Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

My 2019 In A Nutshell

Greeting 2020 was a blur. I was choking in my tears as Mommy was wincing in pain. Her body was aching after falling down the stairs the other day. She was having severe headaches since last week. I’d tell her to go for a checkup, but she kept on saying she’ll be fine. And there she was looking sad and lonely while lying on the sofa.

I hate to see her like this. For days, thoughts were running in my head like annoying mice scampering to and fro on those newly installed cable wires. Add it with the situation that I am in. I feel so miserable.

The year 2019 has been a struggle to me. Financially, mostly. I’ve sacrificed my passion for travelling and my savings while trying to survive on what have. I have so many plans like fixing this little, old house that we have, buy an induction cooker, an oven, and a coffee maker and own a small car, but my budget was too limited for these big dreams. I felt so limited. I felt hopeless.

But this sense of hopelessness is deadened by some of the things I’ve gained. One of them is going to the gym. I’ve developed a new habit of improving myself and my health. I’ve lessened eating too much food. I’ve practiced drinking lemonade in the morning and having banana and yoghurt as my breakfast. I’ve made new friends, some of them famous, some of them just fun to be with. I’ve improved my social life. Sparta is one of the things that I don’t want to sacrifice. If only I can bring it back to my hometown. Maybe own a calisthenics gym here one day, if God wills.

I also developed the sense of improving my style. Treating myself at online shops made my life fulfilling in a way. I realized I need to make a wardrobe makeover because most of my clothes were about ten years or older. I don’t have to limit myself to almost nothing. At least, I can make some improvement to myself.

I started cutting plastic off in my life. I began owning my own collection of straws which I replaced when they got lost. I started buying shampoo and conditioner bars. I kept on telling fastfood tellers not to put a plastic spoon and fork in my takeaway. I made it my mantra never to buy bottled mineral water and brought my own tumbler at the gym. I brought my food container at takeaway shops. Greta Thunberg must be my patron saint haha. Kidding aside, I changed my habit little by little after being so fed up with videos of turtles and whales ingesting plastic. Plastic could have been a good thing if humans know how to dispose them well.

But most of the time I’ve been sleeping too much. The weight of ageism must have caught up with me. Lately, I would try to stay away from home from time to time. Some of the people in my hometown are annoying and bothersome (especially when they ask questions like “Are you married?”). More so, the situation at home only made me more depressive. But my mom is the only reason I’d go back home. She would always say she’s fine being alone, but I could sense she’s happier when all of her children are back home.

Because of some of the sacrifices I’ve made, I was not able to some of the things I’ve planned at the beginning of 2019:

– GoPro
– New fridge and washine machine
– Coffee maker
– Microwave oven
– Air diffuser
– Renewal of passport

I was not also able to buy blinds for my room at the boarding house. Adding up to the stack of this wishlist is a new phone. This one I have is driving me nuts.

I haven’t planned my goals for this year, and I still have a backlog. But I am claiming financial breakthough this 2020. I believe that the good Father in heaven has heard all my prayers and saved all of my tears. I believe that 2019 has been a test of my patience and a disruption of my pride. I believe 2020 carries a clear vision that is as hopeful as the daylight that looms ahead the horizon. I believe this new decade will bring about new dreams that will come into fruition sooner than I expect.

Burning Excess Baggages

I’ve finally let go of an old flame. The courage to block him on social media sites came on late, though. But doing so gave me the feeling of liberation.

We have parted our ways a long time ago, but I kept on stalking him from time to time. Unfriending him was not enough to keep me from doing so. The foolish me was hoping to see if he still wants me…or at least, misses me…as he did in those text messages.

They were just fleeting words, but my heart was trapped in a web of lies for a year. The jerk in him was unmasked when I confronted him. “All I want is to be a good friend,” he faltered, and suddenly all the empty promises came fleeting like ashes in a violent wind of emotions. This is not a man worth my time or my hopes. I’ve decided to let him go…but I was deceiving myself.

