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!

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! 🙂

Silver Plus One

Last October 24, I added another year to my age. I was excited to celebrate my birthday this year for two reasons: I get to spend time with my family and I get to surf.  🙂

My heart has been overflowing with happiness since two weeks ago. God has showered me with blessings and each day, I woke up wanting to express how grateful I am, but never finding the words worthy enough to show what I really feel. It’s been some time since I felt this way that’s why I was thrilled to welcome my 26th birthday. Too excited, I have to admit. I had a hard time sleeping because I was so happy.

It was nice to wake up to my mother’s very tight hug. She woke me up at around 5:30 in the morning since we had to leave early for Dahican. We stopped by Cafe France for breakfast since she’s been wanting to eat there since the night before. We were lucky because the place wasn’t full and there were parking slots available. The restaurant staff were very accommodating and attentive to our needs; they even greeted me happy birthday. 🙂

It was already 9 in the morning when we left for Dahican. Traffic not permitting, we arrived in Dahican at 2 in the afternoon.  I was looking forward to having an afternoon surf session, but since the waves were too small, I decided to take pictures of the skim boarders. The way they run, skim, flip their boards and ride the waves is like beautiful poetry. How they do it effortlessly is a mystery to me.

And he's only 11.
And he’s only 11.
Bayogyog Aporbo, 2-time champion of the Penang International Skimboarding Competition
Bayogyog Aporbo, 2-time champion of the Penang International Skimboarding Competition

After taking pictures and teaching my brother the basics of surfing, we ate dinner. The number of people in the venue was starting to grow since the Sambuokan Festival competition participants and event guests were starting to arrive. We had the chance to talk to Alantoy who immediately gave us updates on what’s been happening the past few months. It was nice to see him and his brother, Bochok, again. They’re kind of my surf family here in Mindanao. After dinner, we went to bed since we planned on going dolphin watching and surfing the next day.

Because of the Sambuokan Festival in Mati, all of the hotels were fully booked. Good thing we were able to rent a tent from the Amihan Boys. They set up the tent near the shore which was a good thing. I liked falling asleep to ocean’s lullaby and waking up to the same song. When I opened our tent the next morning, I was speechless. See, this was waiting for us outside:

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Early morning peelers.
Boys in the city jog for miles while Amihan boys skim for hours.
Boys in the city jog for miles while boys in Dahican skim for hours.

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Langlang, sister of Bayogyog. She's only fifteen years old.
Langlang, sister of Bayogyog. She’s only fifteen years old.

I had my share of stoke that morning too! At 9 AM that morning, after looking for dolphins, our boat stopped at a spot that had glassy waist-high waves. Two of the Amihan Boys were there to assist and they were nice enough to give tips that helped me improve my ride. They also taught my brother how to surf. Both of us were stoked!

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Birthday surf from a different angle.
Sibs. :)
Sibs. 🙂
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Long ride ❤
My brother's first ride. ;)
My brother’s first ride. 😉

My brother and I had our own share of cuts from that morning’s session but we were still stoked. The water was so clear, we could see the corals, fishes,  and sea urchins (unfortunately) underneath. The waves were perfect and the best part was, we had it all to ourselves.

Birthday cut.
Birthday cut.

We stayed at the Amihan Boy’s cottage in the afternoon because our tent was hotter than a sauna. We met new people there, including the youngest of the Plaza siblings: Juan. Some of the younger Amihan boys were there too and they were all smiles as they told us their stories. Some of them came from really difficult situations and according to them, skim boarding helped them cope. It was really good to hear how surfing and skim boarding helped change their lives.

Later that afternoon, Langlang and Jovic taught me how to skim. They said it’s a lot more difficult that surfing but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. I really appreciate that they took some time off their skim session just to teach me. I was really moved. I didn’t really do well because I was scared of falling. The board hit me twice and I’m sporting two new bruises on my left leg, but it’s okay. I want to learn how to skim and seeing how it’s done, I know that I will have more scars and bruises.

(c) Bane Agbon
(c) Bane Agbon
With Langlang. (c) Bane Agbon
With Langlang. (c) Bane Agbon

I’m still stoked from my 26th birthday celebration. It was simple, but it was very meaningful. I got to spend it with my family while doing what I love the most. To those who remembered my birthday and took time to send their birthday greetings, thank you so much. My heart is overflowing with happiness and gratitude. ❤

Thailand Diaries Part Two

As promised, here’s part two of our Thailand adventure.

 

River Cruise

Wanting to see more of the city, we went on a river cruise at the Chaophraya River. It gracefully snakes from the north to central region, ending in Bangkok where it enters the Gulf of Thailand. It’s good to go on a cruise if there’s still a lot of places that you want to see but you don’t have enough time.

