Quiet Solace

I came across the May calendar from actionforhappiness.com and today’s action is to share photos of things that I find meaningful or memorable.

I surprised myself having to think twice about this – too many memorable and meaningful things/events/people/places to choose from. So I figured I’d not go far and just look at what’s in front of me. Well, technically I’m imagining I am home right now since I’m literally located in another city.

Pedro, our adopted senior bulldog, had been very lethargic lately – may be because he is ten years old going eleven, and maybe because the scorching heat of summer makes it harder for my sweetie to frolic about in the yard. Cuddled next to me

Rex is also a senior dog – a bit older by months than Pedro. He’s been with us since he was three months old, and we’ve had a share of destroyed furniture when he was young. I’ve trained him, and dog training wasn’t easy but quite rewarding. It was Rex that bonded us with other dog-loving families. For some time our neighbors knew him more than they knew D and me. It’s funny how people would associate us with the folks ‘from the white house where the labrador lives”. If I was asked what my period in Rex’s life I’m more fond of, I’d say now that he’s older. He’s my ever quiet shadow in the house – my gentle giant. I like to rub it in on D at times as I know Rex loves his mum more than his dad. Dad is someone he ‘plays’ with, but when it comes to serious stuff, mum has the final word.Through the years, my sweet boy

When I am at home Pedro and Rex would take turns (mostly subtly kicking each other out – for some reason they don’t mingle together for long) sitting next to me. Nothing beats the soft touch of their fur on my hand, the quiet comfort they give as they sleep beside me. When they are awake they often look at me and their soulful gaze seem to say so many things. And I don’t care if anyone sees me talking to them all the time – I believe they understand what I feel, without any judgment. Sometimes for kicks, D and I would dance, with Rex and Pedro as our audience. Yep, they do not judge indeed.

I know that the time our dogs live is not as long as we would want them to, and though this makes me sad at times I shift my thoughts to what I am grateful for instead. Rex and Pedro are part of the family – all memories that D and I have about home almost always involve our dogs. Their loyalty and love for us have no limit, and we are fortunate and blessed to have them in our lives.

Kindness

Art by Nate Frizzell

“A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” — Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh

Is kindness innate or learned?

I notice how babies look at me with smiles on their faces – and no one asked them to do it, they just do. And instinctively, I smile back. When I was a child, way before I was taught about the Golden Rule, I remember treating my brother and the kids I played with in the same way I wanted to be treated.

As I grew older, I admit my kindness towards others became selective, and sadly there were times I put up walls to allow room for self preservation. Until a life-changing event a couple of years ago, when my eyes were opened to the more important things in life, did I consciously try to re-learn what kindness is all about.

Do an act of kindness to a stranger daily.

  • This is my new mantra. At first it was a bit overkill, as I defaulted to associate kindness with financial charity. I eventually learned that kindness does not have to cost a thing. It can be as simple as opening the door for someone, or cleaning as I go (when I am in a restaurant or ina cinema) or accepting a brochure or product samples being handed out by a store employee and listening to what they have to say.
  • Now, on a scale of 1 to 10, my kindness level is still at a 6. There are still times I steer myself back to remembering (and standing by) my mantra whenever I slide back to moments of impatience and entitlement. Sometimes in the middle of thoughts of snapping back at someone, I would summon all my will power to breathe and count to ten. Well, it’s a start. Hopefully I will stick to the path I envision to be.

    How do you practice kindness everyday?

    Reflections: Purpose and Legacy

    What do you want to be remembered for?

    If we met a few years ago and you ask me what my measure of personal success is, I would have said things like reaching a certain point in my career, conquering travel destinations in my bucketlist, being financially independent, and other similar ‘wins’. Thanks to a turning point in my life, I have since then redefined what matters most – like what is my purpose and what would be my legacy.Footprints

    My purpose is something I have not yet fully discovered. As for what I would want to be remembered for, it’s something I try to do every single day. I would like be the person that, one way or another, made a positive impact and made a difference to the world and to someone’s life.

