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It's the most wonderful time of the year

So this is how it feels to celebrate your birthday right smack in the middle of midterms season.

I'm so used to having my birthday fall on a semester break, with me feeling all relaxed and laid-back in anticipation of the 26th. But not this year. Thanks to the academic calendar shift, I had the great luck of celebrating it at the height of all the stress! Good thing it fell on a Sunday, or else I probably wouldn't have had the time to really enjoy it.

After having hurdled that hell of a week, I could say that this birthday was definitely well-earned and deserved! I was tired and sleepless for the last two weeks, thanks to make-up classes, exams, and BarOps. But no complaints - I survived! And while I still have the rest of the semester to wade through, I'm glad I got this little day of respite over the last weekend to just hit restart and enjoy the company of loved ones.


Flowers from Tita Guada! :) I'm never without a bouquet on special days thanks to her!

We had lunch at this quaint little place in Scout Rallos, Victorino's. It's a restaurant specializing in authentic Ilocano-Filipino cuisine, owned by the Vice Governor of Ilocos, DV Savellano and the famed chef Heny Sison. I've been here before once with my parents, and we really enjoyed the place, which was why we thought it was the perfect, simple setting for my birthday lunch.

The interiors of the place are absolutely lovely. If I'm not mistaken, it was an old, antique house that got refurbished into a homey restaurant. I wasn't able to take photos of the interior design, unfortunately, but let's just say that even for someone like me who hasn't been to Ilocos, the decors sets the ambiance just right - it all seems genuine, authentic, and downright cozy.

And the food - oh, the food. Where do I even begin? Food writing had always been my waterloo back in my non-fic classes in college, because I'm never able to describe food properly when I find them delicious. Puro amazing and so, so good lang kaya ng powers ko pag nasasarapan talaga ako! :)) We ordered a lot actually, because my mom wanted to try out the dishes that you don't normally find in any typical Filipino restaurant, especially the Ilocano specialties. I particularly loved the crispy bagnet chips, the warek-warek (their version of sisig), the longganisa platter, and poqui-poqui (grilled eggplant). It was definitely something for the books! I've never tried most of those dishes before, and I had myself going for second (or third!) servings of almost all the ulam we ordered -- that's how good it was.

Aside from my parents, grandparents, and aunt, Ludwin and his sister Tanya were also there, and it was such a delight having them with us. It's great to see the people I care most in my life come together to celebrate the day with me. It's not everyday you find someone you can bring and introduce to your family, and I'm grateful Ludwin just fits right in. He's the type of guy I never have to worry about introducing to anyone, because he just seems to get on the good side of people always :)) It was nice having Tanya along too; she's been nothing but kind and sweet to me, and I always like hanging out with her. (She just passed the board exams for teachers today, btw. Congrats, dear!)

Obligatory "blow-out-your-candle" birthday picture

Allow me to make a separate paragraph dedicated especially for this cake. (Disclaimer: This isn't from Victorino's but from Wowa's friend, who's been making my birthday cakes for the last four years already.) The best part of my birthday is usually the cake - and this year, again, is no exception. Wowa's friend makes cakes of unique flavors, just like this one: orange/lemon chiffon. It's got just the right amount of sweet and tangy combined, which I absolutely love. I'm not so big on sweets but cakes are on a separate pedestal altogether, and this cake just sets the bar :))

And can we all just take a moment to appreciate that little bookmark on top? It's so, so cute! Perfect for this bookworm, really.

After lunch, my family and I went to Mass at Quiapo Church, and offered my thanksgiving for the year that was. This year has been mostly about putting things back together - one of which was working on my faith. I never claimed to be religious or spiritual even, but this year, I found a deeper appreciation for the things I believe in. I guess we all have our journeys to take when it comes to our faith. Mine took a quiet turn to indifference back in college - nothing drastic, but of course I went through that phase of questioning a lot of things about the church. I guess, it's normal for people our age to feel a bit apathetic about religion, especially when you're only starting to navigate your way through adulthood and maturity. But last summer, I realized again how beautiful it is to hold on to my faith and to let it strengthen me. I still have my reservations, but it's mostly about the people and not the beliefs. I started going to Mass more often in the last year, especially this summer during my internship. I'd drop by the chapel at Landmark after work while waiting for my mom and papa to pick me up. And now more than ever, I realized that God has never failed me - even when I thought He did, He has only led me to something better. Always.

Such a great thing my birthday fell on a Sunday, then.


Look at my shoes! Thank you, L ♥

Really couldn't be more grateful to be surrounded by people I love on my birthday. Also worth mentioning: the night before, I got a surprise from my blockmates before our exam, and at midnight during BarOps, my sisses surprised me with cupcakes and a tiara :) I really appreciated the "surprise" (I kinda played mind-games on them and convinced them to surprise me, hahaha what a diva!); it's at times like this when I realize how much I have to be grateful for, and how I really cannot complain about anything because I'm such a lucky girl to be surrounded by great, amazing people. It's always good to be reminded that no matter what happens, there are people who will never leave your side, no matter what. They'll keep your feet on the ground, but they'll push you to greater heights too :)

At the moment, I'm in my condo and nursing a slight fever. Guess all that "partying" took a toll on me? Haha! Nah, I really think it's fatigue from the last few weeks. I still have one more exam to go, but I think all the good birthday vibes are enough to keep me going. *crosses fingers* Glad to have had this weekend to be with my loved ones and just relax even for a bit. 

So, here's to being 23. Like I said in my Facebook status, another year, another story. Can't wait for what's ahead. You'd think at my age it's easy to feel jaded and disillusioned - but not this year. If there's anything I learned at 22, it's that life always surprises you for the better; you just have to look at it that way. 

