I Am Not an Accident

I can finally write about it.

This is something I wrestled with for years; each attempt a roller coaster, the highs beating the lows and vice versa. I’ve attended several workshops and therapy sessions, every single one ending with a validation, a trip down memory lane, and a colorful series of expressions.

But some days I find myself haunted by those words and I go back to square one.

Seven

My family setup is different from what our society is used to, but in no way do I consider it broken. I grew up seeing just one parent and the only time I learned about my story was when I was in second grade. It didn’t make a lot of sense back then, but life has its way of unfolding mysteries with each birthday candle blown. It also has its way of hurting you, and that came in the words “you are an accident” uttered by a relative I looked up to. A person I loved and admired deeply called me an accident. I was seven years old.

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Thesis, 2009 | (c) Aliya Agbon

Twenty-one

The Bible was quoted, and I was forced to look at Ecclesiastes. I argued, I am not an accident. This went on for years. At 21, I talked to her again to tell her that she’s wrong, that I’ve read every single book in the Bible but none of it says that I am an accident,  that I’ve worked so hard to be visible, and that I have every right to claim my space on this planet. More painful words came, and I began to realize I won’t be receiving an apology from this person anytime soon. I found comfort in writing the words “to my mom, who turned the world’s worst accident into the world’s best blessing” on the dedication page of my thesis. That was my truth, and that truth felt good.

Soul Work

For years, her words shaped my reality. I wanted to be a celebrity. I wanted to make it big and have people know my name. I can sing, dance, act, host, I’m a Jill of all trades. I reflected on this and I realized, I was not really into the limelight. There were several opportunities in the past and I did get my feet wet when I hosted a kiddie show, but what happens behind the camera did not appeal to me. After several backward reviews and scribbles on my life chart, I came face-to-face with the reality that I wanted to be seen. The neglect made me want to be more visible and that’s when I realized what my real intentions were. It was one tough pill to swallow.

The questions are more important than the answers, they say. My soul yearned for healing and it lead me to people who understood what I was going through. Colors, movement, gestures, speech, and tone revealed memories I tried to so hard to hide, forcing me to meet them once again. Some memories were pleasant, some made my stomach churn, but every single one made me understand myself at a deeper level. Removing an event in the past does have an effect on the present, and it takes a lot of inner work to accept the good and the bad.

Full Circle

The seven-year cycle comes in full circle as I’m now on my 7th year of soul work. I have come to realize that the wisdom of the soul is something we should never underestimate. Watching everything unfold before my very eyes still gives me chills and I just feel honored that I get to witness  and experience it in this lifetime. This healing is something I owe to my past and future self. It’s a tall order, but someone has to do the dirty work.

It’s quite interesting to note as well, that I received the greatest affirmation from two doctors just some weeks ago. One told me while exchanging goodbyes: “I’ve been meaning to tell you that in embryology, it’s the egg that allows the sperm to enter which is why it’s impossible that you are an accident”. The other one told me “see, you are not an accident, I’ll hit you with a book the next time you say that you are” when I showed him the line “the egg descends to meet its destiny” from Dennis Klocek’s book, Esoteric Physiology.

My memories are important to me, and those moments of affirmation have been playing in my head for weeks now. My mom has been working hard for years just to let me feel that I’m not an accident and I can finally embrace that now. I can finally end the story that started when I was seven. Call on the Bible or any Science book and both will agree that I am not accident. I never was. I never will be.

I’m now ready to remove my boxing gloves. The wrestling match is over. With one last bell, what has been twenty-three years of non-stop punching has finally come to an end.  I wear my battle scars with pride. I may be tired, but my soul is happy. Very happy.

It’s time to bury her story six feet below the ground. It has to die so my story, the real one, can finally blossom and meet the beautiful chapters of its destiny.

I can now say in full confidence that I have every right to be here, and it feels hella awesome.

Sinag Stories: My Thirteenth Birthday

Each year, I patiently wait for the clock to strike 12 so I can sing a birthday song to myself. Of course, there were times when I’d wish for people to surprise me at 12 midnight with songs, flowers, balloons, and a cake, but reality taught me to manage my expectations.

When I found out that I’ll be celebrating my birthday in an evacuation center this year, I was quite happy about it. For once, I’ll be spending it with the kids I’ve grown close to, along with the volunteers of Creating Sinag Within. People say thirty is just a number, but for me thirty means three decades of existence, loaded with challenges to help me become the person I’m destined to be. I was planning on cooking something for the team so we can have a mini celebration, but little did I know that they already had their own plans.

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Got me some candy and I saw this. What are the odds? (c) Aliya Agbon | Canon 550D

A Few Hours Before Midnight

End-of-the-day meetings are part of our rhythm. The backward review gives us the space to run through the events that happened during the day, to note areas that need to be improved, and to acknowledge situations that are significant to us. I distinctly remember voicing out that we really need to sleep at 9 that night because we didn’t have enough sleep the night before. I was itching for the meeting to finish because I could no longer keep my eyes open. The moment we finished the meeting, I rushed to my bed to sleep. Before closing my eyes, I told Dayang ” I turn a day older tomorrow, isn’t that interesting?”

Lights off.

