My Lilliput

It’s interesting to be part of a generation born without phones as we know it now. I was born in 1980, the time that blurs between Generation X and Millennials. I’ve always viewed this GenX-Millennial identity as a privilege because I was part of a generation that witnessed the birth of the digital age. I grew up in a world of written letters and post offices. We did not have a landline phone until I was already in college. You rely a lot on your friends’ promise when you say you will meet, setting a place and time. I have a feeling many hearts were broken and love stories ended because one did not make it on time or got their meeting place wrong.

I was in college when e-mail was finally invented. No more waiting for weeks for a letter to arrive. In one click, you can send your letter and get a response that very same day. Internet was born and it’s like humans finally found a way to communicate with aliens. Only it’s still just us, humans able to communicate with each other faster, information more within reach and finally we have the power to understand our cultural differences. Looking at the present, we also know it also had the opposite effect and we allowed it to divide us more in some ways.

Not long after, Nokia gave us the gift of mobile phones. The world never looked back since then. We also know Nokia failed to look forward, an early and costly lesson for modern day technology companies. My first mobile phone was a Nokia3210, the first model that did not have that annoying antenna like the Nokia5110. Do you know what these are, Generation Z? Hahaha! I won’t explain in detail, just Google it. For those who can relate, do you still remember the high of being able to text or call your friends wherever, whenever? The only thing that can stop you was when you run out of load. A text was quite expensive then at 1 peso per message. A local call is charged 5 pesos per minute. The word unlimited was still dormant in the dictionary at that time.

What a great time that was! It was like the beginning of a sweet relationship, where everything was sunshine and rainbows. I went on my first tour with the UP Concert Chorus with an analog camera and called my family using phone cards. On my second tour, I had a mobile phone and still an analog camera. Right the next year, I had both a mobile phone and digital camera. We now know how fast innovation can be and now we can’t even keep up. Apple, Samsung and Huawei launch a new version of their phones every year. Sony, Fujifilm, Nikon and Panasonic changed the meaning of photography and now we even have DSLR and mirrorless cameras. The choices are endless so you always have to ask yourself why you would need a new phone or a new laptop.

My share of these precious marvels of technology include an iPhone 11 and an iPad 6th Gen. I have a laptop and another mobile phone but they are company property so they don’t count. Am I happy with my gadgets? Hell, yeah! My personal phone is my lifeline and my work phone is a buzzing nuisance. I guess I can still call my work phone a lifeline to my source of income. So, it’s still important.

However, let’s talk about my real lifeline. My phone is my non-human best friend. It knows everything about me, it’s scary. If you want to get to know someone these days, looking at what they have on their phones will tell you a lot. For example, I have about five pages of apps. The first page has all social media and video streaming on it – Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Netflix and Spotify to highlight a few. Next would be for bills and banking apps, because adulting is required. My workout apps are on page four, kinda hard to get to. The rest are random and rarely used. Now you know what my priorities are.

Seriously though, I really think our phones are our lifeline these days. The pandemic has made it even more necessary to be connected since face time is very limited and risky. When we were sick before, we have to go to a clinic or hospital to see a doctor. Now, we can have an online consultation first and the next steps can be figured out depending on how serious the case is. I still would feel more comfortable seeing the doctor from the beginning, but we had to make these adjustments for our own safety. We can order food, pay our bills, watch movies and tv shows, keep our workout goals and even go to school with just our phones.

For someone who lives alone like me, my phone can be very valuable. It keeps me connected to my friends and family. It gives me peace of mind knowing I can talk to someone when I want or need to. What if I need help? I’m sure this phone will be instrumental to getting it.

Can you imagine yourself without your phone? I can. But I won’t. I like having it. It’s like my very own Lilliput, a whole world wrapped in a little box.

What if my phone becomes a buzzing nuisance? There’s always the silent mode. 😉

Resolved

One of my new year’s resolutions last year was to not buy any pair of shoes for the whole year. It was supposed to be a joke because my friends went on a shoe shopping spree and I was not able to join them. Then, the pandemic happened. It became more achievable as shoes became useless.