To 23! ♥


Amazing still it seems, I'll be twenty-three

There was a time when I felt that every single dot of my life created an image of this song. That if you connect all the random moments, all the little parts of me, it would lead you to this song.

I can still vividly recall the first time I heard it. It was in high school, and like all the other bands I loved at that time, it was because of One Tree Hill. This was from the OTH Friends with Benefit soundtrack (which I had an actual copy of; I asked my parents to buy me one when they were in the US).

The moment I heard this song (track number twelve on the CD - yep, I remember) and its dizzying, cathartic one-and-a-half-minute intro, I knew I have found something. What it was exactly, I wasn't quite sure yet. Everything was just a masterful, wonderful melody entwined with words that sounded romantic and sweeping to me. I was sure it was special, but I didn't know yet why.

It easily became my favorite song just because it was titled 23. It was Nathan Scott's jersey number. And it really was nothing more than that. All my high school fangirl-y feelings condensed into one song, and one love that didn't even make sense, for a fictional character. Over the years, 23 had become many things to me. It meant so much to me as the years went on, because it was the score to what I thought was a great love, as defined by that show. (#Naley4ever!!) It sounds crazy and shallow now, but for a teenager with a lot of feelings, it made sense. It was the soundtrack to many other moments long after high school, to many other beers and coffees and hellos and goodbyes. It was the song of my "youth" -- that time of being young, of feeling insecure and scared but also invincible and courageous all at the same time. It was the dramatic montage pre-credits anthem of my being a teenager. 23 defined a chapter of my life; a time so far removed from my present.

The song hasn't changed. But the girl who first listened to it and once held it dear had.

I used to think this song was romantic. How the persona was claiming that no one else will have him like the lover did. How he was willing to throw caution in the wind; how he was inviting her to take the leap with him because it was now or never. At 15, I had wanted a love that will sing me this. A love that will make me sing this. A love that will invite me to just close my eyes, take a deep breath, and just be.

At (almost) 23, I believe I've found that love. It took me a lot of tears, a lot of defeats, a lot of bloodied warfare. But I finally found the person who was meant to sing me this song: me.

The courage to find and fight my dreams and demons (sometimes they felt like the same thing), the audacity to carry on -- it had to come from myself. And now I'm here: learning to love what I do, accepting what I am capable of. Appreciating the turmoil that got me here; acknowledging the calmness that makes me stay. Realizing the immense gratefulness I have for the people around me. Embracing the new love I've found again for myself.

Funny now how soon, 23 will no longer be just a song, or a number. It will become me.

Amazing, still it seems.


i'm here, i'm now, i'm ready
holding on tight


October denouement

Yep, someone's got a full plate.

If it weren't for the academic calendar shift, I'd be lounging in bed and catching up on my graphic novels, fiction and non-fic by now. Instead, I'm in bed and about to sleep after only about 3 hours of sleep in the last 24 hours. 

But I have no choice. There's no other way but to just wade on through. A part of me is glad that I'm finally in a place where I'm just tired, but not unhappy. Exhausted, but not yet defeated. I still have the next few days to hurdle. Time to make use of my Get Psyched mix.

Here's to hoping the good birthday vibes work for a window of ten days. I badly need it :))


Filed under: Interesting things you learn in Succession

Wifely influence.


Public service announcement: Wives (and girlfriends?), take note!




Dodo's birthday lunch

Dodo (my grandpa) turned 83rd birthday today, October 7, but we celebrated it last Sunday. We had lunch at Mesa, which is one of my lolo's favorite restaurants. (He loves Filipino food.)

The day was extra special because (1) I came to the realization that he still looks like he just turned 73 instead of 83, (2) I haven't gone inside a mall for a long, looong time, and (3) Tita Gina was back from Singapore from the weekend!

with Tita Gina and the birthday boy

Wowa, Mom, and Papa

I've always considered myself a mommy's, papa's, lola's, and tita's girl, for the obvious reason that I'm an only child (and only granddaughter in one side of the family) -- and it was kind of automatic that the family's affections would fall on me because I had no siblings. But I've always felt a special connection with Dodo; somehow the title "Lolo's girl" rings truest to me. This isn't to diminish the fondness I share with all my other relatives (I'm actually a very clingy family girl; I bond and make kwento with everyone). There's just something more distinctive when it comes to me and my grandfather.

It probably has a lot to do with the fact that we're so different. Among all my closest kin, Dodo and I probably share the least in common. He grew up with a lot of siblings (they were nine kids), from a simple family. He had to learn about the difficulties of life at an early age. He finished school by selling puto and other kakanin his mother used to make. He is wise when it comes to money. He reads the newspaper everyday. He is quiet, reserved, and a man of few words. Meanwhile, I'm.. not. I've lived comfortably for most of my life; I've had the attention of everyone in the family. I prefer books over magazines. When I try to think of genetic traits I inherited from him, I can't really come up with a lot. I'm loud, boisterous, expressive, and a little crazy. We couldn't be more dissimilar. 

And yet, we click. There is nothing in the world that we cannot talk about and laugh about. We can make jokes on anything - from Binay to Kim Kardashian to my lola's quirks. Sometimes, we see something funny, look at each other, and just know that there's some little joke to be made there somewhere. For instance, when we were in Singapore last summer, we made an entire running gag about Tiong Bahru Road being their 10th sibling (in line with the tradition of calling uncles "Tiyo / Tio"), and we could not stop laughing about it, no matter how hard we tried. It was the corniest - and the funniest - thing. 

We're 60 years apart, but the same brand of corny humor we share certainly betrays that gap. I couldn't be more glad. Here's to more rolling-on-the-floor-laughing moments with you, Dodo! Happy birthday! Love you! ♥

 Terno shades for the October birthday celebrants :)