Yakosinilado Banaha

I was nearing the end of the bridge, the part where I can say I’ve finally fallen asleep, when I heard voices from afar. “Si, si, si, sidolada, yakosinilado banaha!” The voices were muffled at first, like they were from a hundred miles away. I figured, maybe the EP team is still rehearsing for the activities the next day but why? We already agreed that we need to sleep. The voices grew louder and it dawned on me that they were not rehearsing for any activity. I peeked through my malong and I noticed that candle lights danced with the darkness in the room, and that there were people standing near my bed.

I cried.

The Birthday Surprise

It took a while for me to get up because I couldn’t stop crying. When I finally decided to get up, I saw the Courageous Marawi 12 and the Creating Sinag Within volunteers armed with cakes, balloons, flowers, and a cake. They sang their birthday song and I walked around the room to thank each one for taking the time and effort to make my birthday special.

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Love you, Courageous Marawi 12! (c) Louise Far, 2017

I received three black balloons, thirteen long stemmed roses, one birthday cake, and love from all of the volunteers that night.

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Thirteen going on thirty! (c) Louise Far, 2017

I then learned about how they planned the whole thing, and the things that they had to do in order for the surprise to be successful. I was just staring at them while they were talking because at that moment, my heart just wanted to explode with all the love it received that night.

Now, you’re probably wondering why the title says “thirteenth birthday”. Well, here’s why:

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Happy 13th to me! (c) Audi Ibrahim, 2017

This was all Imad’s idea. Haha. Anyway, my heartfelt thanks to all those who remembered my birthday. Special shoutout to the Courageous Marawi 12 for planning the surprise. I definitely felt loved. Thank you! 🙂

Fangirling

Omg I can’t believe I’m posting this but what the hell. My heart will explode if I don’t do this, so here goes:

I’m a fan of Maymay Entrata. And Edward Barber. MayWard. There. I said it.

I never thought the time would come when I would actually grab my phone and vote for a housemate. Well, two housemates because it was so difficult to choose between Maymay and Edward. Sure, all housemates are deserving but there’s just something about these two. I still find it weird whenever I browse through articles and videos just so I can know more about them. The wacky-go-lucky from Cagayan De Oro and the cheerful charmer from Germany is what they’re called, and the viewers of the longest running reality TV show, Pinoy Big Brother witnessed how these two transitioned from complete strangers to being the best of friends. Say what you want to say about MayWard but for me, I can only confess that my dimples hurt when I watch them because seriously, how can you not?

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(c) Magandang Buhay

I have to admit I was so annoyed when I first saw Maymay. She’s so noisy, she lacks finesse, and her mouth is too big. However, I must admit that the more I watched the show, the more I learned to appreciate her. Behind that bubbly persona is a simple girl who’s determined to go for her dreams. She puts her mind and heart into everything that she does and I guess that’s the reason why she’s the big winner. A lot of people may mock her for her Bisaya accent, looks, and whatever but she doesn’t mind. She knows what she wants. I remember telling my mom that I envy Maymay because she pays no attention to the negative things that people say about her. Okay maybe she does, but only to a certain extent. Areas of improvement are considered, pure bashing is tossed out the window and that’s exactly how it should be. I learned once that when you open your heart to the world, the world gives all the love it can give and maybe that’s the case with Maymay. Inhale love, exhale love.

We then go to Edward Barber. I first thought that the reason why he’s given so much airtime is because of his good looks. Well, there’s some truth to that but I have to say that there’s more to Edward than just looks. He’s a gentleman. He opens doors for girls, helps out with the chores, and he remains to be that voice of reason when there’s conflict inside the house. He loves his family, and he’s never ashamed to tell people how close he is to his mom and his sister. I also like how he defended Maymay when some of the housemates teased him for hanging out with her too much, and how he makes it a point to be there for her no matter what. It’s also interesting that out of all the housemates, he understands Maymay the most and vice versa. He never judged Maymay for the way she speaks or acts, and although he teases her a lot, he also makes it a point to tell her that she’s beautiful. If a romantic relationship becomes a possibility for both of them in the future, I wouldn’t be surprised. For now, I choose to enjoy how their lives will pan out. Big things are bound to happen for these two, no doubt about that.

I have to admit, there are times when I feel bad for the both of them. Aside from being pressured to become a couple after confessing that they do have feelings for each other, they also have to deal with a lot of bashers every single day. While it does come with the package, I can’t help but wish that people would just back off and give them some space because 1) they’re still trying to adjust, 2) it’s not their fault that a lot of people can relate to their story and 3)you can’t blame them for being too comfortable with each other. People like that are a rare find these days and I think that MayWard happened to be at the right place and time. Their souls were destined to meet and you know it.

As for Maymay, it’s not her fault that there are people who find her beautiful (Edward, included) in spite of her dark skin, big eyes, and small frame. I actually find people who mock her physical features pathetic. We’re Filipinos, and our natural skin color is brown. Our obsession with being mestizos and mestizas happened when we were colonized but that’s for another blog entry. What I’m trying to say is that we really need to change our definition of beauty.