It may not be much, but this resolution rolls up to my longterm mission to live practicing minimalism. Ever since I learned about Marie Kondo and the konmari method of decluttering, I’ve decided to live as simple as possible. I did not get too serious about it until about two years ago when I realized I have a lot of possessions I keep, but do not use. I have gained so much weight but I have clothes from 2012 that I still keep, hoping I can wear them again soon. Most of the time, it was just wishful thinking.

Breaking the habit of shopping was not hard for me. I’m not a shopaholic to begin with. But, based on material things I had, I knew I still had too much.

According to Marie Kondo, the first category to clean up is clothing. In a span of three years, I’ve managed to get rid of most of my clothes that no longer spark joy. Most of them in reality no longer fit me and I just accepted the fact that I am probably not going back to my 28-year old body. If I do, I’m sure shopping for new ones will spark joy too. Last year, I did another round of clean up and I donated mine to relief assistance for typhoon victims. The same goes for my shoes. I don’t really have a lot of pairs. I realized that in my corporate job, I hardly ever wore heels. I prefer ballet flats to walk around so I ended up with ruined pairs of heels due to long storage. What a waste of money. I can’t wait to go back to Manila to sort through my clothes and shoes again. My goal is to keep just those that I need and like wearing the most. For shoes, I need to throw some out anyway so clean up is a must.

The second category in Konmari is books. This one is easy. I barely have books to fill a shelf. I used to read a lot, but now I realize Netflix and Korean drama have taken over. I managed to sort through my tiny book collection last year and got rid of those that I simply have no desire to read (because someone gave them to me obviously not aware of what I like to read). I’m really not into fantasy books. Sorry George R.R. Martin, J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien. I prefer Archie’s comics. Anyway, that should not be of much concern to tidy up since I so far just have those that I really want to keep. Also, I started to use Kindle already and just buy ebooks.

The third category is the most irritating one: papers. This includes old unimportant documents, receipts, billing statements. I used to have piles of bills and receipts as treasures. I kept many old documents that I later realized were obsolete. I learned to shred and trash and have significantly reduced my paper keepsakes. I still like keeping receipts, but I manage to throw the unnecessary ones after a short while. Sometimes, I am tempted to buy my own paper shredder just so I can get rid of paper waste right away.

The fourth and fifth categories are miscellaneous and sentimental items respectively. I have yet to get this. Maybe this year I will attack decluttering this category more thoroughly. I have old accessories that I no longer wear. There are earrings without a pair, rusty necklaces and bracelets. Do I still need the raincoat from the 2018 winter Olympics? Ahehehe.

From not buying shoes for a whole year, I learned that you can really live simply. You may have so many clothes, but you actually end up wearing some pieces over and over. In the book “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin, she realized she wore jeans and white shirts a lot. The rest of her clothes stay stored. So she decided to buy white shirts instead. The same with me when it comes to shoes. I end up wearing just one or two pairs repeatedly. Why bother having twenty pairs? I ought to read that book again. She focused on certain aspects of her life each month. Maybe I should do my own 2021 happiness project.

My goal for this year and probably for the years to come is to continue this journey. Like I said in my priority, I am my priority now and I aim for contentment. I also wish to practice the quality of life I want with more consistency. “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” That’s from Gretchen Rubin and I will just leave this thought here.

The New Class

I have been working in the corporate world for more than 15 years now. I have been in the IT industry for about 12 years. I did not take up an IT-related course in college. In fact, I graduated with a BS Community Development degree.

If there is one thing I learned since I graduated and joined the real world, what you take up in college, does not necessarily end up to be your profession. Your interests may change as you grow older and truly experience life. So many adults are still confused about what they want to be at my age. How would you expect a 17-year old university freshman to know for sure that he or she wants to be an engineer or a doctor or a lawyer? When I applied for college, in my heart I wanted to take up psychology. However, I was encouraged to go into engineering and it sounded cooler. My application form had so many erasures because I changed it so many times. Engineering vs Psychology. Like I said, I ended up with a degree in neither.

With little nieces now, I am starting to think about what school might be like for them. Maxene would have been a first grader now if she did not leave us. For the younger ones, I just hope that their generation’s education equips them with the attitude and skills they need to grow into good human beings.

Back in elementary school, we learned about History, Math, Science, English, Filipino, Social Studies, Music, Reading, Writing and Geography, Physical Education and Religion. At least those were the subjects I remember. Even in high school, we still had the same core subjects except that we had more science and math subjects like Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Statistics, Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry. All of which I hated and was no good.