    For this blog I asked some of my loved ones what they would want to be remembered for. My parents answered me without hesitation. Some of my friends would take a minute or two to reflect and process their thoughts. Here’s what I gathered:

    “I would like people to remember my smiles and laughter, and that I brought them happiness.” – Dad

    “I want to be remembered for being silently resourceful in providing to my family’s needs, and someone who is always grateful to God.” – Mom

    “For having a big heart.” – D

    “For helping Mother Earth and voiceless, even in my own little way.” – my sister

    “Someone who listens and is compassionate.” – R

    “That I cared for the people who matters to me.” – I

    “I want to be remembered for being a person – be as a daughter, sister, friend, mom and wife, who would go out of my way to help and do the right thing for my loved ones even when I don’t get acknowledged for it.” – K

    “I want to be remembered for the love and care I give to my family, for being a good daughter, sister, and FurMom.” – O

    “Someone who brought out the best in others.” – M

    In the end, everyone wants to be remembered not for what they have, but for what they made others feel.

    How about you? What do you want to be remembered for?

    Bicol Beaches, in a Heartbeat

    Roadtrip

    “If you were taking a road trip tomorrow, where would you go?”

    I came across this question in my A Sentence A Day diary that a good friend gave me for my birthday a couple of years ago. The diary has different questions I get to respond to with a one-liner, and these questions repeat on the same date for three years. Reading through my answers for the previous year, not only do I get to appreciate how time flies, but more importantly I get to reflect how my thoughts and feelings evolve and change on these different points in time.

    Today’s question is different: after writing my response, I took read through my entry for last year and realized my thoughts remained the same. In a heartbeat I wrote beaches in Bicol, Luzon’s southernmost province. I’ve only been to Bicol once, when D and I spent a weekend exploring the surrounding areas of the majestic (and notoriously shy) Mayon Volcano. Because we were there for only a couple of days, we were not able to go to the beautiful beaches nearby.

    First on my list (which I wrote this same day last year) is Caramoan Islands. It’s an isolated, and undeveloped rugged paradise composed of a cluster of islands in Bicol’s Camarines Sur. Tourists of Caramoan compare this beautiful place with El Nido in Palawan.

    This year, I’ve written down Calaguas Islands as my road trip dream destination. It’s about 325 kilometers (one way) drive from Manila to the province of Camarines Norte in Bicol. Some dub this group of islands as “the next Boracay” because of its fine white sand.

    Same thoughts for the same question, for two years in a row. I’m still trying to convince D to drive to any of these destinations – he said not this summer as the beaches are already packed (The heat is ON!), and he said I might want to consider flying to Bicol instead.

    However which way, I intend to go to Bicol, to either (or both) Caramoan or Calaguas. Definitely this year, first chance I get. I have faith. It’ll be awesome!

    boat
    an almost empty white sand beach

     

    Random Adventures

    Artwork

    “Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures.” — Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

    Two years ago, D and I decided to change the way we planned for our weekend activities.  In the spirit of spontaneity, we thought of writing down our ideas of a good way to spend a weekend, and add a twist of randomly selecting what to do in a sort of  ‘pick our adventure for the day’ kind of way. So I dug up a mason jar and cut out small pieces of paper. There I wrote fun activities we could think of, from quiet dinners and watching Netflix at home, to outdoor activities and those that will entail a couple of hours’ drive.

    Here are some examples of the things we wrote down:

    Some of the things we have done already, and most of the time the list gets longer. Recently I have segregated the activities by color so we can budget accordingly: activities that we can do indoors for free; indoors for a fee; outdoors for free; outdoors for a fee.

    It’s fun brainstorming these date ideas. In the process, I realize, that it does not matter what or where, how much or how long the activities are – what’s important is that D and I make the time to do them together, and make happy memories along the way, every day.

    Adventures
    Our adventure jar

    Life Lessons From Mom and Dad

    My folks

    “As your kids grow they may forget what you said, but won’t forget how you made them feel.” — Kevin Heath

    Back in the 80s, I grew up in a simple household – we were not well off but we were comfortable, close-knit and happy. Though our hard-working parents would have a long commute to work everyday, they made sure that everyone was together for dinner at night. It was during those family meals and weekends spent together that I would learn some of the lessons that I still practice to this day.

    Respect and Gratitude

    We started every meal with a prayer of thanks. Then we passed the food around and made sure everyone on the table was able to get their share. I was taught to show respect by getting only enough food that I could finish eating. I was reminded of the people who had nothing to eat, so I should not waste the blessings given to me.

