When you’re young, you plan your birthday months before. You hand out invitations to the people that you want to be present on your special day. One day before the party, you’re busy sorting out candies for the loot bags and spying on your parents to know what your present is. On the day of the party, you patiently wait as the cake and balloons are delivered. Once everything’s set, your guests start to appear, the party begins, and it ends with everyone singing the age old happy birthday song.

But things change as you get older.

Guests are narrowed down to people you believe are close to you, months become weeks of planning, and parties become dates. At least for me, that’s the case. It comes to a point when you become practical, and you want things to be more intimate. Of course you still want to feel special on your birthday, and the yearning to blow birthday candles still exist.

Here’s how I spent my birthday:

I waited til 12. I call this the birthday “salubong”. Special shoutout to Migz who waited with me. I woke up at 5 in the morning to prepare for my birthday breakfast with Karia and Jason. Around 5:30, my mom called to greet me. We both time travelled to 25 years ago, because it was around that time that I was born. “You didn’t even let me eat breakfast” she said. I cried because I wanted her to be around, but due to certain circumstances it wasn’t possible. I missed her so much. The conversation ended with her telling me that I should eat 25 pieces of Magnum to be happy (and bloated). Haha.

I arrived Makadoo (McDonald’s)  Eastwood at around 6 and I was greeted by Karia and Jason. It was a nice way to start the day. After buying food, we sat down and talked about almost anything. Karia and Jason are like my second family so and it’s a blessing that I got to spend time with them. 🙂

The “gift wrapper”

Karia, Jason, and a bottle of alcohol. 🙂

After breakfast, I decided to pay my godchildren a visit. If I’m not mistaken, it’s been more than two months since the last time I saw the boys. I also made mental landmarks on the way so I can visit them anytime. When we arrived Team Banez immediately ran outside so I can take this picture:

“This is a dream come true!”-Karia

While waiting for the boys, Jason went upstairs to play games on the ipad while Karia and I stayed downstairs to bond. We both couldn’t believe how far we’ve come as friends. We’ve been witnesses to each other’s milestones and cheerleaders to each other’s battle with the curve balls life threw our way. Karia’s one of the few people I can’t imagine not having in my life. I’m really thankful I have her. 🙂

Iyalicious and Kariaton.

A few minutes later, the boys arrived and showered us with hugs and kisses. 🙂

Tato and Baydee! ❤

Come night time, I had a skype session with my cousin who’s currently in New York.

J9 and Joe

And they sent me this as their birthday gift:

The obligatory Puss-in-boots pose

I was greeted via different forms of communication. Some called, some sent text messages, emails, private messages, and some posted on my wall. It felt good to be remembered. A lot will say there’s the Facebook notification to say thank you to but for me, it means so much that people took the time from their busy schedules to compose a message. These messages stood out yesterday. It was hard to read without crying:

“bawal jud mamamahaw bag-o manganak? hehehe.. this day,this hour, 25 years ago, Lolo and Lola’s house was in a frenzy. Suddenly, driving the car, boiling water, opening cabinet shelves finding pillows became rocket science 🙂 wagas ang panic.. 🙂 then lo and behold, we saw you. Nothing beats the feeling of hugging and kissing you at that moment. Since then, it became a wonderful journey for our family. We rock ei? Happy, happy birthday, anak.. love you so much…”-Mama

“Happy birthday, tapwan. I ‘m not good in giving messages but I’ll try. Medyo cliche, pero I mean it. 😛 I wish you all the best in life and all your dreams come true. Sana iwan mo na lahat ng lungkot at sakit. Be happy. Smile. :)”- Migz

“Warm greetings from New York on your birthday! Enjoy the day and the rest of the year. And you can always count on me for help or guidance. Happy 25th year of living!”- Uncle Papang

“Iya! We hope you enjoyed your birthday time with us. I’m so proud of the graceful person you’ve become after all the crap you’ve been through. I’m thankful that I’m still able to witness your stint in this world by being your person, as you are mine. We love you! I love you! Thank you for being the blessing that you are. Happy 25th! You are special to us”

“You may not be the strongest, but you are stronger, than the person you were yesterday, that’s all that matters”

– Kariaton

“Lagi mong tandaan na ikaw ay isang blessing sa mga kabataan, sa iyong pamilya at sa aming mga kaibigan. Maganda ka inside and out kaya maswerte ang taong nagmamahal sayo. 

Wish ko sa iyo ay isang bonggang love life. I know you have so much love to share kaya sana ay mahanap mo ang lalakeng tunay na magmamahal sayo.” -Daniel Abunales

It was nice to receive birthday greetings from different parts of the world. The celebration officially ends on Sunday. Again, to those who sent me greetings thank you so much! 🙂

Beautiful Mornings

Karia sent me this sms today:

“Today you will put one foot in front of the other and you will not fail. Good morning, beautiful!”

