Friday, August 21, 2015

Science and the Art of Seeing

I always had this fascination with space and the great beyond. I also spent my childhood in an all girls-catholic school, until upon graduation from elementary, I received this strange piece of news that I got accepted into our own version of Hogwartz – Manila Science High School

For years, I did not want to talk about my geeky past, and I have been in total denial about being geeky at all, maybe because I never really felt that I was special or one of them. For starters I was never very good in Math.

It was all very strange at first, especially since it was a Co-Ed highschool, which meant that there were BOYS, lots of them, and also as much as there is a variety of Math and Science classes, there was no religion subject, but we had Values Education.

My classmates and schoolmates were some of the sharpest kids in the country but they were also just kids. We had everything normal, Christmas parties, baking classes, after school hangouts, secret crushes, Sabayang Pagbigkas, Intrams, except we also had applied physics and linear algebra, research and advanced trigonometry all on the same year.

In the end, only a handful of us became scientists, but I would like to think that a lot of us grew up with that scientific spirit for which I am grateful for.  That spirit of wonder and inquiry, reserving judgement and testing hypothesis before before jumping into conclusions. the spirit that appreciates and craves innovation. The spirit that understands that life is a quest and that knowledge leads to better understanding.

On a personal level, lately I feel my mind expanding with every experience and every opportunity of seeing something for the first time, whether it is a photograph of Pluto or a Van Gogh painting or a newborn baby.

As mankind reaches out to the farthest known "Planet" of my childhood,  I feel elated knowing that despite our limited capacities we haven’t given up exploring,  and that we are still out there trying our best to understand, trying our best to see.

As Van Gogh would say - “I don’t know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars make me dream. “

Speaking of Space frontiers, I just signed up for NASA's mission to mars, they're gonna put a microchip with my name on Mars, here's my boarding pass :)

Sign up with NASA :

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cheers to Independence!

What does it mean to be independent? I find that my definition of independence changes every decade.

When I was 10 , I learned to go to school and go back home on my own. I mastered crossing the street, and taking the jeepney. I could find my way home even without the school bus. In fact, I often tell the school bus driver to go ahead without me, because I had stuff to do after school, like hang-around at the library, or the Burger Machine at the corner, or my best friends house that’s a block away from school.  Independence meant having those options. Technically I can go anywhere, of course I was still not allowed to go anywhere, but at least now I did not have to wait for anybody to pick me up from school and if I ever get lost, I would know my way back home. It was, at the time, the meaning of Independence.

When I was 20, I got my first job as a copywriter in a small start-up PR firm. I remember the day I got my first paycheck. It was literally money in a brown envelope. I wasn’t much, but it was exhilarating to feel that I was now capable of earning money for myself. That first pay check bought me freedom. I did not have to wait for my parents to give allowance, I did not have to wait for them to buy me a new pair of shoes, and even though I was still living in their house and by their rules which meant that I was still partly dependent on them, at least now, I didn’t have to ask them for money whenever I want something or need to go somewhere. It was at the time, the meaning of independence.

Now that I’m in my 30s, I realize meaning of Independence has gone beyond simply providing for myself, or even taking care of myself.  Not only was I capable of buying stuff that I want or travelling on my own, not only was I free to make my own decisions, but I was also now capable of sticking to my own decisions, whatever the consequences of those are.

Being single and in my 30s, independence meant having the courage to be on your own,  dealing with whatever life brings and making the most of everyday. It can be this grand idea of being in control of my own destiny, but sometimes it can also be very simple, like being able to sit and enjoy a meal on my own without looking around and feeling left out.  

At this point I would say real independence is being free from other people’s expectations, and working instead to meet the expectations that I have set for myself.  So I guess that’s what Independence is for me , for now. 

Ask me again when I’m 40.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Winning vs Losing

I have to say I have never heard as many boos ever for a winner, than for yesterday's "undefeated" Floyd Mayweather.

It was so loud that you can hear it off the TV while he was being interviewed even with the limited audio picked up by the boom mic. It was so loud on social media, all over the world, that you can almost hear the crowd jeering in your ear.  It was surreal, to have a winner be booed for winning a title that by all technical accounts seem to have been his.

I am not a big boxing fan so I will not pretend to analyze or understand the points system that let Mayweather run away (pun intended of course) with it. All I know is that for all the money he has taken, for all that glittering fancy-title-weights under his belt, at the end of the day all we could hear were the loud Boos.

You can say that boxing is not a popularity contest, and so is life.  In life, bad guys who "don't do nothing" win... but win what exactly?

Maybe its time to ask - what was the prize anyway and to whom does it matter to?

