER.
Everything is digital, yes. But real connection bypasses that, more often than not.
I ate pretty healthy in 2015. I love where my body is at right now. I love it because I stopped believing in deprivation. Oh the things I would tell my high school self if I could!
How does one get over the fear of waves? How does one give in to the inevitability of being pummeled by something more enormous and enduring than you can ever be? I haven't found the answer. I shall continue to sit in the shade, for now. (Although, funnily enough, there weren't much waves that weekend we went.)
Do you like wine? I like wine. I like it Chilean, drank with the best of friends or the newest of acquaintances. In 2015, I discovered that after all the drunken nights of my early 20s, it's the situation of drinking that I love and not the drinking itself. I mean, I won't say no to a beautifully crafted cocktail or a glass or two of wine. But I'd much prefer having one foot in sobriety and the other foot in other people's orbits. I drink to be with you in that space, to be present with you, now. I'd rather not have the hangover tomorrow.
(I'm glad my friends like wine too and invite me to meals like this at their place. Wonderful little pockets of joy. And food, always food.)
They get older too, you know. They feel like they'll be there forever by virtue of them bringing you into this world, but they won't. And that has been sinking in for me more and more as the years go by. I look into the lines in my parents' faces, ones that weren't there 5, 10 years ago, and feel my heart clench.
I think I kinda did. Made it happen, I mean. The fruit of last year's labor led to a promotion at work, the news of which I received when I was in freaking Tokyo Disney Sea shivering to my bones as I ate curry popcorn. That's some kind of magic, I think. Some things just fall into place in such a corny, hilarious fashion.
Have you ever visited a place and felt it call to your very bones? Like, hey you wanderer, what took you so long to come home? We've been waiting.
...I think I kind of found it. Hello, quieter parts of Bali.
I mean, yes, it's a great place to unwind and be BOSS.jpg
...but it has a soul that just cries out to me. Especially Ubud. Wonderful, quaint, rice paddy-lined, lotus-drenched Ubud.
They also have great coffee which is like kryptonite to me oh my gosh
And food that my palate just immediately translated to as FUCK YES, a good indication if any
Here's where I admit that I fell in love in Bali. I'm happy that I came with my best friend.
This was after the night my friends and I watched a violinist play in a pitch black room in Intramuros, one that used to be a Spanish prison cell centuries ago. The piping hot dimsum filled our stomachs as we digested the wondrous tension of being so close to this precarious thing they call "music". We couldn't see her, but it didn't matter. Notes soared and curdled in the air. I couldn't sit still. It was unforgettable.
Here's a subpar photo for my sister's beautiful belly. Some people want babies really bad and never get one. Needless to say, it's been a tough journey for my sister and husband. But finally, finally, with a little grace from the cosmos: a little girl who's already tenderly ensconced in all our hearts and furtive daydreams will arrive come March.
Traveling with your bestfriends is always about discovering each other's inner landscapes than it is about the sights. I mean, yes, Japan is always stunning, but more than that, I was glad to see my friends in thrall of newness.
This view will never get old. I don't know what I did in my past life to get the chance to watch Arashi not once, but twice. My first time in Sapporo last, last year was...well, it knocked the breath right off of me. The second time, last December at Fukuoka where this pic was illegally taken (and I will not apologize!), was just pure fun. Boisterous natural highs. What music and love can do!
Now this was the best sunset of the year. Everything was painted perfectly, all anyone had to do was sit still.
Last year I found a hobby (or more like expense, to be quite honest) that suits me to a T: fountain pens! In a year, I've acquired 6. Unhealthy? Perhaps. But I just keep telling myself that it's what I do anyway for a living (write? lol) and for fun. These things, when in my hands, make me feel like I have more words in me than I could fathom. I'm also addicted to the scratch of nib on fine paper, and nothing can ever make me turn back.
The requisit family Christmas photo. I love them.
The requisite "we got smashed again" at Christmas photo with friends. We will get old but we won't, not really.
Yes, it was a good year, filled with growth and wonder and new sights.
Here's to 2016. I don't wish to top my 2015. I just want it to be a year that means something, a year where I also tried my best to a better version of myself. That should be enough.