Between home and home

A very strange feeling this is. I’ve been away from home for more than three weeks, and I mean from my current residence in Sydney. I’m coming home soon, but I’m also leaving home in the process, and I mean our family home in Manila where I grew up in and lived until less than two years ago. I am excited to get back to my place and start the rest of the year, but at the same time feel that little bit of sadness as I again leave my original home and not know when I’m coming back next.

This trip has been a great opportunity to reconnect with people who have played significant roles in my life, both in the past and at present. I also rekindled my entrepreneurial passion and will be revealing my new business venture soon. I truly savored being able to celebrate Christmas and New Year back home like years past. Met up with my truest friends (who were in town) over coffee, breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or anything in between and shared so many stories that we have missed from each other. Spent time bonding with my sister and my cousins.

I somehow feel part of this world once again. But in reality, I am not. My current life now revolves in Sydney, and this is really just a break, a holiday from it all. Back to real life for me soonest. I’m not complaining though, cos my real life is also amazing. It’s just hard to reconcile that one cannot live two different realities at the same time.

See you next time Manila. ♥

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Christmas came early this year

There are just so many things that should excite me in the coming days. There’s the Coldplay concert next week, the family trip pre-Christmas, and most of all, spending Christmas and New Year back home. There are even more exciting things coming early next year – Adele, travels, and so much more. But somehow I feel like I’m not as excited as I should be for all those other things.

Perhaps it’s because of the health-scare I’ve had in the second half of this year. It’s quite unsettling to be face-to-face with that big word – cancer. I had a solitary thyroid nodule which was suspicious on tests. They couldn’t determine from initial tests if it was benign or malignant, and a lot of parameters were pointing to a risk for malignancy. The only way they could find out is to take out the entire lobe and do a biopsy of the entire mass.

Hence, I headed for surgery mid-November. I’m super thankful to my mom who came over to help me out pre- and post-operation. And my brother who has always been great support. I was lucky that I got myself a good private health insurance earlier this year. I am also very happy that I have good doctors and an amazing surgeon.

Christmas came early for me this year, as two weeks after my surgery, my surgeon gives me the great news that my nodule was benign! It’s the best news for me all year. Thank God.

Let me savor this moment to realise how truly blessed I am.

 

Post script:
Being the inquisitive geek that I am, I have been reading and I continue to read about my entire thyroid nodule saga. So beyond what my doctors were telling me up front, I was also researching and reading relevant references in my own time, because I wanted to know what it was all about. My surgeon just confirmed with me the findings of the biopsy, and I am also reading more about it. I might do another post later on with the more medical side-story.

Things fall into place

Sometimes, grand things happen like some unseen cosmic hand putting all the pieces into place for big transitions of my life, like winds blowing me a certain direction to where I am meant be. I would not refer to it as fate because I know I still have the power to decide. But sometimes chances and opportunities make the things you desire most be just within your reach with ease.

Last year, I had the great opportunity to be considered and accepted to work for USAID. Transportation and accessibility is one of the important considerations I always take when making transitions, but the universe just conspired to give me what I needed at the right place and time. My cousin was about to start in medical school almost the same time as I was to start, and the 2nd room in the flat where she was to stay became my home during the weekdays. The same place allows a 15 minute walk to and from work every day, instead of the 1.5 to 2 hours drive or difficult commute from our family house. If I started earlier with USAID, the flat would probably have been still occupied by previous tenants. If I started later, my cousin may have already found a different flatmate. It made a big difference, and I get my first chance to live on my own. Everything was just at the right time.

Perhaps its also like that this time around. I am about to move to Sydney, Australia soon. Earlier this year, I was able to get an invitation to apply for a visa just a few days after lodging my EOI, and then get my visa grant within three months after lodging my application. The timing of the visa grant allows me time to stay just to finish my initial one year contract with USAID. I am leaving within a few weeks of my current bosses’ transition to their new postings in other countries, just about the time that our team is transitioning to the new bosses arriving. I’m leaving just before my cousin starts the new school year in med school, and a classmate of hers will move in to my room almost immediately after I leave (and she does not have to transfer mid-school year). One of my kuya’s flatmate in Sydney is leaving just before I arrive there, and the vacated space/bed will be available for my use for my first few weeks (I would not need to sleep on the floor!). I also had just enough time to save some funds to use as I start a new life in Sydney.