But as always, his social media plied no trace of his humanity, just a reflection of his religious fanaticism…dead and emotionless. His page glared at me as if it was a death mask that would never be removed from the face of its master. Four years from this hopeless romanticism, I have to gather the courage to shatter my obsession. I’ve realized there are more people worth my time, my emotions, my being. New friends who show me there’s more room to grow and love. New promises that enlighten my perspective. A future that’s brighter and lovelier than my past. The past is not worth mourning anymore. I need to burn it. Bury it. Forget it. Along with his memory.

Now, that he’s gone, I’m free from such a heavy load. I have to walk weightless because the journey towards a better tomorrow will never be easy. But leaving this baggage of bitterness and hopeless will help me move forward and run towards the sunrise.

Enjoying the Boring Essentials

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The cheery ringtone echoed in the bathroom. I was trying to finish scrubbing my floor mat when the anticipated call came. Finally, after enduring months of scattered clothes in all glorious disarray, I have purchased my own cabinet.

I have lots of priorities, but this one suddenly jumped into my list when my old clothes rack just gave up (it seemed to have abhorred my fetish for clothes, but it still managed to endure a year of forced servitude under my fashion obsession). I initially planned to buy my own desk this year, but I (and my budget) have to adjust. In the light of this tragedy, adulting suddenly hit me hard to the core.

I used to brush off household items and other boring essentials. All I cared for were books, CDs of anime OSTs (whoops, try not to guess my age πŸ€”), dresses, stylish bags, and more books. But as I grew older, I started to shave off some of these fancy things as I began to see what I really need.

Living away from my parents’ home taught me how to be responsible for myself. Reality sank in days after I realized there was no mom to cook breakfast for me and there’s no parental daily allowance. I had to learn how to make plans, budget well, and weigh my priorities. If not, I might not survive in this crazy, concrete jungle.

All those boring essentials I thought I didn’t need became my objects of desire once I got into my thirties. The department store’s home section turned into a wonderland. I could not believe I was converted into a homemaker. *Sigh*

I’ve noticed that as we grow older, our priorities change. They adjust according to our needs. In time, these needs are sifted well, leaving only the most valuable things in life. We are soon leaving this world anyway, and we would not be needing them as we journey away from this life.

But as for now, I’m still overjoyed at the sight of my drawer sitting near my bed. The best thing with these boring essentials is the extra joy that tags along with it…like some nice, fluffy bubble wrap. πŸ˜‰

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A Watery Rendezvous

Part of the adulting stage is the requirement to stand as a chaperone for a parent going to a party. My mom, who’s forever young at heart, wanted to join the other ladies at her zumba class for a reunion. I easily obliged because I had another agenda in mind: the pool.

The party was held beside a swimming pool. Believe me, I missed swimming for quite a long time. I did not mind whether the visibility of the water was almost terrible to none. I just wanted to feel the warm waters around my body and float on it like I was on air.

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I already had taken a few laps when some of the kids playing there said “Hi, tita!” (“tita” is the Filipino word for aunt). Being shy around kids (except for my nephews and niece), I only greeted them back and swam again. But when I returned, one of them brazenly asked if she can borrow my shower cap. “Nope,” I said, “it’s already stuck on my hair”.

That’s one problem when swimming in a public pool. I couldn’t do my laps properly because kids playing ball were blocking my way and some of them were trying to talk to me. This same girl was telling me she knows how to dive because she took swimming lessons. Being a good adult, I fought the urge to reply, “Yeah, me too.” As if all adults are automatic swimmers.

I ended up looking up at the half moon pinned on the dark sky. I soothed myself with the warm waters enclosing me like an old friend who missed me. The blaring dance music felt far away as I submerged into the deep, something that I missed doing for a long time.

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I wish every place would a have a pool of their own but is something considered as a luxury to some. It’s sad that many people deem that only the rich can take up swimming lessons. That should not be the case. Every Filipino has the right to take up swimming lessons. I think it is a vital life skill, especially the Philippines is surrounded by bodies of water.

I left the pool at dinner. I guess only food can stop me from swimming haha. I hope I’d be invited to more parties at the pool. πŸ™‚

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I can breathe in pure freedom as the salty air of the sea brushed off the city dust from my worn out shirt. The tossing of the waves drowned out the clicking sound of the keyboard in my head that has been whirling within me for a week (and for months, actually). I have returned to Baler for the second time around just to take a break and be with a friend who wanted to enjoy my company before she migrates to Europe.