    After meals, my siblings and I would take turns clearing the table and washing dishes. Dad would always remind us to turn off the faucet while we were scrubbing the plates so the water won’t continuously be flowing. Dad would always say that we have to play our part as water is not an infinite resource.

    Whenever we meet older relatives or family friends, we would do the “mano”, a Filipino gesture of respect where the younger person bows and takes the older person’s hand and puts it on their forehead – a sign of seeking for one’s blessing. Also, when we speak to people older than us we would use the words “opo”, which means “yes, with respect”, and “po” in every sentence as we talk to them. ‘Po’is a term for respect.

    Building Relationships

    At a young age, our folks brought us to their fellowship communities. There we attended Catechism with other kids, and because kids are easy to make friends, we were able to build friendships from this group. We would look forward to seeing our friends on weekends for fun and games. We also learned to share with the children in the community – from harvested fruits to books for school.

    Be Resourceful

    Mom and Dad did not spoil us. There were times we wanted some toys so bad but we either had to wait for Christmas for Santa to give them (that means being good throughout the year); save up for it; or make our own.

    I had a childhood friend and we loved playing doctor. I created my own ‘medical supplies’ with a stick thermometer, a plastic bag filled with water and tied with a string as a pretend dextrose, and a headmirror made of paper.

    Or when my brother and I played we would make our own memory cards; or make small towns on the garden using popsicle sticks and lego. I remember being extra careful so that the miniature town would be perfect in case some smurfs pass by – so they can make themselves comfortable.

    For one of my birthdays mom gave me a big piggy bank. At the time, I put in only 2 peso coins there. When it was full, mom and I excitedly counted all the 2 peso coins I saved and I got a total of a little over 500 pesos back then. Afterwards, mom brought me to the bank where I opened my first savings account.

    Use My Imagination

    This was my favorite way of spending idle time. My parents equipped us with informational books – about the universe, birds, countries – and I remember my brother and I would go through all the books and play a game reciting as much as we can later on. When we play the badminton we would name a bird or a country with every strike on the shuttercock – no repeaters or else one loses the game.

    We would look at the clouds and describe what we see. One night while playing hide and seek I looked up to the moon and saw a shadow of a witch on a broomstick. I panicked and called out to my playmates to quit the game and go home, or else the witch would get us. I must have looked silly back then but mom indulged me and said I was right, and it was a good idea indeed to call it a day.

    What were the best things you learned from your younger years?

    One’s formative years is usually during early childhood – up until 8 years old. This is a critical period where a person develops body, mind, emotions and social skills.

    Looking back, I remember I did not understand some of the things my folks taught me to do, and at times I wondered what the fuss was all about. As I got older I began to appreciate those little things that molded me to the person I am now.

    My Love for Elephants

    I have always loved animals, and if you were to ask me what wild animal is closest to my heart, my first answer would be the Elephant. I see them often on TV, from Dumbo when I was a child, to Animal Planet as I got older. I faintly remember a trip to Manila Zoo when I was young, and seeing an elephant in the flesh for the first and only time. Decades later, during my first ever volunteering night with an animal welfare NGO, I would be sending letters to government officials and influential people to seek their support in setting Mali, the same lone elderly elephant that I have met decades ago in Manila Zoo, free. So she may live the rest of her days comfortably.

    Elephants are the largest land mammals that currently roam the earth. There are 2 species – the African elephant, and like Mali – the Asian elephant. African elephants, whose ears are wider and floppy and resemble the African continent, are larger than the Asian elephants, who have round ears.

    Elephants use their tusks to lift, dig for food and water, and strip out tree barks. They use their long, versatile trunks to smell, caress their young, drink, and hold objects. Baby elephants use their trunks to hold on to their moms’ tails. Did you know that young elephants hide in the shadow of their moms so their skin won’t get burned by the sun?

    There’s also something about the eyes of these magnificent creatures – so tender, almost shy, innocent, and somehow sad. The first time I noticed this was when I was in Bangkok and there was a baby elephant being paraded by a man – he adorned the baby elephant with colors and a costume – yet I felt for the baby – it was confused of the city chaos happening around it, and it did not belong there. It belonged with its mom, in an herd.