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Hotels at the Chao Phraya River.
Beauty in the obscure.
Beauty in the obscure.
Temple of Dawn.
Temple of Dawn.
Thai eye.
Thai eye.

It’s interesting to see how the temples, hotels, and other tourist spots come to life at night. We were served with a sumptuous buffet but I couldn’t eat. I was busy taking pictures! I even ran out of memory space so I had to borrow my mom’s camera! After dinner, the host invited all of the guests to dance. It was nice to see how people from different cultures expressed themselves through dancing. Each had their own groove, their own beat. It was really fun to watch.

The trip cost us a good 1,400 Baht but I tell you, it was worth every penny.

 

Floating Market

Have you ever tried shopping while on a boat? If not, then the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi is perfect for you! Items are sold on boats and on river banks and the vendors take turns in approaching/pulling the boat to show their products. There are a lot of good finds here, some are costly, but you can always ask for a discount.

Noodles, lady?
Noodles, lady?
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Water traffic.
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I didn’t know that this was possible until I saw these.

My advice is, if you see something that you want, buy it. I was thinking of looking for the items that I liked in Chatuchak but I didn’t find them there. Also, the trip lasts for only an hour so you really have to be quick in choosing/buying items. Also, prepare $20 as ticket payment because for some reason, they don’t accept Baht.

Jim Thompson’s House

I was really inspired when we visited Jim Thompson’s House. Jim Thompson is an entrepreneur who generated international demand for Thai silk. His creative mind and natural flair for design and color made a huge contribution to the growth of the silk industry. He is the founder of the Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company. Hearing about his story and seeing his collection gave me the affirmation that I needed.

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Jim Thompson has a charming Thai Style House. According to our guide, that house was not only the “talk of the town”, it was also the city’s most celebrated social center. Since Jim Thompson’s disappearance in 1967, minor changes were done to preserve the original design, and to open the house to the public.

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Adorable handle reminds me of hand signs used when surfing. :)
Adorable handle reminds me of hand signs used when surfing. 🙂

 

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Entrance to the house.

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Entrance to the house is 100 Baht. There’s a restaurant on the right side and a shop on the left side. There are tours available in different languages scheduled every 30 minutes. The tour guides are really friendly so feel free to ask your questions. Cameras are not allowed inside the house which is sad because there are plenty of photo-worthy scenes,  and items inside.

Siam Discovery Center

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These greeted us when we entered the mall. 🙂
Propaganda on display.
Propaganda on display.
The display changes when you step on them. Pretty cool, huh?
The display changes when you step on them. Pretty cool, huh?

What I liked about Siam Discovery Center is that it’s not your typical mall. There are art installations located at almost every part of the mall waiting to be discovered, like this 3D art courtesy of Smirnoff:

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After going crazy over the art installations, we made our way to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. I was excited because the last time that I’ve been in a wax museum is back in 2nd grade, where I freaked out because the wax figure of Emily Rose (The Exorcist) began to move. Anyway, we had a great time looking at all of the figures. Most of the time, we had to convince ourselves that they ARE wax figures because they looked so much like the original!

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Madame Tussaud

When the tour ended, we dropped by the stall that makes wax hands. The thought of dipping my hand in hot wax was scary and I admit, I freaked out, but once the process began, I was okay. 🙂 They first dipped my hand in ice cold water until it felt numb before dipping it in hot wax. After repeating the process two more times, removed the hardened wax from my hand and attached it to a base.

My shaka hand! :)
My shaka hand! 🙂

We rode the BTS on our way back. We didn’t want to pay 400 Baht to the Tuktuk driver who was taking advantage of us foreginers, and we didn’t want to ride the cab who was doing the same either. Besides, since our Thailand trip was nearing its end, we decided to experience riding a train in another country.

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Imagine how life would be if things were this organized in our trusty MRT.

We were impressed at how organized everything was from ticket purchase to waiting for the train. The Thai people know how to fall in line and wait for the passengers to get out of the train before entering. I hope that someday, things will be this organized in the Philippines.

I didn’t include my Chatuchak adventure because I didn’t take pictures there. I mean, do you really have time to take pictures when there are thousands of stalls filled with affordable goodies in front of you? I had to bring a map with me so I wouldn’t get lost. It was good that I was wearing comfortable shoes because we had to walk the whole day to shop. I felt like I was in heaven, seriously.

We stayed in Thailand for five days but there’s still places that we didn’t get to see! We left with a promise that we’ll be back, if not this year then next. This trip brought us closer as a family, we learned so much about each other. It was really a wonderful experience.

Flashback Fridays: Cintai Weekend Getaway

The reposts will end soon, I promise.  I just thought of sharing these photos with you.