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The scene was thrilling as a few surfers were seen riding along the feisty waves from a distance, but the scorching sun waned that out. I realized I was already exhausted after that grueling seven-hour bus ride from Manila. My friends were just as tired. But the trip did not seem to faze seven-year-old Liam who kept on asking, “When are we going to the beach?” Or “When are we going to surf?”

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Crispy corned beef with egg as breakfast. Trust me, it’s good. πŸ™‚

One of the best things about going to far away places is the food. I never hesitate to enjoy a plateful of sumptuous dried fish paired with an egg or a giant glass of pure, authentic mango shake (trust me, no preservatives). Some locals would drop by the cafe to sell pearls or jewelry (I don’t know if they’re real at all), but I’d rather support this guy who sells rice cake doused in honey. It’s perfect for the afternoon coffee.

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Surfing is always the highlight of Baler. An hour of surfing lessons only costs about Php300 (US$5.7) for local tourists. But my Php300 was washed away in the waves because I could never, ever master this craft. I don’t know why my balance skipped away during the surfing class. At least, I looked good for a fraction of a second.

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I’m impressed with my friend, Marie, because she could handle Liam well while having fun with us. There were times they would argue badly, but she always made sure he’s in safe territory no matter how far he went. I guess this is one of the reasons why moms are superheroes.

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Vacation, as old folks say, is one of the perks a single person like me can have anytime because I don’t have kids (or a partner) to worry about. But I guess this norm does not apply to my friends, who are both mothers, because their family gives them time to go out, relax and enjoy. Fun is not limited to single people because everyone has the freedom to choose and break out from their mundane routine from time to time. This was what the waves have been telling us for the past two days. Even as we left, they kept on inviting us to come back and share to our children the freedom we’ve tasted back in Baler.

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On a sidenote:

Baler could be a bit far from Manila, but it is easy to access because there are buses going straight there. Joybus is one of them and a fare costs about P720 (US$14).

SMART Beach House is a recommended stay for tourists. It’s quiet (especially on weekdays) and clean. The hosts are also very friendly.

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Scramble (pink shaved ice topped with powdered milk and chocolate syrup) is a childhood favourite. If they are scarce in Manila, they now abound in Ilocos.

Food is something the Ilocanos are known for. Among the most popular are the Vigan longanisa (chorizo-like sausage), chichacorn (a popcorn-like snack, except it is crunchier than popcorn), empanada (pastry stuffed with meat) and bagnet (deep fried crispy pork belly). I love bagnet especially if it’s paired with pinakbet (a viand of mixed veggies). Our tour guide does not want us to miss that, so we headed first a pasalubong store to hunt for some nice, crispy bagnet.

I was so excited for the pasalubong, I wanted to go home to sort them out (especially the ref magnets haha). But more things were lined up in the last day of the tour because there are more to see in Ilocos.

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Baluarte is something that tourists would never miss during their visit to Ilocos. If Ilocos Norte is the abode of the Marcoses, Ilocos Sur is home to the Singsons, another political clan. Chavit Singson’s name gives a ring to most Filipinos as he became the governor of the province of Ilocos Sur. Oh, he was also the sponsor of Miss Universe when it was held in the Philippines in 2016.

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Singson’s love of the game and wildlife gave birth to this place which was located just beside a golden structure which they say was his house. It’s like a shadow of Ocean Park in Hong Kong, but some animals could only be viewed through a shuttle ride. By the way, the entrance was free, but the shuttle was not.

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There was also a museum for taxidermied animals caught and hunted by the politician years ago. Beside them are pictures of Singson holding a rifle beside a prized animal that he caught. I must honestly say my stomach fell when I saw the collection of animal heads mounted on the walls. I felt so sorry they had to end up that way. 😞

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We returned to Vigan for a calesa ride. It cost only P150 for four people per hour. The sun was so hot, but it did not stop us from touring around the city to see the church and the pottery house.