In a world where women are forced to fit into a certain mold and programmed to act a certain way, Maymay Entrata managed to break all the rules by simply being herself. She’s not a mestiza, and she does not have the curves that the society expects from women, she laughs out loud during interviews and that’s okay. This girl from Mindanao has so many gifts that she’s ready to share to the world, her inner beauty radiates, and she has a lot of heart. That, more than anything, is what makes a big winner.

I read somewhere that the fans and supporters of MayWard are hampaslupas and I guess I’m one of them. Seriously though, the world has a lot to learn from Edward Barber and Maymay Entrata. It may seem a bit jeje for some, but if you just look beyond the likes, tweets, follows, TV ratings, endorsements, and online bashing, you’ll understand that MayWard is more than just a love team. These are actual people with big dreams. They’re both set to become the people they were destined to be and that, for me, is enough reason to support them.

Padayon ug salamat sa inspirasyon, MayWard. Skrengge (whatever that means, hehe)!

 

Counting Tuesdays

I’m writing this because unlike most of my friends, I believe that 2016 deserves an essay from me. I experienced the lowest of lows that year and I have no idea how I managed to survive all of that. To say 2016 is full of crap wouldn’t be fair to all of the good things that happened last year. With lows are highs, with highs are lows, and the space in between is big enough to make room for learning and realization.

Nope, this isn’t a resolution post because I know at some point this year I’ll be breaking my own rules. I’m just writing this to resurrect my blog and to pay tribute to all the events that happened last year. It’s also a post I intend to go back to, should I doubt myself once again in the future.

So, here we go. In 2016, I learned…

That Every Minute Is Literally A Chance to Turn It All Around

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Words of wisdom c/o A. (c) 2016 | Canon 550D

There are so many things that I don’t post on social media mainly because I feel like they shouldn’t be there. I’ve actually been struggling with the whole sharing my life vs keeping things private shiz that’s why I’ve been on and off with my blogging. On one hand yes it’s fun to have an audience and thousands of followers, but on the other hand, it’s not fun to have an audience and thousands of followers. Anyway, back to the story. I found myself in a hellhole that started around April. It was tough and at some point I wanted to give up. Good thing I had my family, and close friends with me that time because they pulled me back up with I hit rock bottom. The problem would have lingered a lot longer if I didn’t decide to put an end to it by looking for ways to solve it.

That the Sun Shines Equally On Everybody

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Sun catchers | (c) 2016, Canon 550D

Some days I agree with it, some days I don’t. I mean really, how can the sun shine on the murderers, the rapists, the robbers, the naysayers, or people who don’t have at least 1% of kindness in their hearts? How can the sun shine on those who gave me a hard time? How can the sun shine on all the douchebags who broke my heart?

But the more humbling question is, who am I to decide?

I first heard about it in August and I’m still not able to digest it. On the days that my higher self is more dominant, the statement makes perfect sense. When you set your judgement aside, you’ll be able to see that indeed, the sun shines equally on all of us. However, when the higher self decides to go on a vacation, that’s when all the questions begin to appear. This is something that I’ll have to keep going back to during reflection and meditation.

That I Have to be Kinder to Myself

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I | (c) 2016, Canon 550D

I went on an art therapy session once and the funny thing is, my art revealed the things I tried so hard to conceal. Of course the things discussed during the session won’t be revealed here, but if there’s one realization that struck me, it’s that I have to be kinder to myself. It’s easy to be kind to other people but it’s hard when the same amount of kindness has to be given to ourselves.

That Grieving is Personal

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My babies | (c) 2016, Asus Zenfone

When Marley and Roxy died, people were quick to tell me that it’s okay, they’re just dogs and that I should move on. I tried my best to filter out the words of nosy naysayers because really, what do they know? I took my own sweet time to process, recover, and accept their deaths. Some say I’m taking an awfully long time to move on, but for me, the speed is just right. I also don’t believe in moving on because that means having to cancel out their existence and forgetting about them. I’d rather move forward. I wear my scars with pride, and I carry their memory everywhere I go. This is also why this entry is entitled Counting Tuesdays because both dogs died on a Tuesday, both dogs died last year, and it feels like the perfect title for a tribute post to the year that was.

That Family is Everything

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Ohana with my ohana | (c) 2016, Canon 550D

I was helping my grandfather stand up from the hospital bed when I realized that I was holding the hands of a man who used to hit me with a belt/slipper/wood/whatever. The very hands that would spill rock salt on the wooden floor and ask me to kneel on them. I was looking at the eyes of the man who once grabbed me and threw me on the wall. I was assisting the man who once called me stupid just because I had a red mark on my report card.

But know what? None of that mattered. Set all the disciplinary stuff aside, I know that my grandfather meant well when he did all of those. I wouldn’t be able to write all these entries if it weren’t for him. When the world told me that I’m an accident, my grandfather agreed with my mom when she said I’m a blessing. He’s still one of the few men I look up to and I can only pray that he’ll be with me on my wedding day. That man means the world to me.

That the World Needs More Love and Light

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Paper Cranes | (c) 2016, Canon 550D

Oh man, where do I begin? For the most part of last year, I’ve been trying to tune out the negative juju. People are so quick to bash other people these days, those who scheming minds are now in positions of power, and don’t get me started on the cruelty that we’ve been showing to Mother Earth. I’m just hoping that things will turn around this 2017.