Last November 2011, my Uncle Papang invited me to a 3-day vacation in Batangas. He said that we’ll be staying at Cintai: Coritos Garden in Balete, Batangas. Wow, talk about going to Balete for halloween. Cintai (cheen-tai) means love, which is actually the story behind the resort.

Cintai did not disappoint. Its big Bali-inspired villas served as our headquarters during our stay. Lunch and dinner were served at the Andrea pavilion which was located at the upper part of the resort. The view was so breathtaking I couldn’t stop shooting! There were trees, flowers, all sorts of plants and animals everywhere! The staff took good care of us. They served food almost every two hours. We ate like kings and queens. I’m really happy I was invited.

Here are some photos from that epic weekend:

I enjoyed seeing this around the area. It was like being in another country.

On a positive note, I bet the caterpillars were full when they finished eating.

No more lonely cries.

Leap and the clouds will appear.
I like how the swing formed a heart shape in this photo.
Bluff.

We went to Lipa, Batangas to visit Paseo de San Sebastan and The Farm on our second day.  Paseo de San Sebastian reminded me of the photo walk Lhovs, Peter, Mico, Joey, and I did back in January 2010. The Farm’s ambience was so inviting, we all made mental notes to visit it in the future. After lunch, we made our way back to Cintai. Come night time, we were served a sumptuous meal featuring the ultimate Filipino favorite: lechon… which I didn’t eat. I’ve been avoiding pork and beef since I graduated high school.

Reminds me of my Science lessons in elementary.

My uncle’s hat.

Lunch is served.
Paradise, yes?
Delicious turon for merienda.
Royal colors.
At the Paseo de San Sebastian.

Quack-quack here, and a quack-quack there.
Check out the details on the wooden gate!

One of their function halls.

One of my favorite photos from the set.

On the third day, we went to Tagaytay. After a hearty breakfast and some photo sessions, we finally left Cintai. It was quite difficult because we fell in love with the place. We had lunch at  Sonya’s Garden. We enjoyed meal, after meal, after meal. Seriously, I feel like we all gained weight! Haha! :)

Pictures from the last day of our long weekend:

Obligatory photo with the Taal Volcano.

I want to have something like this in my future house.

Bloom where you are planted.

All photos were taken with a Canon 550D. Lens 18-135 mm.

Surfing: Behind the Scenes

I’ve been meaning to write about this since I started surfing. I just didn’t have the time. No. I had the time, I didn’t have the words worthy enough to give justice to my journey as a surfer. I think for most people, surfing is just about standing on a board, looking fancy, having kickass photos (to be posted on Facebook with -insert number here- comments), prancing around in bikini and board shorts, and doing the “shaka” whenever possible.

Every surfer surfs for a reason. Every surfer has his/her story. Here’s mine:

I started surfing at a time when I was still in the process of healing from a terrible experience. I guess at some point in our lives, we hit rock bottom and we’re left standing in the crossroads. That was, by far, the biggest blow I’ve received in my 25 years of existence. Everything was uncertain. Everything was taken away from me. The only thing I was hanging on to at that time was the determination to live up to my second name (Aliya) and bounce back.

It took some time.

I was slowly getting back on my feet when our flag football team (Team Sunken Garden) decided to go on a surfing trip to Zambales. I had mixed feelings about going. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited. Really. However, despite all the excitement, I was worried about some things. I had issues with my body. I’m not exactly fat, but I’m not thin either. I was scared of not being able to stand on the board.  I was worried about being judged but as the trip drew near I decided to let go of my inhibitions and just go with the flow.

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Kneeling on my first ride.

I remember hating myself for not being able to stand up during the first session. All of my friends were getting stoked with their rides while there I was, struggling. I didn’t want to surf anymore because I felt that maybe, surfing isn’t my thing. Good thing I managed to stand during my second session, thanks to Kuya Pat! Too bad our trip was cut short because all of us had to go back to Manila for work. I remember telling myself that I’ll be back in a week or two to surf again. I really wanted to improve.

Stoked. Me with Kuya Pat!
Stoked. Me with Kuya Pat!

And return I did! This time, my rides were longer. I made friends with some of the locals too! My friends and I stayed at Kila Bot Sir Ping Spot, owned by siblings Bot and Ping Danila. My instructors, Jay-R and Pangke, both patient and generous in teaching.

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My first long ride!
My first long ride!
Skim sessions in between surf sessions
Skim sessions in between surf sessions
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From strangers to very good friends – here’s our first picture with the KBSPS surf instructors.

I eventually found myself riding a bus to Zambales every two weeks. Each surf trip gave me the chance to experience new things, meet new people, and learn more about myself. The beach became my happy place. The sand became a bed so comfy I could just sleep soundly and drift to places far and near. The salt water, a blanket that hugged me with each shore entry, as if showing me how much it missed me. The waves sang sweet melodies that were delightful to my ears. Everything was beautiful, and everything in the beach made sitting for four hours in the bus worthwhile.