    Elephants are herd animals, where their matriarch is the oldest and strongest female. There are lots of videos in YouTube showing the herds protecting one another, especially the young.

    I came across the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust page in 2015 and read stories about the elephant orphans. They were left behind because their mothers were killed by poachers or during human-wildlife conflict, or they fell in wells and their herds had no choice but to leave them behind. Some orphan stories really tugged my heart, and then and there I adopted them to support the conservation and rescue efforts of DSWT.

    My first adopted orphan was Roi. She was seen with her mom, alive and healthy, by a safari tourist. The next day, when the tourist came back to the same spot, they found Roi confused at the side of her dying mom. Though her herd later on whisked little Roi away, there was no other lactating elephant who could give her sufficient milk, as moms can only provide milk to one calf at a time. Roi, was later on rescued by DSWT where she was given the milk and love she needed. Now, Roi is happily integrated with the rest of her new herd, and is seen most of the time next to her bestfriend, Tusuja, another orphan elephant.

    Suffice to say, Kenya is my ultimate dream destination. I hope one day to be able to visit the sanctuary and see the babies up close. For now, I do what I can to support the cause for conservation and rescue. I am writing this to spread the word and hopefully increase awareness and appreciation for the elephants. And hopefully we can serve as the voice of these peace-loving animals.

    DIY Wonders

    Yarns

    When I took some time off from work, my eyes were opened to the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) world – its endless possibilities, the therapeutic feeling I experience working on my crafts, and the sense of fulfillment from completing projects. I get to hand pick the materials I work with, adding a unique touch.

    With DIYs, my concept of giving gifts likewise changed, and since then I’ve personalized my gifts – it warms the heart being able to share these labors of love to the people who mean the world to me.

    Apps like YouTube, Pintest, and DIY bloggers who I follow at WordPress are my regular go-tos for new ideas, tips and guidance.

    So far, these are the crafts that I’ve quite enjoyed:

    • Crochet – my first DIY project. I learned this back in grade school, and have rekindled my affiliation with it in 2017.
    • Beads – I’m a newbie at this, and my projects are just the simple bracelets. I sure am having a blast looking for the beads and parts that fit designs I have in mind.
    • Perfume Making – I attended class for this, and it was worth the investment. It involves a bit of math, but it’s so easy to make perfumes! I can make a lot with every batch of materials. D is an avid user of my ‘products’.
    • Essential Oils – I use these as recipes for lots of wellness products (more blogs to follow).Perfume making

    Lately I’ve discovered some friends and family who are also into DIYs, and I get pumped when they share successful projects they finish. I think there’s an instant bond when we talk about our crafts. I’m inspired to learn other types of DIYs like woodwork, calligraphy, and pastry-making.

    Do you have a favorite DIY project? What personalized gifts are you known for?

     

     

     

    Vivid Dreams

    Do you have a dream that you remember until now? Have you ever dreamt, and in that dream you thought it was real?

    I have. Multiple dreams that I remember until now, and multiple times I thought, while in the dream, that they were all real.

    From my childhood, the dream that I remember most was more of a nightmare, really. I dreamt that I was in Dracula’s castle, along with other children, and we were lined up so to be bitten. In that dream, the girl in the line before me was a young version of Lea Salonga (it was in the 80s, after all). And she was singing I Am But A Small Voice, hoping to be spared by Dracula. Morbid, right? I woke up with a fright, and then quickly followed by relief that it was just a dream. Lo and behold, from a distance, the radio was playing Lea Salonga’s song.

    Fast forward to the last decade, a dream that I’ve consistently been having a few years ago was losing all my front teeth, where they fall off one by one. In those instances I thought they were real, and I’d go through the denial-anger-sadness-acceptance phase. And then, again, a feeling of relief when I wake up, knowing it was just a dream.

    As for “feel good” dreams, one I can remember is about my Lola, a few weeks after she passed away. In that dream, she was on stage, wearing a white dress. She was performing a dance, and she beamed to the audience as she gave a bow. I felt a deep sense of happiness in that dream. I knew, when I woke up, that she was in heaven, looking down at me.