2016 was insane, and I’m sure all of you will agree with me. I’m not sure what 2017 has up its sleeve but what I do know is this: I’m ready to face the challenges that it’ll throw my way.

Bring. It. On.

A Tale of Two Beagles

Two years and four months ago, I sat on the edge of my bed, thinking of ways to put Marley to sleep. It was his first time in our house and he couldn’t stop running around the place. Such a curious little thing. The dining area was a huge playground for him and the more I begged him to sleep, the more he ran, as if asking me to play with him. I remember posting a question on Facebook and asking other dog owners for tips on how to deal with puppies. Most of them said that I have to be patient because it’s not easy task. I tried different techniques, even tricking Marley into falling asleep, but to no avail. I was sleepless for two months!

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Marley @ 2 Months | (c) Aliya Agbon, 2016, Canon 550D

 

But that’s how I learned to be his mom. Sometimes we buy pets thinking that our role is limited to just being their owners when in fact, our responsibility is so much more than that. With Marley, I had to learn how to scoop poop, clean pee, and deal with the many scars I gained on both arms and legs because of his sharp nails. He never bit me, although there were times when he attempted to, because I’d make it very difficult for him to access his food.

On our third month together, I realized that he was already seeing me as his “mom” because he’d run to me and ask me to carry him when I arrive home, and cry hard whenever I have to go. He’d follow me everywhere I go, and he’d find ways to still see me when I’m busy with crafts at the work area. He’d greet me first thing in the morning and I’d hold his front paws so we can do our “good morning dance”. I’d sing to him, tell him how much I love him, and give him a belly rub before sending him to bed.

 

As months went on, we noticed so many things about him, like how much he enjoys running around the garden. He enjoys barking at the dogs outside our house, and then he runs around the garden once more while waiting for the next opportunity to bark at somebody. Whenever I notice that he’s sad or mad at Taz, the other male dog, I take him out for a drive around the city with Manong Noning because he enjoys riding the car. He loves the view, he loves sitting on my lap, and he likes to put his head outside the car window to enjoy the the wind on his long ears.

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Marley and the Moth | (c) Aliya Agbon, 2016, Canon 550D

My mom gave him ube ice cream for his first birthday and he enjoyed it so much! He devoured every single bit of it. He likes eating what we’re eating, and hates it when I tell him he’s not allowed to eat chocolates. He enjoys playtime with the other dogs at 4 in the afternoon, and joins us when he sees us making our way back to the house. He enters the house and sleeps under the dining table or my mom’s bed at around 6 PM and come 10 PM, follows when I ask him to go outside. He’d argue with me sometimes, but after receiving two of his favorite biscuits, he’d oblige.

My thoughts are always with him whenever I travel, and I’d make sure that I have something for him whenever I return home. It’s always a joy to see him, after weeks of being in another city for work. His hugs and kisses are always worth looking forward to, mainly because they are genuine and sincere.

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My guard fell asleep | (c) Aliya Agbon, 2016, Canon 550D

When he was a year and seven months old, we introduced him to Roxy, his partner. Roxy was a different character. She has this weird way of running, her howl sounds funny, and she has this habit of hugging poles whenever she senses that Manong Noning is preparing their food.

Having Roxy around meant having to learn to be a mom all over again but this time, I was faced with another challenge: how to balance my attention between the two beagles. There were times when Marley felt left out and I’d explain things to him to help him understand. After a month Marley finally learned to accept that Roxy will be sharing his space with him and that she is his partner, not his enemy. They’d play around at exactly four in the afternoon and come night time, they’d sleep beside each other. They eventually became best friends. As a matter of fact, they were both holding each other’s paws on  New Year’s Eve because they were scared of the fireworks.

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My babies | (c) Aliya Agbon, 2016, Asus Zenfone

Everything was okay, until we noticed that Roxy was getting weaker and weaker. After a series of sessions with the vet, we were told that she has Ehrlichiosis and they cannot guarantee her survival. We did the best we could but on February 2016, just a few days before my first marathon, Roxy went to heaven.

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Roxy | (c) Aliya Agbon, 2016, Canon 550D

It was so painful, I spent weeks crying, and for a long time, I had to struggle with her absence. I decided to focus on taking care of Marley, and it helped so much that my family was there to join me on my journey. As months went on, Marley and I grew closer. There are times when we’d just sit on the floor and enjoy each other’s company. I’d sing to him sometimes, and when we’re both in the mood, we’d play catch. I enjoyed watching him sleep at night and sometimes I’d wake him up just so I can hug him tight. I made sure that he knew how much I love him.

I planned on making videos with him, training him, and playing with him. I imagined what the next few years would be like for both of us and I wondered how handsome he’d look like on the day of my wedding. Each day I’d thank God for giving me the chance to take care of him and for telling him to choose me as his mom.I looked forward to spending more years with my baby, but unfortunately, that won’t happen anymore.

Last September 20, 2016, Marley rushed outside our gate and he got hit by a car within minutes. He lost a lot of blood and he was no longer breathing when I approached him. The blithering asshole of a driver did not apologize, and nope he didn’t even stop to check if Marley was okay.