I am not a boxing fan, but I am fan of Manny Pacquiao, and all the Manny Pacquiao's I know  -   those who come out fighting, those who won't back into a corner, those who don't try to earn petty points from someone who didn't know better,  those who can smile at their toughest opponent, those who still see life as only a game, those who can accept  and brush off defeat,  those who can sing, or at least try to,  those who would rather put on a great gig more than care so much about the money in the jar, those who look up to something bigger than themselves, those who inspire us to be better ...

because at the end of the day, I think those are the real people who matter, who deserve to be in the history books, even if they don't get written about, even if they lose.

If there's one thing I take away from the so-called Fight of the Century is that  - no amount of money can buy you Respect and Legacy. These are things that you EARN.

I just hope the Mayweathers of the world has picked up a thing or two from Pacman.


"Ngunit hindi nila kayang baliin ang iyong loob,
Ang pag-ibig na hawak moy' hindi malulubog
Lahat ng pera sa mundo, hindi kayang gawing ginto ang huwad na tao
ang mga tinig, palakas ng palakas..."

But they cannot break your spirit,
they cannot bring down the love you hold
all the money in world, 
cannot not turn an ordinary man to gold
the voices are getting louder and louder...

Friday, February 13, 2015

Baby it’s cold outside : How to Be Single during the Holidays

“Single. There’s a certain dignity to it”, goes a line from an old 90’s cult movie favorite, but this quote is especially challenged during the holidays, when the weather starts to drop, love is in the air again and you start to notice that snuggling in your comforter watching silly rom-com movies just doesn’t seem to be enough to compensate for the general lack of body warmth around you.

And if you’re Filipino, it’s the time of year when there’s no escaping the myriad of Christmas parties and family reunions that will lead you face to face to that 98% chance of being asked the dreaded holiday quiz - where is your significant other? Or when are you getting married?

It can come out loud from your old pesky uncle who has had way too many San Miguels, your very concerned Tita, or your recently married friend, or it can be a discreet look of pity from those who are already too embarrassed to ask you for the nth time (like your Mom) but make no mistake about it, will come.

The truth is whether it bothers you or not, whether you care enough to admit it, being on your own during coupledom’s peak season is not an easy task, but there is definitely a silver lining to it all and that is hindi ka nag-iisa gurl (or boy) !

There are plenty of certified SMP (Samahan ng mga Malalamig ang Pasko) members out there. We talked to some of our fabulous filipino singles on how they  cope with being on their own during the holidays.

Affected much?

Danabelle Gutierez,  a writer based in Dubai who recently published her collection of  love poems “I Long to Be the River” says that sometimes she feels she’s the last single person on earth, but other times it doesn’t matter.

I have been single for 11 Christmases. This Christmas would be the twelfth. Honestly there have been more Decembers where I don't even think about it. I mean, sure, it would be nice to drink hot chocolate, cuddle up next to someone by the fireplace in a log cabin, while it snows outside, but I live in Dubai so there’s a slim chance to that fantasy.

My best survival tip is to live your life, surround yourself with the best people, eat all the best food, and make good art. If you're a writer, write. If you're a painter, paint. Whatever medium it is that you use, just make good stuff, and keep doing it.”, adds Danabelle.

A self-confessed romantic,  Dubai-based marketing exec Kate Narvaez opens up on her holiday blues. “It bothers me sometimes spending weekend alone or going out to club / restaurants with friends and not have someone hold your had or dance with you, or just generally be cheesy with.  I’m used to being single, holidays or not, but I have to admit it would really be good to meet someone special, someone for keeps.”

Betsy Vergara, a Finance consultant based in New York shares that there are two sides to the coin, the best and worst part.

“One of the perks of being single during the holidays is the element of openness to spontaneity. If you are a willing subject, you never know what's in store for you during random invites to parties with other single friends. There's also that freedom of doing the things that YOU would feel like doing, no need to please others. You can have one year that crazy/busy/crawl back to your apartment tired and hung over, and the next year,  you can be a total hermit. You can do what your heart pleases.

The worst part is the constant reminder that you are not in a relationship. The Christmas events that are solely targeted for couples. Seeing coupledom PEAK everywhere esp. during the holidays, in the parks, restaurants, movies, media. I mean EVERYWHERE! 

Honestly we all have the tendency to crave affection from a beloved, but there’s no need to feel alone, as for me, I live in New York, where as they say “anything can happen”, so you never know, I’d rather enjoy and be optimistic, Betsy adds.

 Yvette Camba, a self-confessed scrooge who works for Emirates airline also shares the sentiment.   “I like the freedom and it doesn’t really bother me, but being surrounded by couples doing all sorts of PDA sometimes gets to you, I suppose they're entitled to that. For the most part its just irritating when you get asked all the time about “why are you single?”  like it’s not allowed, or it’s such a crime to be on your own. Otherwise I love December, the nice weather, the jolly vibe, minus the traffic and freakish consumerism, I enjoy the joie the vivre feeling it brings. ”

Fight for your right to party…

Jake Ofrasio, video editor and part-time model who has been single since he moved to the UAE says that he’s immune to all the holiday coupledom stress.