    Another dream I had just a few weeks ago was I was in a car en route to my hometown, when I looked to the right to where the La Mesa Dam was supposed to be, and instead I saw a very beautiful garden with a lake. It was glowing and very colorful, with lots of flowers and cherry blossom trees, and birds flying about. The person I was in the car with said I was looking at heaven. At that moment I felt a comfort in my heart, as it hit ne that I didn’t have to look far for heaven. It was just very close to home.

    An Attempt at Acting

    I’ve been meaning to get back into acting workshops, but since I have just started work I’m still in the “settling in” phase. The first time I took a class was summer of 2018, and it was quite an interesting experience. I came to appreciate that acting entails a lot of preparation – from knowing your lines and being able to use them in different tones and ways, depending on the direction for that scene, to most importantly being able to establish a connection with the fellow actors. This is done through listening. At first I thought, listening meant being able to catch up on the script and knowing when my lines come in. But my acting mentors called me out on that wrong notion. When I did that, it showed I was waiting, and that I was just saying my lines – the connection wasn’t there at all. I wasn’t in the moment. I realized I had to listen to what, and how, my co-actor was saying, or not saying for that matter. When I listened, the subtle body language and nuances followed naturally.

    Another thing that I learned from class was that there was no room for being conscious as to how one would look on camera – I had to, in a sense, let go.

    There were times when, after a certain dialogue I’d be emotionally drained – and then we had to repeat that for a couple more times, and I remember I had a migraine after that scene because of the repeated rush of emotions. But no pain, no gain, right? I was glad to have gone through that exercise.

    Another perk that I had from my acting workshops was being able to establish friendships with people who I shared the same passion with. It’s cool that the appreciation for this form of art comes from different ages and personality types.

    So, my plan for this year is to enroll in theater acting workshops. I bet it’s gonna be a different ball game, but I’m up for the experience and the learnings. And while I wait for the sessions to start, I’ve lined up some plays and shows that I will watch.

    First on my list: Potted Potter this March. Watch out for my review of this show!

    Sustainable Living: Recycled Plant Pots

    composting

    I’m all about planting our own crops in our backyard. It’s fun, therapeutic, fulfilling, and also promotes well-being for my family. More importantly, it is our way of helping save the planet.

    Since we have started planting more herbs and vegetables in our backyard, we resorted to using recycled containers so that we could be able to organize the plants in a more space-efficient way. Recycled plant potRecycled

    One thing I love about our community is that neighbors support one another by sharing seeds, compost, seedlings, and even recycled containers for pots. I have also recently became a regular customer at Starbucks because they support backyard farming through sharing of their coffee grounds and empty milk gallons that we use at home as herb pots.

    Lastly I want to share with you this wonderful find from the roadsides of Luisiana, Laguna. This box is handwoven and made of coconut leaves. It was used to wrap three pieces of bibingka that we bought for snacks on our way back to Manila. These plastic-free boxes are so simple and innovative, and they last long. I intend to use them as pots for my next batch of basils and mint.

    Handwoven

    My Lola

    Lola

    In celebration of International Women’s Day today, I remember my grandmother, Lola Cion – whom I had always looked up to from as far back as I could remember.

    Lola, the Filipino word for grandma, had been my role model on independence, confidence, and perseverance. Though she was born into a wealthy family, at the time, women were treated secondary to men, and education after high school was not a priority. Lola and her sisters were some of the few who pursued their college degrees, and it was this time when she met my lolo, whom she would marry at the age of 19 against the wishes of her parents.

    When lolo died at a young age, Lola strived to be able to provide for her children. My aunt and mom would tell me stories of how they never saw my Lola break down at lolo’s funeral. She would always wear the strong facade when she was with her young children, and there was only one time when my aunt saw Lola sobbing silently in the middle of the night. Through the years, Lola would raise her children the best way that she could, and she did this with integtity and grace.

    I, too, saw this strong composed front, when I was growing up. I hardly saw Lola cry, save for a few times (since family drama is inevitable) when she would hastily dab away tears. Lola was the one who brought the clan together, and I savor the memories of then regularly getting together with cousins, nephews and niece.