So here we are today.

It’s been two days since my baby earned his wings and we’re still trying to understand what happened. I’m hoping that this blog will help me accept things in the future, but for now I need to write down my thoughts here. I don’t understand why Marley left. There are so many evil souls in the world, why did God have to choose Marley? And seriously, why did I lose Marley and Roxy in just seven months?

I’ve been told that Marley has a higher purpose, and the world needs his light. There is so much evil in the world, and it needs the guidance of pure, spiritual beings. That does not make a lot of sense for now, but I know that in the future, I’ll be able to accept it. All I know for now is I’m waking up to a quiet house and my baby is no longer with us.

I’m trying to deal with the guilt right now. As a mom, it is my duty to protect Marley from pain. But I failed. Miserably. I keep seeing snapshots of his dead body on the street and it keeps on breaking my heart. I’ve been crying non-stop since the day he died and I don’t think I’ll be stopping anytime soon. For now I just want to deal with the fact that he went  home to meet his Maker. For now, I just have to try to process things in the hopes that someday, it will all make sense.

When I had my heart broken before, I thought it was the end of the world. Losing Marley only made me realize that those heartbreaks are a huge ZERO compared to this one. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this type of pain before, and I’ve been trying to take things by the minute. I cry when I have to, laugh when I need to, and work when the situation calls for it. I declined a trip to Manila because it’s something I cannot do for now. I just need to be here. Where Marley is. Where Roxy is. Where family is.

I guess this is also my way of telling you, dear reader, that #beaglethemarley finally went home. I’d give anything to have him back, but I have a feeling that the world needs him more. All I can do for now is miss him, think of him, pray for him, and deal with the eerie silence now that he’s gone. The word “gone” sounds final and cuts like a knife, but it is what it is.

Two years and four months from Marley’s first night here, I’m back to sitting on the edge of my bed, but this time for a different reason. I’ve been begging for Marley and Roxy to come back and asking for the Universe to hear my plea but I have a feeling it’s just falling on deaf ears.Or not. I don’t know anymore.

My heart is in so much pain and I’m filled with questions and no answers. There are so many emotions inside me and as much as I want to believe that the sun shines equally on everybody, I demand justice for the death of my baby. Dear driver, if you’re reading this, I want you to know that you killed a beautiful soul. Maybe someday I’ll forgive you, but for now let me deal with this anger. You do not get to kill my beagle and drive away pretending that nothing happened. I wonder how your conscience lets you sleep at night. I really do.

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My baby Marley | (c) Aliya Agbon, 2015, Asus Zenfone

Marley taught me a lot of things. He taught me to be patient, he taught be to be kind and compassionate even to those who do not deserve it (eg. driver), he taught me to be playful and funny, he taught me to focus on the now, he taught me to let got of the past, he taught me to look forward to what the future has to offer, and he taught me how to love. Because that’s what Marley is. He is love. Right now, I don’t know how to move on and frankly, I don’t think I want to. What I do know, however, is that someday I will need to move forward and bring Marley and Roxy’s memories with me.

In the days to come, I want to honor Marley and Roxy by celebrating their lives and sharing to the world all of the lessons I learned from them. I’m grateful that they chose me to be their mom, and that somehow, the universe brought all of our souls together even if it was just for a short period of time.

I miss you dearly, Marley and Roxy. I am very sorry I could not save you. I am sorry I failed as your mom. I hope you forgive me.

I know you’re both watching over us. It’s painful now, and the pain has manifested physically but no worries because we’re working on it as a family. I hope that our spirits will meet again in this lifetime or the next. I also hope that when we do see each other, you’ll recognize me and I’ll recognize you. I cannot wait to see you both and hug you once again. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us. Now go forth, my love! Let the world see your light! I miss you so much! I love you!

Indigestion

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Bottled Paper Cranes | (c) Aliya Agbon | Canon 550D

Not in the literal way, but I’m hoping that through this blog I’ll be able to digest (sort of) some of the things that I learned the past few weeks. I was part of a workshop – one that allowed me to meet beautiful souls and help me understand/appreciate/love/accept ME. The workshop had three tracks and every single one required all of us (participants) to dig deeper into ourselves and the world around us.

I sound like I’m writing metaphors and I’d love to be more specific about these things but since I’m still trying to absorb everything, I figured it’s best if I  share this photo of the bottled paper cranes I made last month. For now at least. In case you’re wondering, the size of the paper is 1.5″ x 1.5″ and that tells you so much about how committed I am when it comes to folding tiny pieces of paper.

So why am I posting this photo today (9/11/16)?

I just feel like there’s so much going on in the world. When our workshop ended, I was a bit fidgety because that meant going back to the “real world” where I’ll be once again exposed to people who were not part of the workshop. It doesn’t mean they should be avoided, no. I was just being my usual anxious, fearful self and the question “omg what if I forget about the things I learned?” lingered. Writing all these thoughts in a journal helped a lot, because that meant getting over the urge to post it online. Yay!

I guess I’m posting this because it kind of symbolizes what’s in my head at the moment, and I’m slowly starting to see this picture from a different perspective. When I took this photo, my only goal was to upload it on Eco Choices’ Facebook page so people will know that we have this product but now, I’m seeing stories, colors, and relationships.