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I was quite disappointed that Vigan has a lot of modern establishments. It’s like Intramurous forced into modernization. The romance of the quiet glow of streetlamps is gone and the sun was raging above our heads. The roads were filled by tourists who only ate their fill at fastfood chains.

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We opted to simplier meals along the street. Imagine our joy when we discovered sinanglaw, a soupy meal filled with beef and goat meat. It looks so simple and unattractive, but the Ilocano vinegar gave it a superb taste.

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It’s good to pair sinanglaw with the sweet taste of barbeque.

We left the city before the parade started. Today was Ilocos day and roads will be blocked once the street dancers step in. We’d rather not risk our time staying there because of the seven to eight-hour travel.

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The trip did not end without stopping by the La Union grapes farm. La Union is almost three hours away from Ilocos. The fruits there were small and not so sweet, with some a bit sour, but I enjoyed the experience of grape picking.

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51095749_329816040971629_5483897703337295872_nI’m so glad that we made friends with our fellow tourists during tour. The tour guide was so kind to us, I assured him we’d be joining them again. I’d definitely join them in another destination, but my wallet needs to recouperate. πŸ™‚

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My mom greeted me a “Happy birthday, darling” the moment I woke up. That realization did not sink in as my brain was still a bit fuzzy at 3 o’clock in the morning. All I wanted was munch on some churros we bought at a mall last night and hopefully, some coffee later in the day.

We left at 4:30 am for Pagudpod, which has a good two-hour distance from the hotel we’re staying in Laoag. I once thought that going around Ilocos was easy because I mistakenly had the impression the tourist spots in the region were only a few meters away from one another. Taking this tour with a travel agency was a wise idea then. We don’t have to get lost and pretend we’re listening to Waze’s monotonous voice.

Our driver first let us see Bantay Abot Cave. The wind was still viciously cold even though dawn was breaking beyond the Pacific’s horizon. What we came to see was not completely a cave but a rock formation where the blue waters could be seen rolling over the rocks and the beaches beyond. It’s unbelievable I am able to see, feel and experience such a beautiful place. What’s more unbelievable was that my mom was quicker than me in going down the rock formation. Looks like I’m too slow for a 34-year-old. 😞

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Pagudpod Beach was just a few meters away. It’s amazing the waters were completely blue, even near the seashore. I was more thrilled when I felt the fine, white sand hugging my toes. Indeed, it’s a dream come true. Here’s the beach I’ve been asking for. Thank God for such a birthday treat! πŸ™‚

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We had a breakfast of longanisa, egg and fried rice courtesy of King and Joy Travel Tours. I rushed to the shore after drinking coffee (can’t live without it) and took a dip. I tried swimming away from the shore, but the waves kept on pushing me back. The waves were good for surfing, but I don’t have the guts to do so and endure the pain later.

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There’s a zip line above the beach, but I find it too expensive (P900 for one person). I’d rather try to make some sand art, but the waves kept on washing it away. Except for this one. πŸ™‚

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The sun was already prickling our skin. We had to leave the sea and dust the sand off our feet before we reach our next destination, including the Patapat Viaduct, the fourth longest bridge in the Philippines.

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Kapurpurawan Rock Formation.

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The Cape Bojeador Lighthouse which is running for more than 150 years.

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This lighthouse is powered by renewable energy, the main power source in Ilocos. They have solar farms and wind generators which is powered by the famous Bangui windmills.

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Seeing them in real life made me awestruck. One of the tourists told us she cried when she saw them for the first time because she could only see them in postcards before. I gaped at the size of one of them. It’s almost as tall as a 20-storey building (or 23 storeys as some blogs suggest) and the wind sails made a low and loud whoosing sound every time it turned with the wind. The wind from the Pacific coast is powerful enough to keep a bunch of them running and the sails were attractive enough to keep the photobombers from getting away our pictures.

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Everything was so sunny and blue in Pagudpod, I wish I could stay for even one day more (or maybe until my next birthday haha). But seeing my mom having fun was the real treat for me. Nothing beats a good memory as a gift for me. πŸ™‚

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