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A Wednesday night with friends and lovers (and pizza)

Tonight, our high school barkada (and plus-ones!) "surprised" our two birthday girls, Trixie and Mikka. I say that in quotation marks because (1) Mikka was actually informed and (2) Trixie received a text about it from Mikka. Haha! But the real shocker, I guess, is the fact that almost all of us got to go on such short notice. Considering our group's history of being such sucky planners, it really was a surprise to everyone that we made it, and on a weekday, no less. All for the love of our birthday girls!

It's funny though how closer we've all become after college. In the last four years we rarely saw each other, and didn't really go out of our ways to meet up. There was always some excuse: an exam the next day, cannot decide on a location convenient to everyone, no transpo. But now that almost everyone is working (only Trixie and I are still studying; she's in Ateneo Law while I stayed in Diliman) it was easier for all of us to plan dates in advance. No more homeworks or school calendars to worry about. It helped that almost everyone worked in the Makati area as well, with some in Pasay and Ortigas - all quite accessible. There's freedom to spend a bit more too, and take ourselves to fancier restaurants, without much guilt over remaining baon. Ah, adulthood!

We had dinner at Amici, in Ayala Triangle

But the real reason behind our closeness now lies deeper than just logistics. In the last few years we've gone through some really tough challenges, as individuals and as friends. We've had friends who migrated, we've helped a friend battle cancer; we've had misunderstandings and long stretches of silence; we've each had our own failures in life and love. When you get to a point of complete and utter disillusionment, it makes you seek the things you've always found comforting. And in our case, it's each other's company. We like to tease each other that we're such a "boring" group - we rarely drink, we don't go out of town, and we still think the best place to hang out is each other's bedroom (or Trixie's pool, haha). Our idea of entertainment is making fun of each other and exchanging funny anecdotes. But our "boring" friendship got us through all the hard times. It was our endless talking during sleepovers, over random phone calls, and in long Facebook message rants that made us feel that at the end of the day, we had each other to lean on to, no questions asked.

Because that the truth is, no one else can know you better than the girls you shared shower rooms with in PE, and the girls you ate lunch with everyday for more than ten years of your life.

Lately though, we've been really enjoying each other's company more because we've welcomed new people into the fray. By some weird cosmic alignment, almost everyone became attached. It started last year (also for a birthday celebration) when one of our friends pitched the idea of bringing a plus-one, in an attempt to make our "boring" date a bit more exciting. At that time only 2 girls in the group were in long-term relationships (and whose significant others we've already hung out with). Fate was kind on all of us that time, I think, because we were all dating someone when the invite was sent. That night was such a riot; I don't remember having that much fun in quite a while. Everyone just got along so, so well. After that dinner, the plus-ones quickly became friends (and official boyfriends!), and suddenly it was impossible to plan anything barkada-related without including the "Boyband." :))

It's a nice new chapter to be in, after having stepped towards this direction - it's great to be surrounded with the people you love, and the people who love them. 

Left to right: Jumar, Mikka, Kaila, Tom, Jen, Nica, Hope, Tin, Joa, Trixie, me, Ludwin. (Whew!)

The truth is I've come to accept that life will always be surprising, both in good ways and bad. I think we've all grown up enough to understand that things are never constant: people come and go, feelings ebb and flow. But while there's no certainty to what the future may bring, at least the past and this present has made me believe that there are still people worth holding on to, people worth sharing all kinds of adventures with, "boring" or otherwise. 

After all, if there's one thing I've learned in high school, it's this: the most fun part of the field trip isn't the destination, but the bus ride going there. And the crazy people who sit beside you.


P.S. We missed you, Kassey and Inna!