“Wow, deep pare”

Well, that’s exactly what it is. DEEP. Time for you to join me in my journey towards digesting all these thoughts and feelings, eh?

Anyway, going back: paper cranes symbolize peace and good fortune and in all honesty, I believe that the world needs a lot of that today. These days, there’s so much misinformation going on,  people are bashing other people, and it’s just starting to become toxic. I want to break the stream of hatred on my Facebook feed by posting these colorful paper cranes.

The bottles, if I were to interpret them, are the walls that we place around ourselves so no one can hurt us. Unfortunately, and this is something that was said to me by a beautiful wise woman, keeping pain out is also keeping love out. When you avoid the bad things, you avoid the good things and that’s a sad way to live.

You can also look at these bottled paper crane necklaces (chain not included in the picture, sorry) as constant reminders that no matter where you go and no matter how bad the situation is, there’s still kindness in the world. Love (not necessarily the romantic kind) still exists, you just need to change those glasses or shift to a different perspective. It’s all about perspective. It’s all about changing those conversations inside your head and allowing yourself to experience the world for what it really is.

Nope, this is not an attempt to market the bottled paper cranes (I’d post this blog in a different tone if that were the case). It just happened that these crafts represent what my current thoughts and feelings are. Pure coincidence.

All for now, I guess. Have a rainy/sunny Sunday!

LOVE

lolo and lola

Today my Facebook feed is filled with photos of Christmas celebrations from different parts of the world. Since my feed is filled with hunka hunka burning love, I decided to share this photo of my grandparents.  It’s a bit blurry but I still like it. Raw emotions. The only thing I can think of when I look at this picture is how much they love each other, and how blessed they are to be with each other.

My grandfather still looks at my grandmother the same way he did when they… well let’s say probably when they started dating. While he now has difficulty moving around, he makes it a point to assist her and give her the massage that she needs before going to bed. My grandmother, on the other hand, cooks for him, cracks jokes to make him laugh, and switch channels when the show on TV bores him.

My grandparents have  shown me that love is not only in the good times- it’s also in the bad. You love that person when they’re at their best, and you love that person when they’re at their worst. It’s choosing that same person every single day for the rest of your life – wrinkles, gray hair, and all. It’s growing up and growing old with someone. It’s standing by that person even when times are difficult. It’s not about compatibility; it’s about working things out despite differences in personality, perspective, beliefs, etc. I’m sharing this photo as a tribute to both of them because they serve as a reminder that despite all of the negativity and hatred that’s happening in the world today, love still exists. We need more reminders like this.

Happy Holidays! 🙂

The Malihini

Competition Day 1

I buried my toes in the sand and watched as the waves rolled and kissed the shore. They’re bigger than the ones I’ve ridden. Way bigger, and we’re not talking about glassy waves. We’re talking about waves with white water that’s seven to eight feet high. Short board waves, not long board waves. Yet here I am, competing as a malihini in the long board division of the 2014 Philippine Wahine Classic. I must have been out of my mind when I registered.

What if I fall?

It’s just water.

But still.

What if I fall?

Then I heard another voice in my head:

Oh honey, what if you fly?

I found myself second guessing. I thought of backing out especially when I failed to catch a single wave during our training before the competition. Quitting is always easy, but the awful aftertaste of regret is always difficult to let go of, especially when it haunts you every single day. Once the pingpong battle in my head ended, I decided to just push through with the competition. I already paid for my ticket, I traveled a thousand miles to compete, and quitting sounds insane. I decided to apply the concept of open space, the one that says “whatever happens is the only thing that could” so I could manage my expectations.  If I’m meant to win, I’ll win. If I’m meant to lose, I’ll lose. What’s important is I go out there, paddle my little heart out and surf. I also managed to read a text from my mom before paddling out for my heat. She said, “have fun, waves are your friend”.

Preparing for my heat. (c) Ivan Montalban
Preparing for my heat. (c) Ivan Montalban

Paddling out was a struggle for me and Joeren, my caddy. I remember him asking if I want to give up and I said no. Yes, the waves are scary and I’m risking the possibility of drowning and breaking my neck but I didn’t travel all the way from Mindanao to quit. Seeing that I’m determined, Joeren asked me to turn around and start paddling for my first wave. It was big and scary but I was committed. I paddled and stood once I felt the push. My ride was a little shaky at first, but I had to make sure I won’t fall. We were allowed ten quality rides. Carla Rowland told us that ten 2’s are better than two 10’s.

(c) Janine Agbon
(c) Janine Agbon
Second ride. (c) Janine Agbon
Second ride. (c) Janine Agbon

By the time I made it back to where Joeren was, he asked me to turn around again and paddle for my second wave. My arms were tired but I paddled anyway. Second ride done. I tried to get three more rides, but I kept slipping. Next thing I knew, we were down to the last two minutes. We gave each other high fives and paddled back to the shore. Joeren kept saying “I told you, you can do it!”. I just smiled. I was too tired. At this point, I wasn’t sure if my rides were good enough. I just wanted to rest.