“I enjoy it (being single) to a certain degree, since you can do what you want and you don't have to consider anyone in making decisions. The best part would be the feeling of being free. I am not that bothered since I am not big on holidays to begin with. I try to be more outgoing, meet people or I take up a new hobby so I will be busy.”

Mackie Andres, a sound engineer based in Manila also tries to take it easy and gets by his single status through tounge-in-cheek jokes.

“How long have I been single ? As the Air Supply song goes: "All My Life...” i don't really enjoy it, but hey the best part is no drama, or course, there’s also no love! Haha. Anyway, look at all the food this Christmas!

If I could ask Santa for one thing this Christmas it would be for this girl I like who is now online on Facebook to stop ignoring me.  As much as I want to start a chat with her, I’m stopping myself because I know I will just be “seenzoned” , he says with a laugh.

Support groups and Shopping Priorities …

Chai Boiles, 38 who broke up last Christmas with a long-term partner opens up about celebrating this Christmas alone.

Do I enjoy it? Yes and no . Yes, kase may mga friends and sisters naman ako dito sa Dubai, so I have a good support group. The best part is that I don’t have to worry about buying a Christmas present for the boyfriend, tipid diba?  Of course, you also miss the tight hugs, nothing is better than having someone to hug during the cold months and if I can ask Santa for anything, I want a Husband!

Ella Sison a chef based in New Zealand shares the same sentiment on the relief of not having to think about presents.

“Sometimes kasi you feel that your “obligado” to give them nice expensive gifts during Christmas, at least now that I’m single I won’t need to think about it. The best part is being free from commitments but I have to admit there are nights of PMS or when you feel horny and you just allow yourself to wallow in the loneliness.”

The best survival tip is to keep yourself busy, be happy and love yourself even more. If you’re horny there’s plenty of dating apps you can check out. Of course its nice to have someone special, but at the moment I’d rather focus on my career more than anything else. “

Escaping the blues

If being Single means not being commited to anyone, happy traveler and now Boracay-based, Christine Consas shares her fair share of being alone. 

I have been single for 6 years and 10 Christmases, not counting my non-committal 2-year relationship.  I travelled with him first see how it goes and then I finally decided to go on my own, go home and pick up the pieces.

“It’s great to be home for the holidays, I’ve been away for so long that it feels good to be surrounded by happy people and people who love you, you realize there’s really no reason to despair, everything will fall into place at the right time.

Make up artist and Emirates staff Erl Daguplo who has been single for 5 years says that it takes a brave woman to suck it all in.

“I’m enjoying the independence, but “inggit” strikes when you see all these sweet couples. For me, I normally cope with the holiday blues by using my travel perks to backpack to a far away land and just get away from it all.”

While travelling may allow you to escape the hassle of dealing with the holiday blues, cabin crew Joanna Ardiente, who gets to fly all over the world for her job thinks its also what’s keeping her from not finding a stable relationship.

“For the most part i'm not that bothered to be single during holidays. This job has saved from heartaches and
going crazy but I must admit I do get a bit jealous, like when you gather up with friends, and you’re the only single person in the group there’s that moment when you start comparing yourself to them and thinking about how lucky they are while you sit there and wonder why you can’t I have the same thing?  Of course, you also start to realize that it’s better to stay single and wait for the right guy rather than just find someone less ideal to cozy up with, just because it’s the holidays.”

Wishing, waiting and choosing to be happy

Mykhel Reyes, IT professional based in Dubai is the single guy who doesn’t mind the wait.

I believe that in everything you do, you have to be intentional. During this holiday season, you can choose to be happily single, and you can also chose to love. For me, I found my perfect girl it’s been three years since I’ve known her. I’m holding out for her because I love her and when you love someone you don’t just stop. 

For the girls who are also in the waiting line, Mykhel has this to say –

“Remember you are WOW - Woman of Worth  - worth pursuing, worth caring for, worth the wait.” 

In the end, being single during the holidays is not so much about being alone as to opposed to feeling alone. Being alone may or may not be your choice but the truth is you really have no reason to feel alone.   

So chin up, put on that warm smile, face the Christmas music and get ready to give and receive a dozen holiday hugs from the people who thinks you are a wonderful adorable person, albeit still single.  

Survival Tips on Being Single during the Holidays :

1.     Bring a jacket.  Too cold outside? Going to simbang gabi? Be prepared. Sure it’s hard to hug yourself, but having a nice warm coat or cool hoodie helps to fight the cold and while you’re at it put on a lovely scarf too. The best way to stay single during  the holidays is to keep on being your fabulous self-sufficient best. 