There is no reason for me not to believe that things fall into place somehow, when it’s meant to be. Things will not be complicated, sometimes you find it served to you on a silver platter. All you have to do is not hesitate, get moving, and grab that opportunity. I was not meant to move to Singapore. I was not meant to take up my masters degree in Europe. Just when the time was right, I find myself drawn by the waves of this life to Australia.

I can’t help think that when I finally find the love of my life, things will just fall in to place, just like these other beautiful changes that came into my life.

Sa dulo ng kalendaryo…

There is an old Filipino saying “wala ka na sa kalendaryo” (you’re no longer on the calendar) typically referring to women (or sometimes men) who are beyond the age 31, which is the highest number you can reach for a calendar month. They usually use this phrase to make you panic if you’re still not married when you reach 31 – “nasa dulo ka na ng kalendaryo, wala ka pang asawa” (you’re already at the end of the calendar but you’re still single). It’s as if when you get beyond the calendar unmarried, you’re doomed.

So, I’m already 31 years old as of a few days ago… and not yet married. I don’t have a boyfriend at the moment. Does that bother me? Not really.

The use of this phrase had become more rare as the years of late, perhaps because most of the people in my generation have started getting married much later than the generations before us. Most of my friends started getting married from age 28 up. Only a very few started families before 25. A lot of my friends right now are still single.

Some older friends and colleagues (belonging to earlier generations) often ask why in this generation most are getting married much later. Maybe it’s because there is the greater desire and need to be financially stable before settling down. Or perhaps it’s because there are so many things to do in the world now besides starting a family. There are so many time- and attention-consuming activities around, like traveling, post-grad education, hobbies, etc. We are more entertained and distracted now with other things, so getting hitched is oftentimes a non-priority.

But that’s not to say we’re not interested in settling down. Personally, it is in my mind and plans for the future, hopefully once I find the right person to spend my life with and raise a family with. However, I am not pressured or panicking even if I’ve already reached the end of the calendar. I’ll let it happen in its own perfect time.

Love and Christmas Time

You may think at first that I am writing about the importance of having a “lovelife” at Christmastime. On the contrary, IT IS NOT ABOUT LOVE LIFE. I want to write about LOVE itself, because Christmas is all about love

It has been a pretty interesting season for me this year. There was no countdown to December 25th, no office parties, no ham nor food bundle from the office. My 13th month salary has been consumed long before the holiday season kicked in (but for a good reason though). I did not get to decorate the Christmas tree this year. I was not wishing for or expecting any fancy gifts. In a way, I was so busy slaving away at work, and did not even notice Christmas fast approaching. 

And today, Christmas eve.

I am actually not anticipating anything this year. I stopped waiting the moment my brother arrived from abroad just four days ago. Once he arrived, our family was complete. Christmas is already here. 

In a way, this year is all about going back to the essentials, the true meaning of Christmas. It’s all about love – love of family, of friends, of new and past colleagues, of the innocent, and even love for humanity as a whole. It’s about sharing. It’s about reaching out.

I do not have a love life, this Christmas, and perhaps the last ten thousand Christmases (or maybe I’m exaggerating). That being said, I feel wonderful to be able to appreciate the true joy and happiness from God’s love, about which this entire holiday is all about. And instead of still asking God to bless me more, I pray that I may be a blessing to others, God’s simple gift in one way or another.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!  

A new generation

There is already a new generation that is starting to take its place, and will be taking over our future pretty soon. About 25% to 30% of all posts I see on my Facebook newsfeed are of my friends and colleagues babies and children. I am starting the last year of my 20s, and my friends are about the same age as I, give or take about 5 years older or younger. Considering that most of us are in our late 20s, my friends and classmates have just started getting married the past 2 to 3 years, and most of them are starting to have their babies this past year.

My childhood best friend gave birth to her beautiful baby girl seven months ago. The wife of a close guy friend just gave birth to a baby girl yesterday. A number of friends and batchmates have kids from about 0 to 4 years old. There are three babies born within a six month period to three of my second cousins based in Sydney, Australia, and another baby born two years ahead of them, and it’s so cute to find my cousins pictures with these babies altogether. So much bundles of cuteness around.

Oh well, here comes the new generation, the new batch who will be making their way into the world. These are the individuals who will be exposed to the current and future technologies, and given the vast opportunities of the future. What will the world be in 2080s to 2100s? We probably won’t be able to reach that point, but our children, the next generation, will be able to forge and experience this future world.