I read an article from World Economic Forum about changing school curriculum to adapt to current times. It said schools should teach the curriculum of the future, not of the past. I don’t know much about creating a curriculum, but based on what I know now about life, I would probably add and subtract to what children should learn in school. Our present needs are different than 30 years ago. There should be more focus now on technology, innovation, financial literacy and how to save our planet. I’ll try to elaborate in the next few sections.

Science & Technology

Let’s get real. Technology drives the present world. It’s all about artificial intelligence, automation, machine learning and coding these days. Even in my profession, robotics and automation has become the key strategy. In every profession known to man, technology plays a key role. From elementary school to high school, science and technology should be part of the core curriculum. The future generation needs to understand, and be able to create, modify or upgrade technology to further benefit our world. The Philippines has a lot of brilliant minds, but we lack government support. If only we can have stronger science and technology programs, I’m sure we can compete with Singapore, South Korea or Japan.

Financial Literacy

So many Filipinos do not know how to handle finances. A lot of us live from paycheck to paycheck and uncertainty. I think financial literacy should start as soon as children enter school. Two of my friends even wrote books on managing personal finances and money habits. They are “Money Grows on Trees” and “I Wish They Taught Money in High School”. I will give those as gifts to my niece when they start school.

Conservation

We are in danger from our own mismanagement of natural resources. All the advancement in our way of life has resulted in bad consequences for our planet. The future generation must focus on saving the environment and hopefully prevents further loss and damage to our natural resources.

Mental Health

I know it’s probably weird. But, now that the world is more open to mental health and well-being, we need to pay more attention. I’ve often heard kids are so stressed out these days because of too much demand with school work. Children should be given just the right pressure while also being taught with stress management.

Other than this, I would retain History, Creative Arts like music and writing. After all, creating something comes from the imagination. Science and technology will not have prospered without the dreamers and imagination.

Maybe it’s time to let go of too much math? I think Math is still a good training ground for problem solving and analysis. However, I still don’t get why we had to go through those calculus lessons when I don’t use it in real life. Those should be confined to students who eventually take up engineering and related higher education.

If we had my special curriculum when I started school, my co-millennials would probably be better at our games. We would never know now.

There has been many campaigns about changing school curricula around the world. Everyone agrees there is a need to adapt to the present way of life. I surely hope to see children learn more through a curriculum of the future instead of the past.

You’re A Winner

What if I had 1 billion US dollars, how would I spend it? The number 1 caught me off guard at first but I realized what a huge amount this is in Philippine currency. I will be set for life!

I’m watching Itaewon Class while writing this and somehow I find myself relating the story to my topic today. Itaewon Class is about one man’s determination and stubbornness to succeed in the food business. Let’s take out the motivation behind it and I only wish I could be half as strong as Park Sae-ro-yi. He had a 15-year plan which started from while he was in prison after his father’s death. He invested his father’s settlement and insurance money in Jangga Co.’s stocks which later on grew into more than a billion won. He started a pub business and later on bought a building. All these done at 29 years old.

When I first thought about it, I wanted to spend all my money by traveling around the world. I think, I’ll still get to do that. But Itaewon Class diverted my priorities a bit and realized I need to make my money grow. Then I’d get to travel around the world twice. Or maybe more.

Therefore, let’s get to it. I have about 50 million pesos to my name. I will invest fifty percent which is 25 million. Invest where? I don’t know yet. Maybe I will hire myself a fund manager like Lee Ho-jin so I get to multiply my wealth.

The other fifty percent I can spend freely. First, I will pay off my apartment. I still have some balance left so winning the lottery is surely a blessing. After this, I will work on getting our land titled. This has been on halt for decades, supposedly my father’s responsibility, but it has not progressed at all. After both, maybe I’ll still have 20 million. Gosh, all these money to spend is making me dizzy.

Next, I’m buying me some land in my hometown. It will be in the city of course. I will build a small house there, enough for me to retire in. Actually, I will buy me properties in my favorite places to visit. In the Philippines, it will be beachfront properties in Boracay and El Nido or Coron. Outside the country, I will buy a house in the US and UK. It would be like a base in each continent. If I can own property in South Korea, I’ll buy one in Seoul too. I think I just ran out of cash.

