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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! ♥