2.     Say YES!  Dinner invitiations? Christmas parties? December weddings? Karaoke get-togethers? Highschool Reunions? Go ahead, say yes and fill up your calendar with all these fun activities with friends and loved ones.  As they say, if you can’t beat them join them and have loads of fun doing it!

3.     Give love, get love. The holidays is the time for giving, and paying it forward. If you have so much love to give, let it not be put to waste. Share your blessings with others,  pick out thoughtful gifts for friends and family,  volunteer for a cause, adopt a pet, there are plenty of people (and animals) in the world who would appreciate your TLC. Give wholeheartedly, without expectations, and you will find that truly giving is receiving.

4.     Indulge !  Treat yourself  to that nice big present, a watch, a perfume, a dress, a dayspa, a holiday, you’ve been working hard all year its time to

pamper yourself. No need to wait for a guy, or a girflfriend, or even Santa Claus. Go out there and get it for yourself, because , you know what honey, you can!

5.     Just Smile. Yes bring on the Julia Roberts 10,000 mega-watt smile whenever people ask you about your lack of significant other. Show them that you choose to be happy about it rather than sulk or complain. A smile is enough, a smile is your way of saying, “thank your for that very interesting question, and no I don’t really need to explain myself.” Just smile and let them feel awkward.

6.     Travel. If you have enough means to “get away from it all” and you’re not bothered by missing the noche Buena at home, go out there and see a bit more of the world. Of course, it can get lonely on the road, but if you’re the adventurous type, there’s nothing like travelling to open up yourself to a world of possibilities.

7.     Stay in and suck it. If you’re not the outdoor type, you are also allowed to stay in and wallow.  That’s the beauty of being single, you’re not obliged to do whatever you don’t feel like doing. Cook a great meal, cozy up to a good book or a watch a series of feel-good holiday movies. Bridget Jones, Serendipity, Amelie, Breakfast at Tifannys, there is a long list of great movies to keep you entertained, laugh, cry get crazy, your kingdom, your rules!

8.     Keep the Faith. Remember that Christmas is about peace, about hope and ultimately about love, the kind that perseveres, the kind that endures. Find peace in yourself and make peace with others.  Believe in the magic, for those who don’t believe in the magic will never find it.  Stay positive and awesome!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Walking Dead

Last time I went home to the Philippines, I stumbled upon a couple of DVDs (all four seasons) of this famous Zombie apocalypse TV Series The Walking Dead lying around my brother’s room.  Since my bodyclock was still on Dubai time, I started watching it, and I just couldn’t stop.

This obsession though was different. I am not after blood and gore. I was never a big fan of zombies, let alone horror movies. So what was it about The Walking Dead that I found so engrossing?  Yes, there is this rockstar archer dude called Daryll Dixon, but ok aside from him, there is something about the desparate need to survive, about fighting monsters everyday and beating the odds to live in a world that doesn’t make sense anymore – these are just some of the things that really resonate.

And what if World War 3 happens, civilization dies, the world you know is taken away from you?  Just as it is happening now in some countries. You don’t have to work for money, you don’t need a car, a house, you don’t need to study, you don’t have wi-fi, there are no nightclubs,  no alcohol,  no malls, no new movies, no airplanes, no laptops, no Iphone 6s,  no facebook statuses to update. What then ? What would you do?

The truth is we’ve all become so dependent of the superficial world, so much that most of us have numbed ourselves of reality.  

Dubai is a breeding ground for Zombies. People walking around, going to work daily from 9 to 6, waiting for the next paycheck, getting out of offices, drinking, partying, sleeping with strangers, eating excessive brunches, shopping, wasting away online, even travelling can sometimes be a form of escape. All measures being done to ensure we don’t confront harsh realities, like  the very real horrors of War in the Middle East, children dying in our neighbors – Gaza, Syria, Iraq, like the threat of Ebola, like the injustices happening daily around us, like being away from the ones we love,  or not having anyone to come home to, like the uncertainty of our futures, or being stuck at a dead end job not doing what you really want to do.

Maybe the idea of death on our heels, had me confronting issues about what I really want to do versus the fact that I don’ t have much time and we don’t really know what’s going to happen tomorrow.

Watching The Walking Dead made me realize that the best we can do with our limited time is to fight to stay human - sing a song, appreciate nature, adopt a pet, cook a meal, write, create art, smile, learn something new, educate somebody,  LOVE, or just actually allow yourself to FEEL something.

Maybe the whole point of being alive is to stay ALIVE, and to quote a line from one of my favorite characters, Beth,  “we all got work to do.” Let’s get to it.

Here's a clip from one my favorite episodes, and my favorite characters Beth and Daryll, where they hide in a funeral home after they almost lost everything  - 

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Dubai, United Arab Emirates
They say you shouldn't believe the things you tell yourself at night but I tend to believe in seven impossible things before breakfast so I might as well them down.

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