Relativity


I was in my hometown two weeks ago for the Holy Week break. It’s an annual practice—going home during Holy Week, All Soul’s Day and Christmas breaks.  Apart for the reason these are only periods I get to spend time with my family, these are also the only periods I take long breaks from work.

A favorite habit of mine when I am at home is to sit in our terrace during sunset. Because it faces our gate and of the almost 1.5-meter elevation of our house above ground level, I get a good view of the setting sun, the road in front of our house, and railway that bisects the road.

During my recent stay, there was a day that I was suddenly overwhelmed by the utter calmness of my surroundings. There were hardly any cars passing by. Children were happily playing on the street. I could vividly hear the sound of chirping bird and insects, and even the sound of the blowing wind.  It is a fact that in some places like my hometown, life can still be slow and uncomplicated. Yet, it still amazes me I am still able to experience how slow and uncomplicated life can be.

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Losing Sight


I frequent a massage shop called “Vibes” in a mall near my apartment. I usually go there twice a month to relieve myself from stress due to work and life, in general. One interesting aspect of Vibes is the massage therapists are blind. Unlike other regular customers though, I don’t favor a specific masseuse. I am fine with being assigned with the available masseuse because (1) I am generally impatient, and (2) it enables me to differentiate the massaging styles of the masseuses.

In the past three years of frequenting Vibes, I’ve observed a lot of things about their staff which often amazes me more than not. The massage therapists have very keen sense of touch and hearing. Even without saying a word and just by touching my back, they can tell if it’s me, if I lost or gained weight and if I am more stressed than usual. They also know my voice very well. They would say, “Oh! It’s Ma’am Melissa.” even if I just uttered, “Good evening”.

When they are in a light mood, some masseuse also share their  interests. There is one instance when I had to wait for the masseuse for a while. When she arrived, she apologized profusely. She mentioned she was just replaying the episode of a drama she missed the previous night. I asked her how she replayed it. She replied she listened through the YouTube application in her smartphone. She further shared that sometimes she replays TV shows on her Acer laptop. I was simply dumbfounded.

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Managing How to Work, Study and Travel Simultaneously


The other week, my classmates and I were joking on our Facebook group what we would award each other for our upcoming graduation this July 25. One classmate said he would give me a “Master Procrastinator Award”. I was appalled so I asked him why.

He replied, “Because every time I am cramming for our paper or an exam, I would see in your posts that you are either in Korea, El Nido or some random beach. You don’t seem to be bothered by school or work at all”.

Am I one?? (Image credits to keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk)

I was surprised that some of them had a perception that I am a “procrastinator”, so I clarified that when I am on travel, I bring my iPad and laptop. I study while waiting in airports and ports. I write papers at night or during the wee hours of the morning. I always put my phone on roaming to make sure I don’t miss anything work or school-related while I am overseas. Simply said, I multitask.

I always get questions related to this: How do you juggle things? How do you manage to keep up at work and school and still get to travel? So I thought I’d share of some of “tactics” of how I managed to do all three for the past years:

1. Multitask but do so efficiently. This is inevitable. I am not someone who can let go of my day job just to prioritize school or travel. I don’t have someone who I can say I can lean on  in case I get into financial trouble. I don’t want rely on scholarships either because in the Philippines, more of often than not, stipends are delayed. I also still send money to my family back home every once in a while. Multitasking is not ideal, but to be able to do all things I want to do and have to do, this is the compromise I make.

I am lucky enough that my classes are online. So while on travel, I can still participate in class discussion late at night or write papers at dawn. When I have something important for work that coincides with my travel, I usually check my email at least three times a day to make sure my workmates would still get the information they need from me.

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Peaches and Friends


While waiting for our train ride to Hanoi, Vietnam in a restaurant somewhere  in Lao Cai a few days ago, my three friends decided to go out for a bit to look for peaches. They’ve been craving for peaches since we saw some in Bac Ha market earlier in the day. They asked me if I was coming, I told them I will just stay in the restaurant   since I don’t like peaches that much.