Let’s say I still have money, I will now go on a trip to Antarctica. I think it is the ultimate destination and I want to be able to say I did it, even once in a lifetime. Next is a trip to Greenland. When else am I going? It has to be as soon as possible.

Finally, I will share some of my winning with my family. It would be university funds for my nieces and maybe funds to start a business for my brothers.

Wow! I did it. It’s really easy to spend imaginary money. Itaewon Class supposedly turned imaginary into reality. I’ve always believed nothing is impossible. Who knows, maybe this is also just the beginning of my empire.

I Was Here

Dear You who came from another star,

If you are reading this note, you have made it to this new planet. It has no name yet but I will work on it once I am back on earth to report my discovery. Let’s call it Planet X for now.

I am an astronaut from Planet Earth and I was sent on a mission to look for life forms outside our planet. After ten years in outer space, I decided to return to Earth, prepared to report that we were alone in the universe. As I traveled back, I can see Earth from my shuttle and eagerly anticipated my homecoming. I missed my planet. I looked forward to seeing human beings again. I looked forward to home-cooked meals rather than extracting each meal from a pre-packed container. I can’t believe I survived ten years of that.

As I was approaching the planet’s atmosphere, I realized something. This planet that looked a lot like earth was way too small to be earth. Did Earth shrink while I was away? Did another virus strike and attacked all the living things and made it smaller? Are humans extinct? I was shaking as I approached this mysterious heavenly body. I was sure my space shuttle would explode as it hits the atmosphere of this planet. I was not ever sure it was a planet as I grew nearer and nearer. What about you? Did you have the same experience?

The explosion and certain death I expected did not happen. Instead, once the atmosphere detected my shuttle, it felt as if the shuttle stuck to a wall. And then it began to glide. It felt as if I was a leaf slowly falling down until it eventually touched the ground.

I really entered a new world. Planet X is like Earth in many ways, and yet different. It is so rich in natural resources and yet so advanced in technology. This is a self-sustaining and self-healing planet. Try to go around and explore. Since it is small, it would take only a few days to go around and see everything. Maybe you will decide to settle here? Ah, I envy you. This is a really beautiful planet. The oceans and seas and rivers are all teeming with fish and sea creatures. The mountains are so green, I can tell it is covered in beautiful trees. Did you see the colorful gardens? I swear it has all the flowers from earth and then some unique only to this planet. Some animals are here too. I saw Dodos and Baiji White Dolphins on my exploration. I also saw Calamites, Silphium and Saint Helena Olives. Did you know they are already extinct on Earth? I wonder if we can take some of them back so that they can live there again like before.

I’m sure you will come to love this planet as you go around. If you do decide to settle, may I ask this of you? Please take care of this place. Let it not be ruined by taking too much without giving back. If you build your home using the wood from the trees in the forest, plant new ones. If you fish, use only natural methods of catching them. Don’t get too much so they have time to reproduce. Try not to waste water or dump waste materials into the oceans. Once you do, it will be the beginning of the ruin of this planet. Whatever you do, let it not be the next Earth. If you do not know Earth, which I doubt, it is an amazing planet. But, because of human greed, it has been neglected and has been deteriorating for several years. Maybe I don’t need to tell you this. Maybe your planet is so much better at appreciating what natural resources you have. There is no need to worry.

So, I’m off for now. No matter what happens, Earth will always be my home. Maybe this planet is meant to sustain life for other galaxies. I came here by accident, but I am taking home a very valuable gift. We on Earth can finally say there is life outside of our planet. The animals that were extinct on Earth I saw with my very own eyes on Planet X. I am taking just pictures, but I hope my fellow humans realize how cruel we have been. I also hope that this unites us all to save the Earth before we ourselves become the object of extinction. We may have time, but we don’t know how much.

I wish you luck in whatever decision you make here on Planet X.

From a human being whose home is called Earth.

The Best Day Ever

It’s an ironic Christmas Day. I want to talk about the best day ever but the power just went out. It’s been hot and humid all day long. My nieces are in the house and they are like cats and dogs. I’m really exhausted. It’s all my fault for staying up late everyday for my Korean dramas. I’m about to question my life choices.