Moral support from this kickass surfer! (c) Janine Agbon
Moral support from this kickass surfer! (c) Janine Agbon

Before heading out for lunch, my cousin and I approached Carla Rowland and asked for the results of my heat. I was so stoked when I found out that I landed first place and that I’ll be advancing to the second round! I was grinning from ear to ear. I didn’t expect it at all! When I told Joeren about it, he was stoked as well. We were told that the continuation for the Malihini Longboard Division will be moved to the next day because of the wave conditions so we decided to grab lunch and rest for a while.

Day one ended with lights, music, and booze as all surfers made their way to Aliya Surf Camp to party and for the awarding ceremony. Daisy Valdez was able to defend her title as the Open Shortboard Champion and Candra Jordan who came all the way from California won the Open Longboard Division.

(c) Ivan Montalban
(c) Ivan Montalban
Divine Smith, our DJ for the night! :) (c) Ivan Montalban
Divine Smith, our DJ for the night! 🙂 (c) Ivan Montalban

Competition Day 2:

Two knocks on the door- that’s what woke me up. My cousin opened it and Brian, our friend, was there. “Time to go to church”, he said. We dressed up, checked the wave conditions and the competition schedule, then made our way to church. After church, we wolfed down our breakfast then made our way to Aliya Surf Camp for day two of the competition.

So stoked to see this! :) (c) Ivan Montalban
So stoked to see this! 🙂 (c) Ivan Montalban

I was in Heat 5, round 2. This gave me enough time to observe other surfers. My cousin was out first who won her heat and advanced to the quarter finals. For round 2, I was on my own because Joeren had to teach. He told me “I know you can do it, and you don’t need me there”. Shudder.

(c) Ivan Montalban
(c) Ivan Montalban

There are moments in life when you only have yourself. I have to admit, day one was easy because I knew that Joeren was there and as long as he’s around I’ll be fine. For day two, I had to toughen up. While paddling out, I kept reminding myself that everything will be okay. First ride, fail. Second, manageable. Third, okay. Fourth, wipe out. Paddle out, try again. It was almost impossible to reach the line up and it was hard to paddle against the current. We were all struggling but we still gave our best.

(c) Ivan Montalban
(c) Ivan Montalban

I didn’t make it to the quarterfinals, and that’s okay. I told myself that I’ll just have fun and accept whatever the competition results will be. For me, it’s enough that I finally had the chance to surf again after being landlocked for a long time. My cousin finished fourth, and I’m very happy for her. She’s improved so much from last year and she’s proof that hard work really pays off.

(c) Ivan Montalban
(c) Ivan Montalban

I ended the trip by burying my toes in the sand again. I stared at the ocean, as if trying to take a mental picture of the waves that were rolling in front of me. Fall, I did. Hard. But fly, I did, as well. I was asked why I decided to compete despite being landlocked for six months and my answer is, well you have to start somewhere. Yes, I haven’t surfed for six months and my skills suffered, but I’d like to think that whatever’s meant to happen is really the only thing that could. Sometimes you just need to take a leap of faith and surprise yourself. It’s like falling in love- there’s no specific schedule. It just happens to you. I now experienced what a real competition is like, so I know what to expect next time, if I decide to compete again. Surfing is as fluid as it can get. All you have is yourself, the board, the waves, and that 10 seconds worth of commitment to paddle, stand, feel the drop, and ride. This experience taught me to trust in myself more, and to not be afraid of falling. Sure a wipeout will shove buckets of saltwater down your throat, but what do you do after that? You get back on the board, and you paddle out again. I also learned to open myself up to possibilities, and to more good things. 🙂

It’s been three weeks since the competition and I’m still on a high. . I went home with a huge bruise on my right arm because it was hit by a fin, but it’s all worth it. I learned so much from this experience and I met a lot of people. I’m just glad I took the risk.

I’m very thankful for my mom, gave me permission to take time off work to compete, and for sending me messages of support all throughout the competition. My uncle, who lent us his car  so we don’t have to commute and to Manong Dario of course who drove for us despite lack of sleep. To  J9 who encouraged me to join the competition and made sure that I enjoy my first Baler experience. Fin, for cheering me on when I told her that I was thinking of backing out. Brian, my Monopoly Deal partner for the water (yay!) and for the support, of course. Esh, my roomie, it was so nice to see you again! Ivan, for helping us carry our stuff and for taking our pictures. Sagasa Surfkada, it was very nice to meet all of you. Siargao crew, it was great to see you again! Mico, thank you so much for lending me your board and for telling me to imagine Siargao when you noticed that I was scared. Joeren, my masungit-na-mabait caddy for helping me brave those big waves. Of course, to Carla Rowland and Ian Zamora whose passion for surfing and love for the Philippines made this event possible.

Fellow wahines who competed, kudos to all of us!

Saltwater Musings : Siargao

When you’re a wahine stuck in the city and programmed into a daily routine, you begin to crave for the ocean. Once you notice with every glimpse in the mirror that your tan lines betrayed you and decided to disappear, you begin to crave for the ocean even more. With each passing day, the craving intensifies and the only way to satisfy them is by watching your surf videos that your lovely friends captured from eons ago. You know that things have gone bad when day in and day out, all you can think of are long rides, sunsets, stoke, surf, sand, and sea. This is when you become thankful for friends who invite you to Siargao for a surf/soul searching trip (thanks, Liz).