While waiting for them, I noticed that a Vietnamese girl in the next table was fidgety. She kept glancing around while holding her phone. So I asked her, “Are you looking for an electric outlet?”

She replied, “Yes. I need to charge my phone.”

I noted someone charged his phone near my table earlier  so I told her, “There’s one near my table. You can use it.”

She smiled and thanked me. She then asked me if I am from the Philippines since I speak good English. I responded affirmatively and thought finally someone guessed my nationality correctly. I was still mistaken as a Thai by some in Vietnam.

We then talked about her job, my job, her country and my country. She was very curious about the Philippines and certain places she wishes to visit. She even knew about Cebu Pacific’s piso seat sale.

After conversing for about 10 minutes, she excused herself . When she got back she offered me a peach as a sign of thanks. I almost said no but thinking there was no harm in trying to eat a peach, I accepted it. My friends arrived shortly, epmty-handed. When I asked if they were able to find peaches , they sadly replied they were not able to find a fruit vendor that sells them.

The Vietnamese girl probabaly heard our conversation so she went back to our table and gave each of my friends a peach. She said she bought a kilo in Bac Ha market and couldn’t finish it all by herself. My friends looked so happy and  enjoyed    their peaches with big smiles in their faces.

I smiled as well astounded at how the situation turned out. Fate? Coincidence? Whatever it was,  I was just glad to be able to make friends. 🙂

Finding my Footing


I was browsing thorugh my drafts and I found this unfinished post. I wrote this in May 2013. I wondered why I never got to post this. So here’s a sort of flash back Friday post:

Last night my brother told me, “Should I go out of the country next year?”. He then followed up with, “What should I do about the promotion offered by the company?”

I just replied, “Do what you think will be best for you. If you feel you like doing something, then try it.”

There was a time when I have also been bothered so much by such questions. I was very envious of my peers who are already leaving the country to get their PhDs. I felt bad seeing pictures of people who  were able to travel to different places. I was jealous of people who already know what are the things they are good at. I was too consumed by the so called “quarter life crisis”.

I don’t know how  but thankfully I am slowing easing out of the stage already. These days, I am less bothered by how far my peers has achieved, how many places they went too and whether they are now rich by mastering their craft. Instead, I have diverted my energies on trying out different things such as finally booking a ticket to go the place that I want to and enrolling in a course even if  I am not yet sure if it’s the track I want to pursue. I now don’t feel so bad that I haven’t achieved yet the things that I want to do when I was 23. I have now appreciated the investments I have made to secure not only mine but my brothers’ future are as well. In short, I have finally found my footing and I am now in betters terms of myself as far as capacities and experiences are concerned.

The path towards this state was not easy and I am not even sure how I came to such kind of peace and understanding. However, one thing I have always acknowledged is that every one of us is unique but at the same time share certain universal traits. By understanding individual differences, I realized that is no point in competing with anybody. When we strive to improve, it should not be because you want to beat someone but because you know you are lacking in certain areas. And by acknowledging that we share certain universal traits, I realized that despite status differences, people still seek the same thing… happiness, acceptance, contentment.

Whoa. I was thinking  of these things when I was 23. But I feel happy that I still feel the same way I felt two years ago. You  don’t compete with anybody but yourself. 🙂

Learning and Living


Yesterday, I heard someone (a lady) tell another person (a middle-aged man), “Why do you even bother paying for her matriculation fees? She is not even your child. You should stop doing that.”

There could be several explanations why the lady said those words to that man. The man could be paying the matriculation fees of an ungrateful child. He could be borrowing money in her behalf. Or…it could even be as simple as he wishes to a help a person who is not even his own child.

I don’t know the whole story so I am not in position to judge. However,  if the lady’s statement is related to the third scenario I mentioned, it’s so sad that she harbors such kind of beliefs. Since when there was a rule that we should only send  someone to school if she/he is our child? It violates every value I know about education, and what does this make me, my siblings and every person out there who was   able to study through the graciousness of other people?