Music appreciation sessions with my good friend Momma G. ;)
Music appreciation sessions with my good friend Momma G. 😉
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My first injury. Crashed into another surfer whose surfboard hit my shin. That’s Gan carrying me because I couldn’t walk.

There were good surf days and there were bad surf days but regardless, I learned to enjoy both. I figured, it would be futile to make a fuss out of not having long rides. After several surf trips, I learned to embrace the fact that wipe outs are part of surfing. With each wipe out, I found myself smiling, getting back on the board, and paddling out again. It’s similar to the traps that we fall into in our daily lives. When we’re faced with challenges, our initial reaction is to drown in depression and let the problem consume us until it becomes our reality. Yes, it’s easy to let ourselves drown and accept defeat but because of surfing, I learned stand up with each fall and bounce back.

You learn to laugh after a wipe out.
You learn to laugh after a wipe out.
This "stance" is the reason why they call me Superbend.
This “stance” is the reason why they call me Superbend.
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After a wipe out, all you have to do is paddle out and try again.

I spent Christmas in Zambales last year due to certain circumstances. Pangke, Jay-R, and Noel were kind enough to spend time with me. They introduced me to other locals and surfers. They also taught me how to read waves. Some days, we just sat on the shore and watched the sunset. Jam afternoons were the best. Noel’s a really good guitar player and I sang to every song that he played while Jay-R and Pangke took turns in playing the kahon.

It was also in December when I made the decision to level up by catching a wave on my own. I wanted a solo ride as a Christmas present and it was given to me. 🙂

Mornings, the way they should be.
Mornings, the way they should be.
First solo ride!
First solo ride!
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Liwliwa sunset- always a sight to see.

Catching a wave when you’re a beginner isn’t easy. It takes practice, timing, patience, support from people who know you, and most of all, BELIEF IN YOURSELF. A simple “I can do it” goes a long way. It took me months to take the risk, hours to catch a wave, and a ride that’s seconds long to prove to myself that I can do it. That it can be done. That it’s possible. Since then I’ve been surfing solo but for safety reasons, I still make sure that the pros are nearby.

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Where there are no waves, you practice on an indo board.

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I met a lot of people because of surfing. Most of them are acquaintances- turned-good friends; proof that a simple exchange of hellos goes a long way. I met some of them while waiting for waves at the line up, some through another surfer, and some during hang out sessions at KBSPS.

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With Julianne at Crystal Beach. (c) Benjo Robles
With Kuya Ping and Phil, the surfer dog.
With Kuya Ping and Phil, the surfer dog.
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(c) Benjo Robles
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With my twin, Ian.
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I miss them. 😦 (c) Telay Robles
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Achievement unlocked!

My second family. :)
My second family. 🙂

Surfing has taught me a lot of things. It has taught me to rise with each fall; to go with (and not counter) the flow. It taught me that everything has a process; that things will eventually fall into place as long as you’re patient. It also taught me to believe in myself more.

Sunset surf sessions.
Sunset surf sessions.
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(c) Adele Katerina Raya

img_4117Surfing is the very reason why I don’t mind that I’m 10 shades darker, or that my hair color has changed due to too much sun exposure. It’s one of the reasons why I wake up early in the morning and sleep not-so-late at night. In the beach, on a surf board, is a place where I’m most happy. It thrills me, it keeps me alive, and it gives me an extraordinary kind of high. I’m proud of the scars and bruises I got because of it. I earned each and every single one of them. I know I still have a long way to go and I’m actually excited to see what the sea has in store for me.

Surfing, for me, is more than just riding a board. Surfers are not measured by the number of waves they ride. Instead, they are measured by how much fun they have out there. It’s not in the number of wipe-outs you get, but in the number of times you get back on the board after each wipe-out.

Surfing is waking up each morning and running to the ocean to see how the waves are. It is sitting in the bus for hours while doing everything that you can so that your EQ level stays up. It is going back to a place that’s both beautiful and painful while dealing with all the memories(both good and bad). It is waiting patiently for a wave, even if it means sitting under the sun for hours. It is meeting people from different walks of life who eventually become family disguised as friends. It is learning more about yourself. It is realizing that your biggest competition is yourself. It is putting your life in the hands of a 9″0. It is saving every single penny you have so you have enough money to surf on the weekend. It is caring for nature. It is falling in love with sport. It is learning to put more value in things that matter, and less in things that don’t. It is trusting that you can and will ride that big wave, no matter how many times the blithering idiot in the line up says that you can’t. It is paddling out after each wipe out. It is sharing the stoke. It’s a way of life. It is more than just a feeling, it’s a state of being.

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And when people ask me why I surf, my answer has always been simple: it heals me.