This is just one of the MANY reasons why I love having her in my life. ❤

Fret Bars and Guitar Strings

I remember how my mom tried her best to teach me how to play the guitar when I was four. I remember trying my best and giving up because my fingers couldn’t press all the strings and that time, the guitar was just too big for my small hands. I survived elementary and high school with zero knowledge about guitar playing. I figured during those times, what mattered most was memorizing every single rap song by heart, getting the highest grades possible, writing well, speaking with excellence, and passing all entrance exams.

Things changed when I entered college. When you’re from a private school and you transfer to the University of the Philippines which is a public school, you’re in for a shocker. You are on your own and you need to do everything that you can to make things work. The school sending your grades to your parents does not help either- because you have nothing to hide. So there I was, a thousand miles away from home, in a city with no relatives and no friends, and in a university that forever changed my life.

I was sitting at the lobby preparing for my next class when I heard a group of people singing and playing the guitar. My eyes went straight to the guy playing the guitar, how his fingers danced effortlessly through strings and frets, and as if that wasn’t beautiful enough he even added his voice to complete the masterpiece. I found myself singing. It was then that I decided to take guitar lessons.

The beginnings are always the hardest. I started with scars and calluses on my fingers. Every song played had to be paused so I can change chords. After weeks of practice, I was finally able to play an entire song. After a few weeks more, I was ready for my recital. Since that day, guitar playing became a part of my daily routine. The more  I practiced, the more I improved! I could play song after song! When I transfered to the University of the Philippines Diliman, I was given the chance to perform during college events and it was so much fun! It was.. euphoric. It was the only thing that kept me sane during my thesis days.

The only time I stopped playing the guitar was when I became… busy. See when you’re all work, and when you’re too focused on exhausting the logical side of your brain, the creative side dies. When the creative side dies, you let go of the artist in you. When that happens, you’re screwed because you let go of the balance and when that happens, you deal with stress every second of every day and then you become unproductive. When you are unproductive, you fail to hit your goals and when that happens, you become sad and lonely and miserable. Then we’re back to square one.

A couple of weeks ago, Karia and I were talking about routines. She told me about how routines are powerful and that it’s a big help in keeping us all sane especially during times that are very stressful. After our conversation, I made a list of things that I enjoy doing. I was in the middle of writing when I saw my blue guitar sitting in the corner of my room. I stood up, grabbed it, tuned it (man it was horrible!) and played a couple of songs. I don’t know if any of you are aware of the healing powers of music, but I swear after playing, I felt like all of the stress was flushed out of my system.

So now I’m back to playing the guitar, singing my heart out, and pretending there’s an audience in front of me. I’m back to enjoying the feeling of the strings beneath my fingers and the melody created with each strum.

I’m getting my mojo back. 🙂

Baby You’re A Firework!

It is part of our college tradition to ask other people to do our write ups. Of course we can do it on our own, but where’s the fun in that? Nothing beats knowing what other people think of you. The thrill of approaching someone, asking them to do the write up and waiting for what they have to say, iggh. 🙂 I didn’t want to fish, so I decided to ask my person, Karia, to do the write up. After some weeks of waiting, she sent me this:

“Just when the world thinks that girls are all about prissy fashion blogging these days, Iya surprises us with fireworks.

A fashion model, TV host, photographer, blogger, who can sing, dance, write, and draw, it’s difficult to say what else Iya does not have.  I guess the better way to coin it is “ she CAN do it all”, especially when she puts her mind to it.  And she does every single thing beautifully, gracefully, and amiably.

A licensed librarian by profession, Iya makes sure that everything she does is fueled by passion and strengthened by her faith.  Her foundation for war-stricken children in Cotabato, Kids for Peace,  is one of the many testaments of her grateful heart and generous soul.  

Being her person gives me that amazing blessing of being able to witness and contribute to her growth in Life’s every aspect.  As a person, I am thankful for all the blessings that Iya is to this world.  As her friend, I am mighty proud of her trials and tribulations.  

As a spectator, I am grateful for her fireworks.”

I will always be grateful for your kind words Kariaton. 🙂

Daily Thank You #1

New blog, new set of things to be thankful for.

Today I am thankful for last night’s date with Karia. A friendship that’s 4 years and counting, and I’m still learning a lot from her. We’ve seen each other’s best and worst moments, and I can definitely say we’ve built a bond that’s definitely going to stand the tests of time. 🙂

From our conversation last night, two things hit close to home:

“Before you trust other people, you need to trust yourself first”


“People who want to be in your life will fight for their place in your life”

My dear Kariaton. I’m so happy that life turned out well for you. Happy 2, happy 2! 🙂