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A Grandmother’s Story


I still find it unfathomable that I have no more grandparents waiting for me to come home. Barely two weeks ago, my paternal grandmother, my last living grandparent, succumbed to coma and eventually death after suffering from a hemorrhagic stroke. What’s even more even more difficult to comprehend was the rate at which life surprised us. Lola Flor  just celebrated her 79th birthday last February 23 and I was even able talk to her through the phone. Three days later, our entire family was dumbfounded with the news that she suffered a stroke. 

On the last night of the wake,  our family  organized a short program to honor Lola Flor. The family members were requested to share their fondest memories of her.  I placed myself then on a time machine trying to recall significant moments, and I can’t help but be sad because I can barely recall them. During the program proper, I cried ever more, because  I gathered that among the grandchildren, I was the only  who never had a chance to live her. As I hear my  brothers, uncles, and extended relatives speak, I realized that there were many facets of my grandmother that I never knew of. 

I knew she gave birth to my father at  a young age. Yet, I didn’t know  that while taking care of her own children, she also attended to her siblings and even to to her nieces and nephew. She also took a lot of other people under her wing, the testament of which are the people who were present during her wake introducing themselves as either “adopted son” or “adopted daughter”. 

I wondered then, am I no different from a stranger? Every time I go home to Bicol, I visited her. Yet, I never asked or learned about these aspects of her life. I never got to ask how I behaved as a child, or if she remembered the days when I would spend some days at her home during summer vacations. As my uncle had carefully laid out during his eulogy, “I was probably very busy growing up and thinking about my own I life that I forgot Lola Flor was also growing old.” 

I feel sad  that I wasn’t to able to appreciate Lola Flor more when she was alive. However, I am still happy and thankful because in ever in her death, I still got to know her more or perhaps even better. 

Lola Flor, I hope you are at peace now.  And… forgive your grandchild for being so callous and carefree. 

 

 

Road Trips


I’d choose an eight-hour trip to Bicol anytime over a one-hour plane ride. Aside from the fact that there’s too much hassle in checking-in at airports, the scenery on the way to Bicol is just too good to miss. In general I love long rides, may be it be on boats, on a motorcycle, in the open sea or even in rough roads. My eyes simply crave for sceneries and time to absorb them.

My love for road trips was greatly influenced by my late father. When I was around five or six, we just had a motorcycle but he would take me and my brothers as far as Buhi Lake, home to the smallest  freshwater fish. There, we would make quick stops on the resorts around the lake. We never paid entrance fees because we barely stayed on each resort for an hour. My dad would simply talk to the owner that we were just visiting and off we go jumping from one resort to another.

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School Girl


Back in my college days in UP, when a classmate or a friend labels you jokingly as a “school girl”, it means that you were too focused on your studies that you almost don’t have a social life anymore. I had been called as such several times primarily because even though I was active in dormitory activities, I didn’t have any organizations. During my free time I was either found in the library or the dormitory.

 I felt sad when I was called as such back then because I thought being focused on my studies was actually never a negative thing. Also, I had my reasons for not joining any campus organizations. I was a working student and just balancing work and studies was already difficult.

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Notes from the Universe


A few weeks ago I signed up for TUT’s Notes from the Universe. Everyday, the site would email me  a few quotes or  notes which are more often than not profound and hits me in the heart. Though I already know that TUT forwards the same notes to everyone who is subscribed in the program, it still amazes me how most of the quotes and advice they send appropriately describes my situation or dilemmas.

Let me share to you one note which greatly helped me a lot in the past weeks when I have repeatedly questioned the purpose of the things I am doing and why I even bother to do them even if the outcomes or situations do not favor me:

It’s all self-service, Melissa.

The magic works through you, not for you. 

Now helping 7 billion help themselves,
    -The Universe

P.S.

Just order and show up, Melissa. If it’s not there when you show up, keep showing up until it is.

Fascinating message, isn’t it? To me, it serves as a reminder that being involved in something doesn’t always have to mean that it should benefit us. We can actually do things just because we can and not because we have any other intentions. These quotes also applies to situations where we feel we have done our part in a change we want to happen, but on a macro scale everything still stays the same.  We should not fret because as TUT say, “ If it’s not there when you show up, keep showing up until it is.”