The thing is, I may have reached my threshold with provincial life. Four weeks is my mark. I haven’t stayed this long in my parents’ house since high school. I miss my little apartment in Manila. I miss my solitude.

Why do I like being alone so much? I don’t get it. This lockdown wasn’t so bad for me. I can remember so many great days, I would say so many of those can be classified as “the best day ever”. I think that there can’t only be one “best day ever” in a lifetime. That would be a pity. Rather, it’s a collection. It’s like a personal recipe. Not all best-days-ever are totally similar, but some ingredients are constant. Let me share my recipe.

First, I should be alone. I like my own company, thank God for that. I like when it’s quiet and I am not dependent on others’ schedule. I like a laid back pace. It gives me an opportunity to appreciate my surroundings. The whole world is always in a hurry. What for? We’re all rotating in one axis, revolving around one sun.

There has to be coffee. I won’t last a day without it. I prefer black. Once in a blue moon, I go for the flavored lattes – vanilla, hazelnut or almond. It must always be piping hot. Cold coffee and I haven’t exactly seen eye to eye and that is fine.

I prefer the sun to be out. I’m also a big fan of rain, but only if I am indoors. Otherwise, the sun it is. I like sunrise, but realistically I’d rather witness a sunset. I sleep too late to be able to wake up in time for sunrise. If I do that, I’ll be cranky the rest of the day.

If made to choose among city, beach or mountain, city would be the top choice. This should explain why I like London so much. I once traveled to Portsmouth Harbor while I was on a trip to the UK. It was interesting, but I still preferred the bustling and busy London streets and trains. The best trips I’ve had were all in a city. For example, I’ve been to Seoul four times now and I still find it so thrilling to visit places over and over. In the US, my favorite place is San Francisco. I love its old Victorian houses and uphill or downhill streets. I love the view of the bay as the cable car descends from one of those downhill streets. Singapore is as city as it gets. I always look forward to the efficiency of everything in this man-made city. Even in Iceland, where you get to really experience nature’s abundance of beauty, I remember Reykjavik the most. I remember thinking I will go back and stay in the city center next time. I’d go back to Istanbul anytime and would stay in the city again. It’s fun to be able to look out and see the Blue Mosque against the moon at night. When Covid is up, I surely look forward to fulfilling my travel bucket list again. Where to go next? I think I’m going back to Seoul first.

Food is a given. I’m not a fan of sweets and deserts. I’d rather have a full, hot meal. I guess this explains why I am a city girl. I am almost always sure I will get fed properly in the city. In Seoul, I get to have my favorite galbi or chicken and beer. In Singapore, there’s all the Malay and Indian dishes you can think of. My mouth waters just thinking about salted egg crab and shrimps, stir-fried kailaan, little squid “sotong”, and laksa. In Japan, of course you have ramen and sushi. With London, you have to scour for good food because if it’s just English food a.k.a. fish and chips, you won’t last long.

Book or Netflix? Netflix always wins lately. I’d love to sit outside a cafe, have my coffee while watching an episode of my latest K-drama. Or, I could read a book. Or I can just have a cup of coffee while people-watching.

Let’s see. If you put these ingredients together, I’ve had countless “best day ever” days already.

On my first visit to Korea, I first went to Gangnam. I went into Bob Marley cafe and idly watched the traffic outside. I also saw a huge billboard with Song Hye Kyo’s ad. Then, I just walked around seeing Seoul for the first time. I finally ended up in a small local eatery and ordered something spicy and a bottle of soju. Soju is strong. I ended up drinking just one shot and left the rest. The waiter was laughing when I left.

In Singapore, I once walked around the city and ended up by the marina, Merlion side. I spent the evening seated outside, sipping coffee and watched the light show.

In San Francisco, I took the bus to the edge of the city so I can visit the Light House Cafe, walked out to an unknown area to look for a bus, went to the botanical gardens and around the city, sometimes getting lost in the process.

I don’t have to go very far to get my best day ever. In Manila, my favorite day is Sunday. Everything seems better on Sundays. I can wake up late, the sunrise long gone. I can have my cup of coffee then, have my breakfast too. After that, I can read a book, or watch Netflix. I can either go out for food or cook what I want. In the afternoon, the sky turns hues of pink, red and orange just as the sun sets. And finally, the city lights start to dominate the night sky.