Siargao is probably the best surf spot I’ve been in. I’ve heard about it from surfer friends and I can remember painting mental images of the place based on how they described it. I used to be scared of surfing in Siargao because of the reefs and what they call “professional waves”.  I am far from being a professional surfer. The biggest wave I’d dare ride is only six feet high and that’s after convincing myself that the worst thing that can happen to me is a wipe out. Siargao always gave me a combination of fear and excitement that whenever I thought visiting it before, I’d chicken out. I guess it’s true that there’s beauty in timing. I think if I went there before, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did.

It’s only been a week since that epic Siargao trip and all I can say is I never left. Yes, I’m physically back in the city but everything else is still there, riding those waves, enjoying the good vibes, and staying stoked. That place gave me so much and I’ve only been there for six days. I got to be in my element again, and it was humbling to know that six months without surfing brings you back to square one… at least for the first two hours of your mini reunion with the board and the ocean. It was frustrating that I couldn’t catch a wave, that I kept falling, and that I was being robbed of patches of my skin because of the reef underneath. However, it was also very fulfilling when after approximately two hours of not giving up, I finally got that long ride that was enough to keep me stoked until the next day. The next two surf days were about learning how to do the frontside and the backside which were both challenging at first.

backside

superbend

We also chanced upon fellow surfers (Xave, Pia, and Mico) who were also there for vacation. We went island hopping to see more of Siargao on our second day and it really is beautiful. It’s sad to see that there are buildings being constructed after almost every kilometer. There are hotels, condominiums and resorts, claiming the place as theirs when it really isn’t. Everyone wants to own a piece of the land. Everyone wants to own a piece of paradise and its alarming. The locals say that Siargao has changed so much since it became popular. Its spot on the list of the popular surf destinations worldwide has its good and bad side and everyone’s just dealing with it. My only prayer is that they get to preserve its beauty.

lizxave

 

The ocean lent its ears to oohs and ahhs as our boat docked from one island to another. The waters were clear as crystal, it was fun to dive and be all mermaid-y without having to worry about landing on someone’s trash. The corals had were painted with a beautiful symphony of colors, it was hard to focus on just one. There were fishes of different shapes and sizes that swam in distances both far and near- depending on who was brave enough to touch the human skin. The salty Siargao breeze was filled with our laughters, jokes, and tricks with the GoPro. There were moments when we would randomly burst into song or dance once a good song plays in Spotify. Our day would end with the obligatory Monopoly deal where everyone’s competitive side showed.

(c) Mico Cervantes
(c) Mico Cervantes
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(c) Mico Cervantes
(c) Mico Cervantes
(c) Mico Cervantes

Liz and I did a lot of walking during our stay and this allowed us to explore the resorts in the area. Of all the resorts we’ve been to, Hotstpot stood out because they were very accommodating, the interiors were nice, and it had the ambiance that we wanted. Before surfing, Liz and I went there to hang out, order some drinks, and watch surf movies. Hotspot also offers board and GoPro rentals for Php 500/day which is really cheap! Their sexy chicken is a dish worth trying after an epic session. I give it two thumbs up!

The last day. :( (c) Hotspot
The last day. 😦 (c) Hotspot
(c) Hotspot
(c) Hotspot

Notes:

1) Respect the locals.

2) There is no ATM, so make sure that you have enough money. Meals cost around Php 80 – Php 130 but they have big servings, so it’s like having two meals in one.

3) You have to bring small bills since they almost always don’t have change.

4) The airport transfer will cost you around Php 300.

5) Go out and explore the island. There’s so much to see!

6) Think twice before accepting beer or any alcoholic beverage from people.

7) There’s a yoga session at the tower every 9:30 in the morning.

8) Be sure that your USB has enough disk space (17 gigs) so you can copy your videos from Hotspot’s GoPro.

9) Brace yourself for lots and lots of walking.

10) Enjoy each surf session and if you can, wait until the sun sets on the horizon.

Siargao is a paradise. It’s a great place to get lost in. You bask in its wonder and thank God that there’s a place like it in a country that’s fascinated by constructing giants in the concrete jungle. It’s a place that welcomes you with a warm embrace and gives you a heartache once the day of your departure draws near. You meet people from all over the world, speaking different languages, molded by different cultures, united by one thing : surfing. Okay, some just lay down and pray to the heavens that they get tans instead of freckles but you know what I mean. Siargao heals you in ways you can never imagine. It gives you picturesque sunsets that make you close your eyes and thank God that you witnessed that. It gives you ride-worthy waves that bring you from the line up to the board walk. It gives you locals who are nice enough to lend you a helping hand when they sense that you’re having trouble. It blesses you with the opportunity to know more about your teammate/travel buddy/friend who’s just as game as you are to explore the island and brave walking down dark streets since there are no street lights as of writing. Most of all, it gives you a chance to breathe, to take a break from the city’s fast-paced lifestyle. Siargao is a beauty, and I will forever be thankful that I ended my 6-month streak of no surfing in that island.

I leave you with this video that my friend Xavier D’Souza made. Thanks for reading! 🙂