I won’t be reproducing anytime soon, though, not until I find me a good husband to be my partner. But I now see the shift in responsibilities and priorities of my generation. It’s time to be responsible for another individual’s life as we now start to be blessed by children. We’re starting to be less-selfish and childish, and more thoughtful of other people, more responsible, and more aware of the need to contribute to a better society and a better future.


P.S. I’m still trying to get used to my title as “Tita” (Aunt) Abii , after being just an “Ate” (Big Sister) Abii to a number of my younger friends in college, and to all of my cousins. My colleagues kids have already started calling me Tita Abii in the past few years, but only now is it really sinking in, perhaps especially when my friends’ kids start talking.

The Climb

We went on an adventure two weeks ago, set off early morning to Capas, Tarlac to embark on a hike to the Mount Pinatubo crater lake.

The base camp in Tarlac was about 2.5 hours drive from Quezon City (northern part of Metro Manila), sans the traffic, because we left before daybreak. At the base camp, we registered with the tourism office, with the help of our tour organiser. The payment to the organiser and the tourism office are usually paid separately. Once everything was arranged, we set off on a 4×4 military-style jeep across the lahar-laden terrain.

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After a 1-hour ride on the 4×4, the vehicle parked about a large open area, and we began our 7km hike on foot. Indeed, 7km seems not so very far, but if you consider that the terrain is all volcanic sand and rocks along the banks (or rather, criss-crossing) of a mountain river, and all uphill, you will realise that it is not a walk in the park. It took us about 2.5 hours to hike the entire 7km uphill.

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The climb was all worth it. The crater lake was a beautiful sight to behold. We arrived at the crater lake mid-morning, and was still fortunate to find some shade made by the rim of the crater along the banks of the lake. We had about an hour just to sit there in the shade, look out at the lake, and just relax.

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Just recently, they have already disallowed swimming in the lake. I think they just imposed it this January (2013), for a good reason. According to stories, someone died a few weeks (or months) back, not because of drowning, but because of poisoning after ingesting water from the lake. Besides the usual sulfur, the lake is also high in other heavy chemicals, especially Arsenic, which is well known as an instant poison.

Near noon, the sun caught up with the crater and we had to seek shade, and then have lunch. There’s nothing to buy there, except for drinks which are P100 per bottle (about US$2.5, but honestly x3 of its regular price at the city). We brought chicken and rice meals with us for lunch, and different snack items we’ve been munching on throughout our climb.

After about three hours at the crater lake, we already decided to start our descent. We went down the same way we came up, and somehow the descent seemed a little bit more difficult in terms of traversing the terrain. But speed and effort was not the problem, just the balancing while shifting your weight downwards on the rocks and stones. It was one hell of a leg workout.

The return ride on the 4×4 was extremely dusty too, mainly because the terrain was a lot drier than during dawn, and there were a number of other vehicles ahead of us. It is good to have a shawl to cover the mouth and nose, and shades to cover the eyes. Covering for the head/hair is helpful too.


Some advise to those who intend to go on their own Mount Pinatubo adventure:

  • Try to look online for discounter vouchers. Or just research online the different groups and companies that organise trips to Pinatubo. Sometimes, the packages can include the transportation from Metro Manila, and even the meals. As for us, we chose to bring our own vehicles and bring our own food.
  • Keep your bag light. The most important things to bring/use are the following:
      • food – lunch; some snacks to eat along the way, such as sandwiches, cookies, and chips; candies and some sweets
      • drinks – water will do, but better to bring some hydrating drinks too such as gatorade. Best to bring at least two liters worth of fluids, unless you’re willing to spend money on the P100 drinks along the way
      • scarf, shawl, bandana or sarong – useful for a lot of instances, such as for keeping warm during the early morning, a covering for the face and mouth during the ride and the climb, and something to sit on at the banks of the crater lake… and perhaps a lot of other uses
      • hat or cap – to cover the head from the heat of the sun
      • trekking sandals – better to use this than rubber shoes, because there’s a lot of instances that you will need to cross the river
      • breathable clothes – I would advice to wear shorts or short pants, and sports shirt or singlet; bring additional clothes too, just in case you will need to change
      • light jacket – not sure if this is always applicable, but our January trip was very cold during the morning, and so the light jacket was really useful
  • Put all your stuff in a backpack