Take me to any city with great coffee and food. Make it a sunny day so I can sit outside a cafe. I can opt to linger, watch Netflix or read a book, or maybe just people-watch. A bonus would be a great view of a lake or ocean. Any day like this is the best day ever!

Interplanet Janet

If you are reading this, welcome to 2030. It means you made it past the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. How do you feel about Vico Sotto as the current President of the Philippines? It’s about time, don’t you agree?

What else is new? I heard Jollibee just opened its first store in Mars. Cool, isn’t it? This Filipino brand is really killing it. Toyota just launched its first spacecraft. You can now shuttle back and forth between Earth and Mars. There’s a free stopover on the Moon if you feel like soul searching. 

Where on earth am I? Oh, I’m really sorry! I forgot to tell you I just moved to a new planet a month ago. Remember back in 2020 when the pandemic was ongoing? There was another big event then. That was when SpaceX pioneered commercial space travel. Initially, they only sent astronauts to the International Space Station. After that, they had one spacecraft launch every month. On the 7th launch, the spacecraft went off course and found itself in the midst of what they thought were tiny asteroids just outside the Earth’s atmosphere. As they approached one of those “asteroids”, they were stunned to see that they were actually like little Earths. They were little dots scattered across the Earth’s north pole. They looked like little sparkling gems that formed into a crown. The astronauts who discovered them called the entire collection of tiny planets as Pebbles.

This discovery caused so much controversy, some believing this to be a hoax. But of course Elon Musk was not one to just turn away from this revelation. If these tiny planets were indeed like Earth, then humans will be able to live there. He saw it as an opportunity to expand space travel. Bill Gates, Jack Ma and Jeff Bezos (Gamazos) offered to invest and partner with SpaceX to boost research on these potential real estate goldmine. However, since this was outside of the Earth’s defined territory, all the nations signed a treaty that this was exempt from territorial claims and that this was only to be managed by SpaceX-Gamazos. This actually pioneered the SpaceX-Gamazos quest for more planets in the Milky Way. 

In 2023, research into the Pebbles confirmed that they were just like Earth except that each Pebble can only accommodate a maximum of 50 humans. Each Pebble has land, oceans and rivers, sky, forests, mountains and a tiny portion of desert. There are no animals and no edible plants. The oceans only have reefs but no fish. This planet turned out to be like a blank canvass. 

A few scientists lived in one Pebble for a year to test what it’s like to live there. The time is much like the Earth. There are 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. There are 4 seasons too, but there’s an amazing catch. You can adjust how long each season lasts within a year. Since the Pebbles are very small, inhabitants can adjust the axis of the planet so that it can face the sun only at certain angles we choose. The scientists brought seeds of the plants they wanted to grow. They also brought animals of their choice. SpaceX-Gamazos built a home and installed internet across the whole Pebbles complex. Travel from Earth is about 8 hours to the main Pebbles SpaceX-Gamazos Internplanetary Station. From there, you can take the domestic drones that hop from one Pebble to another. 

So anyway, I just moved to Pebble611. This was more my husband’s idea than mine. But since I am “kaladkarin”, why not? Oh, sorry I forgot to mention I got married in 2025. I met my husband in 2023, same year as when Pebbles became the hottest neighborhood in the universe. When I met him, we were both suckers for travel and one time, I dared him to buy a planet. And he did. I didn’t know we’d end up getting married, but here we are. Our home has just been built. We decided to bring just sea creatures for animals. We have many different types of fish, some dolphins, about 5 orca whales, but they live on the other side of the planet. They visit us every winter. My husband loves fruits and I love vegetables and flowers. So we have many of those too. We both like cherry blossoms and sunflowers so we have it in the garden. I brought bougainvilleas to make our yard really colorful. Our house is right by the beach so we can swim whenever we want. We both like to listen to the waves crashing into the shore at night. Ohhh, and the most amazing this is this Pebble has an amazing view of the Earth. Since my husband can afford it, we have our own drone for interpebble travel. We can visit other Pebbles if we want. But our main form of transportation is a bicycle. It’s good for the environment and we get good exercise out of it. I’m really stoked to be living on a new planet. 