Small, honest, and thoughtful actions are often disregarded if not, forgotten. However, I believe if they are done  conscientiously and continuously, they will eventually add up to something bigger and maybe even life changing. Someday when we finally see that bigger goal that we’ve been eyeing, we can congratulate ourselves because our actions are among those  that initiated the results.

(Credits to www.timagesebay.com)
(Credits to http://www.timagesebay.com)

Keep Your Word


One lesson I learned from my freelance writing jobs is I should not commit to an assignment if I can’t beat the deadline. The same goes for writing about topics which I am not very familiar about. But sometimes there are unavoidable situations which cause me to submit a paper late or in worse case, request it to be reassigned to another writer.  The price I paid was steep. The fee for reassigning the paper to another writer was deducted from my salary and I was put on probationary status. Since then, I have been more careful in selecting my assignments and I have always tried to finish a paper at least an hour before a deadline even if it meant not sleeping for 24 hours straight.

Sadly, the same kind of penalty cannot be imposed for friends or relatives who do not keep their word. After all, friendship and any other form of human relation are complex in nature and cannot be caged in boundaries and rules that apply for instance in our work.  We can always go back to the “we are just human” argument that we can’t control people, situations and decisions. We can’t always expect things to happen the way we imagined them.

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24 at 24


Life is not perfect. However, it is the imperfections that make me love it more. There is always something to discover and learn. I have always tried to live that way—always in pursuit of higher but life-changing lessons. I do no want to stop because I know the moment I do that I would stop growing as a person. I would choose the uncertain anytime over a boring, repetitive life

I am blessed for being to able to realize this goal in my 23 years of existence. Life has not always been kind but it has certainly  been rewarding. I look forward to more years of fruitful existence.

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Staring is not a Norm


One of the double-edged characteristic of humankind is our natural tendency to be curious. We have this urge to know what’s happening with whom, why a certain someone did this etc Nothing is wrong with that but we must recognize the limit as to when we can poke our noses into other people’s business.

 One of the most blatant examples of this habit is staring. In fact, I find staring to be the worst kind. Because it involves no words, the meaning can range from admiration, simple curiosity, jealousy, and even hatred. No matter what the reason is, staring is plainly rude and counts as intrusion of someone’s privacy.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Change


I wanted to share a picture of my application papers for graduate school as it is the change I think I need the most. However, the results will not be out until the first week of May, so I am sharing another activity which I think helped changed my perspectives a lot: traveling.

I am not pampered but I am used to staying within the boundaries of my comfort zone. Two years ago, the habit had finally taken its toll. I felt I had no purpose and my whole “take it from my experiences” talks were of no substance. I had this urge that I need to see more… experience more.  I found that satisfaction through traveling. The decision to leave the glitz that I’ve been used to, and explore new places with only my bag and my feet as my companion was one of the best things I’ve done in my life. I found new appreciation for almost everything–the color of the sky during sunset, the feeling of seeing underwater, the thrill of jumping without reservations, and even  the bed I am using everyday. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned so far is… life is most beautiful in its simplest form.  Enjoying life does not mean we have to succumb to the glamour dictated by the society. Sometimes,  all we need is ourselves  and the beautiful surroundings God provided us.

Two years after my hulabaloo, I can say that while I am not yet a changed person but I am definitely an improved one. The saying that “once you started traveling, you cannot go back” is indeed true. My thirst to wander is larger than ever but this time I am not feeling so lost. 🙂

Entries for this week’s challenged can be found at Daily Post.

Encounters


The other night, I treated myself to dinner after a stressful day. While seating comfortably in the corner of the restaurant, a stranger sat in the next table and  greeted me with a big smile. Not wanting to offend her, I just smiled back. After I finished my meal, I stood up and looked  her way. She smiled again and said to me, “You’re done? Bye!”

I didn’t smile back, I just said to myself, “What an interesting person.”

It was not the first time I had an interesting encounter with a stranger. Way back  in December, while walking towards the jeepney terminal of SM Bicutan, a car stopped beside me. The driver rolled the window down and shouted at me, “Hey miss, do you have an umbrella?”

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