On faith

<br /> Even for someone who has lived her whole life as a Catholic, who was born and raised in families that are traditional and conservative, who went to an all-girls convent school for twelve years, and who resides in a town steeped in culture and tradition, it took me about twenty years to have a full grasp and appreciation of my faith.<br /> <br /> I guess it's a journey we all take, some just sooner or more intense than others. I wish I could say mine started when I went to UP, but it started way before. Even in high school, I've had my doubts and I've had my questions. But it was never about God, per se, and His existence. It was always about the Church and its people. From what I saw in the news to what happens in our parish, I could see the great discrepancies between what was taught and what was practiced. Injustice and hatred is everywhere. Anger and discrimination is being disguised as "love of God."  It was always an issue of reconciliation for me - how to put together the idea that love is present when minds and hearts are closed.<br /> <br /> I didn't stop going to church every Sunday. But I guess a part of me "disconnected" from praying. I said my prayers but I didn't know if I still believed them. The nuns in our school always taught us that the Church was the bride of Jesus - and if I found myself no longer believing in the Church, then it meant I no longer had faith in Christ. It was the reasoning that made sense at the time. So I guess for the most part of my teenage years I was actually an invisible churchgoer. I went, out of obligation and not of complete belief.<br /> <br /> But it had to take a complete emotional breakdown, a tearing apart of everything I believed in, before I knew what it truly meant to get on your knees and pray. And this didn't happen in an instant, it was not a single event that turned everything around. It was an entire year of failure, defeat, and heartbreak. It seemed like a continuous stream of challenges that made me lose faith in the world, in love, and even in myself, which was the only thing I had left at that point.<br /> <br /> I lost a lot of things. I got lost. But in losing, there is also finding. When you lose something, in your search for it you end up finding something else. For me, it was my faith.<br /> <br /> I've learned that faith is best learned alone. It is not always instinctive; it is taught, it is grasped - by you. Whatever you hear from your parents or in class or in the homily is not faith - it's religion. In my opinion, both things can be learned. But only faith is something you have to understand for yourself. Religion is reading the manual; faith is driving the wheel.<br /> <br /> I don't think I've prayed more in my life than in the last year or so. And it wasn't only because I went through some really rough times. It was also because I realized how selfish I've been; how severely lacking in prayer my life was, that in "disconnecting" myself from prayer, it meant I didn't really pray for other people as well. It was then that I understood why the Church was an important part of my faith. Because despite of prayer being a solitary activity, a prayer is not meant just for the self. It is an offering of one's thoughts for the intention of other people as well.<br /> <br /> It helped that for the most part of the last year, I lived alone. It meant going to Church on my own, it meant spending time to reflect and pray by myself. It was during this time that I found myself needing God - not because I was already in such a bad shape - but because I found peace in finally choosing to surrender. In prayer, I admitted weakness. I admitted defeat. And it was an admission that was truly hard to accept, especially for someone like me who always wanted to find a way to win in the end. But in prayer, it was okay to be the failure. In prayer, you are allowed to be weak. Because it is in prayer that you will find the strength.<br /> <br /> *

Last week, I went to Visita Iglesia (arranged by my parents) in Batangas and Quezon. We visited 28 churches and completed two Stations of the Cross in three days. Almost each church was new to me, and thus, if you were to believe in tradition, "entitled" me to a wish.

I did make my wishes. I prayed for my mom and my dad; I prayed for my family; I prayed for my friends. And I prayed for myself - that I find the strength to keep believing, despite defeat.

It is in defeat that we find the most difficulty; but it is also in defeat that we find solace in prayer. The Church and I, we've had our rough times. I've always had my questions and my doubts. But never in the existence of God, never in His grace. He has always led me back to where I belonged - and for that I am always grateful. The journey of my faith has only just begun again. I don't think I've ever prayed more than I did in the last two years of my life. In my search for peace and fulfillment, I've learned that faith is surrender, and that faith is choosing to believe.

But faith is also learning. Faith is reading about your religion; faith is not merely uttering the words but knowing what they mean. It is a continuous journey of discovering: God, the Church, and the self.

Faith is trusting in His plan, but it is also bringing yourself to that plan - it is movement. It is kneeling down to pray and standing up to do something. It is knowing yourself and what it means to be in the dark, so that you can find your way back into the light.


On my bedside table: April, thus far

I've always believed that where we are most broken, we are also most accepting - of faith, of love, of healing. This week has been tough; tough enough to make me want to give up on things entirely. But for every part of me that wishes to walk away is also a bigger part that wants to finish what I have begun. I've been told to look at what I really want, and find strength in that. I have four months to figure the big questions out. But right now, what I really want is to just read, and write, and find comfort in books that embrace me and welcome me home.

Dealing with this (career-related) heartbreak the only way I know how: Going back to my roots and realizing what it means to find courage in the characters whose shoes we can wear, one page at the time.

Because there really is no better cure better than a book. Or rather, books.

1. "Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" by Robin Sloan

Status: Completed

When my boyfriend and I went out on a date after my last exam and he told me he wanted to buy a book for me, of course my eyes twinkled in anticipation - not only because this is will be my "reward" after having survived finals, but also because it's going to be a book, and books are always lovely and wonderful and perfect. But when I do shop for books, I don't usually have a title in mind, despite the presence of a wishlist somewhere in my Gmail drafts. I'm the old-fashioned book-buyer, I guess - I wait for the book to call out to me. (Or rather, I'm guilty of judging some books by the cover.) This was the one that drew me in that day.