I hope you can visit us soon. I stopped working for the corporate world when I got married. I have become a full-time writer. That’s how me and my husband met. I wrote a screenplay where he played the lead actor. Oh sorry, I forgot to tell you he’s a famous Hallyu star. You probably know him. It’s Gong Yoo. Yes, that Gong Yoo. There’s only one. 

Hard to believe isn’t it? It’s so out of this world. But remember, a man on the moon was once impossible too. 😉

My Number 1

“Listen up. You can only protect others after you protect yourself.”

If bingeing on Korean dramas is a sin, I am for sure going straight to hell. Right now, the hell is in sleeping at 2 A.M. everyday.

The quote is from Legend of the Blue Seas. At least it has saved me from thinking too much about what to write today.

Who is the Number 1 person in my life? Is it from family? Is it one of my friends? I think my answer evolved over the years. In my childhood, it could have been my mother. She was the enabler to my dreams. She still is. In my teens, this would probably change according to the current crush. I had so many, they could start a club. In my 20s, probably still the current crush. In my 30s, the crushing slowed but the heartbreaks became more intense. Still, I would have chosen whoever was the object of my affection at that time. If I had a husband or boyfriend now, it would probably be him.

I turned 40 this year and I have yet to meet The One. But one thing is crystal clear. My Number 1 person now is Me. The saying “Life begins at 40” may have truth to it after all. It doesn’t happen suddenly. You are prepared for it. You don’t realize it until you get there. Once you do get there, you recognize it in an instant. At least in my case I did.

Describe me. I’m an introvert. I like alone time too much. I am okay with solo trips, solo drive, watching movies or eating out by myself. I don’t get self-conscious about it. I like my independence and owning my time. My language of love is quality time. This means I also like being around other people. I like meeting up with friends for coffee or dinner. My first love is travel. I can’t wait to restart my wanderlust once borders start opening up. I love gemstones, I am thinking of putting up a jewelry business in the future. I like them so much that I actually traveled to Japan once so I can check out one of the biggest jewelry exhibitions there. I am or was kind of a control freak, still short-tempered and a ruminator. I used to not take rejection well, but somehow that doesn’t bother me anymore now.

In the last two years, I feel like I have’t been myself. I’ve been questioning my career choices and I have lost interest in the rat race. I know how competitive I can be, but now, I am just not interested anymore.

Thanks to this tragic year, entering a new decade was more meaningful. I had to celebrate alone since Manila was in lockdown. But that did not stop me from having a solo party and really, really having a blast. That made me realize that I am fine with being single, even for the rest of my life. I don’t feel like I lack anything. In fact, I have everything I could ever want. I have everything I need.

After fifteen years in the corporate world, I have come to the conclusion that I will probably not define success as climbing the ladder until I become the CEO of a multinational company. Success to me now means contentment. It means saying no if it will break my peace of mind. It means setting stronger boundaries on what I allow into my life. Funny, I used to think a lot about why others do what they do. Now, when this thought comes, I just let it go. It’s not about me, isn’t it? We all come into this world ready for a fight. But our biggest fight is really with ourselves.

Somehow, I get what Heo Joon-jae is saying about protecting oneself first. Right now I have one foot in the stable and predictable, the other ready to flee into the uncertain. I just need the trigger to be able to choose which world I step into.

Forgive and Forget?

They say the most patient people are the scariest when angry. Don’t worry, I am the exact opposite of patient. I get irritated so easily, and I’ve been told many times that I am raising my voice even when I am just explaining myself. However, this irritability and volatility goes just as easily as it comes. It has helped me to never hold grudges.

A few years ago, a cousin of one of my best friends called me and asked if I could book flight tickets for her husband and kids. They were flying from London and she had no credit card. She had cash and would pay me when I come home for Christmas. Unfortunately, my credit limit was too low so I asked another friend to book for me. The amount was around Php 250,000. I came home for Christmas, met up with my friend’s cousin, but there was no cash payment. Instead, she said she was putting up a start up business and offered me a share at her new company. She apologized and promised she will give me the plane ticket payments by January. She never did. It took me two whole years to pay off her debt. Eventually, she did pay me back. But the damage was already done. No cash can replace the broken trust, the psychological and emotional stress her actions put me through.