    Lola was my constant supporter. I fondly remember waking up to the classic Happy Birthday music she would loudly play on the mornings of my and my brother’s birthdays. I miss the way she smiled as she played on the piano. She encouraged me to mingle during parties, cheered for me at school when I danced, clapped for me when I would sing karaoke with my uncle during family gatherings. She was there when I was sick; gave some sense of wisdom to me when I had rifts with a family member; supported me through tough times at the university (thesis days); and she was one who was most proud of all my successes.

    My lola is now in heaven. And I tear up as I write this as I miss her so much. I am grateful for having her in my life, and I know she is watching over me every day.

    Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 8

    Bellpepper

    Today I will show you the very first fruit bearing tree that we planted in our yard: the calamansi. A little over a decade ago, D collected some calamansi seeds and planted them, carefully barricading the seedling that grew thereafter so that Rex, our labrador who was then a pup, wouldn’t destroy it. It has since then grown tall and strong, about two meters high. We trim it so that it will remain that way as it’s a bit harder to harvest the fruits if it’s taller – as the branches are filled with thorns. Other than its infrequent need for pruning, the tree is quite easy to maintain.

    Calamansi

    The calamansi is native citrus fruit widely used in the Philippines. It is small, green on the outside and yellow in the inside. On a hot day we would squeeze a bunch of fruits, add honey and water to make refreshing calamansi juice. It can also be used with soy sauce and chili pepper as condiments to dumplings and barbecued meat. For marinade, we use calamansi in the absence of lime or lemon. Of course, the skin of the fruit is added to our compost. Lastly, some people use the juice of calamansi as skin toner.

    Calamansi

    Chili Pepper

    Next is the chili pepper. Now this one we planted from collected seeds. It sprouted within 15 days and in less than a month we already saw it flowering. It is also a low maintenance plant. The picture below shows our first harvest from this shrub. We would add it with the calamansi and soy sauce as condiment.

    Bellpepper

    There you have it, fruit bearing trees from our backyard. 100 percent pesticide free.

    Watch out for the next parts of this series, coming soon (just waiting for my new seedlings to grow bigger).

    Random Thoughts: Happiness part 4

    Adenium

    And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, They danced by the light of the moon. — Edward Lear, The Owl and the Pussycat

    I was walking around the backyard and my attention was caught by the bright flowers of this plant. It prompted me to write once again about simple things that make me happy.Adenium

    Happiness, for me, is waking up next to D under the warmth of our blanket;

    It is hearing the sound of singing birds as they feast (and call on their pals) on the rice grains I have scattered on our yard;

    It is the smell of freshly cut lawn;

    Or filling my lungs with deep breaths as I make my way back up from trekking down to the falls;

    It is the smell and taste of popcorn, and the feeling after a good laugh and/or cry from watching a fantastic movie with my BFF;

    It is the delicious turn out of a new dish I’ve bravely created from scratch;

    The sound of clinking glasses in a get-together to send off a repatriating boss, who I also consider as a friend, as we cite good memories and well wishes;

    It is the excitement of plunging deep into the ocean to see the unspoilt corals and fish up close, the realization of being blessed with a chance to see a whole new world down below;

    And then, afterwards, being lulled to sleep by the soft waves rocking the boat;

    And lastly as we dock, waking up to the dramatically colorful sky as the sun begins to set.

    Thank you for reading. If you want to check out my first 3 blogs on what happiness is for me, you can click here for Part 1; or here for Part 2; and lastly here for part 3.

    🌸 Let me know what Happiness is for you! 🌸

    Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 7

    Onions

    Hello and welcome back to my sustainable living series!

    Today I will show you two plants that blossomed from our kitchen scraps: the onion and mint.

    Before I became a concerned citizen of the earth, I always thought that all plants came from seeds, therefore before they even grow, a load of effort is required from the ‘planter’. Imagine my delight when I found that the onion and mint that we set aside from our kitchen staples sprouted into seedlings.

    MintOnions

    The mint took about two weeks to start growing, while the onion took about ten days to propagate. We had to move the onion to out enclosed pot garden though, because one of the four hens started digging through it.

    The perks of having these two herbs home grown include saving on trips to the supermarket, and running into possibilities of not being able to consume all that we end up buying (hence waste). More importantly we are sure we are getting fresh and organic produce.