Last year, we finally saw each other again. Of all places, it was at the hospital right before Maxene passed away. Her mother was also in the ICU but they were already being discharged. She told me to be strong for my family since I was the eldest. I received her compassion and other than gratefulness, I had no other feelings about that encounter. I took it as a sign that I have forgiven her and that I too have moved on. I also rarely think about that past anymore. Is this forgiving and forgetting? Probably.

It’s hard for me to talk about forgiveness. I am not sure what forgiving feels like. I have seen movies where people say “I forgive you.” But it is not as easy as saying those words, isn’t it? In psychology, forgiveness is a conscious and deliberate decision. I cannot recall a time when I have consciously and deliberately decided to “forgive” someone who has done me wrong.

What about forgetting? Unless you have amnesia or dementia, this is practically impossible. However, we eventually lessen the frequency of thinking about our painful past.

It takes time, but eventually you get there.

Outside the Window

My friend, Leia, bet that I would only last about four to six weeks at my parents’ house before I start missing my apartment in Manila. I just smiled and agreed with the probability. I hadn’t been home since the beginning of the lockdown in March and we had this conversation in November before I finally made my gutsy 12-hour solo drive to the province. I was anxious to see my family, especially my nieces. If the pandemic did not happen, I would have been home in March for Maxene’s birthday, in June for my and my mother’s birthdays and in August for Ella or my father and brother’s birthdays. Covid-19 ruined all that.

By July, I was able to get my driver’s license and I was determined to buy a car so I can drive home on Maxene’s first death anniversary. This was in October and I figured I would have enough time to practice driving before I carry out my crazy idea. A few days before the trip, I got a call from my brother that one of his friends needed a ride home and he offered to drive. The catch was, we had to leave the next day. It was impossible since I still had to get my travel documents and Covid testing had to be done within 72 hours of leaving. I was back to the original plan, but floods from recent typhoons blocked roads to our province so I ended up postponing my trip.

After another month or waiting and preparations, I was finally able to go home. I knew it was a big risk to drive that far alone for a new driver. My desire to be home was far greater and I had no time to get intimidated by the idea of things going wrong along the way. The only thing that worried me was that I did not get any sleep. How can I when I usually sleep at 2 A.M. and I had to leave at 4 A.M. to avoid traffic? All I could do was pray that everything will go well and that at the end of the day, I will be with my family after eight long months! So, with my Spotify Kdrama playlist, I set off on my first ever solo road trip.

It’s been a month since I got here. Before I came home, I was excited at the prospect that I would be able to at least run by the pier in the mornings. I imagined myself sitting on the park benches by the sea sipping coffee, just enjoying the sea breeze and view of Mt. Mayon. On the weekends, my nieces will have playdates and I will take lots of photos and videos. I also looked forward to visiting my cousins’ beach resort that boasted the calmest of sea waters and that splendid view of Mt. Mayon. I had hoped I would finally work on the rooftop garden that I always daydreamed about.

Once I settled in, I realized most of the things I imagined doing would have to stay just that – an imagination. It’s typhoon season and the rainiest of days in my hometown happens in December now. Since I arrived, four or five days in a week would rain. The last time we had a fine weather was last Sunday and we did get to visit my cousins’ beach resort. I had an amazing time! It was my first time to kayak through mangroves and out in the open sea. I was mighty proud of myself. Towards sunset, the sky cleared enough to reveal Mt. Mayon and its perfect cone. It was a lovely sight, and the reason why I say my hometown is one of the most beautiful in the country.

Now a week later, I look outside the window and all I can feel is despair. It’s been raining the whole week again. The only other achievement I’ve had since coming home is expanding my K-drama watchlist. There has been no running by the pier and no rooftop garden. I think I’m close to running out of dry clothes too. The relentless rains are drowning my best laid plans.

But even nimbus clouds have silver linings too, don’t they? Watching every beautiful K-drama made me think of the amazing screenwriters who told their stories. Writers are amazing creatures. Something in the rain made me want to write again. It is said that if you really want to be a writer, you have to write everyday. Write whether you feel like it or not. It doesn’t matter if I produce total garbage or a masterpiece. Just write.

Whether it’s sunshine or rain I see outside the window, I will write.