Finished it in just a few days, thanks no less to the sudden presence of free time in my life. The story, I kept telling Ludwin, was kind of fitting for me, because it dealt with the question of books and technology existing in our culture. For someone who still loves the smell of actual books yet devours online media on a daily basis, are the two mutually exclusive? It's quite a modern adventure, involving a centuries-old secret society that valued the written word and the important, almost-inescapable omniscience of Google. This is actually the kind of thrilling mystery our generation of slightly-indifferent-but-easily-excited kids need and want. The handling of the mystery was not at all bad, considering that any book containing some secret 500-year-old brotherhood is bound to teeter on some cheesy Dan Brown territory. But thankfully, it did not. The characters could've been more fleshed out but then again, the bigger protagonist of the story isn't the people, but the book itself: how it lives, how it persists, and how it still matters, despite modern technology telling us otherwise.

2. "Noughties" by Ben Masters

Status: In Progress

I grabbed this book over the Christmas break but didn't get around to finishing it because [1] I was busy writing digests for Civil Procedure and [2] I ended up finishing the other book I bought along with this one, the guilty-pleasure read "Crazy Rich Asians" by Kevin Kwan (which I should stop apologizing for, really).

This has all the elements of a soon-to-be-favorite: It's got a witty, idealistic English major at the middle of the story. "Noughties" sets out to encapsulate the sometimes-exciting, often-exhausting life of every impressionable young adult in college. Having gone to college during the latter part of that decade, I've been curious as to how much (or how little) I can identify with its characters, but so far, I'm enjoying every bit of beer banter and colloquial cynicism this book has to offer. Written in a way that resonates with the style I really identify with, this book is exactly the kind of prose I wanted to come up with for my fiction classes. Hopefully the style sustains the tension. And hopefully, it pushes me to write something again, given how close it's hitting home.

3. "Sexus" by Henry Miller

Status: In Progress

This has been on my shelf for almost three years now, but only saw it again the other day after fixing my shelves. I do have a tendency of buying books and leaving it out to read for later - and now that I needed to take my mind off (a lot) of things, it seems like the perfect time to immerse myself in some Henry Miller. I'm no stranger to his prose, but I just can't consider myself a Miller fan until I sink my teeth into this one.

It's about time I completed The Rosy Crucifixion. Consider that a priority on my 4-Month-Summer To-Do List.

4. "The Ultimates" by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch (The Avengers, published by Marvel)

Status: About to start

I've been slowly making my foray into comics and graphic novels in the past year, and with my limited knowledge of the Marvel Universe thus far, as well as the recent movies produced by the Disney/Marvel powerhouse, I was led here. So far, I've read mostly Season One comics, and while I'm unsure if that's the best place to start for most characters, it's good enough for me to get through adequate back story and sufficient fleshing out of characters.

Since watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier with Ludwin, I've gone on a comic-hoarding frenzy, downloading every bit of Avengers, Iron Man and Captain America essential series I can find (with the exception of "Iron Man: Extremis" which I've already read a few months back). The search, aka Google, led me to this, which is said to be a more current retelling of the super group's dynamic - best for fans who are familiar to the characters mostly because of the recent movie franchises. From the looks of it, it won't be taking me long to immerse myself into this world and finish this thing - which is great, since I have 3-GB worth of (mostly Marvel) comics in my hard drive just waiting to be enjoyed.


As you may have noticed, they are vastly different from each other, and that's not without purpose. They say the best way to forget one's troubles is to drench yourself into other people's troubles - and what better way to do that than to start reading different books? There is nothing like comfort from family and friends, but there is relief to be found between words and chapters as well - relief that there is life within the pages, that there is life outside yours.

"After that, the book will fade, the way all books fade in your mind. But I hope you will remember this:

A man walking fast down a dark lonely street. Quick steps and hard breathing, all wonder and need. A bell above a door and the tinkle it makes. A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time."

- from "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" by Robin Sloan



In which I reunite with my books

“Perhaps the human soul needs excursions, and must not be denied them. But the point of an excursion is that you come home again."

- from Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence

More than anything in the world, I missed the freedom to pick up any book I want and read them without worry -- one by one, or all at once; in small doses, or in periods still unbound.

Hello, bookshelves, come give me a hug.


How I Met The Mother (aka My own goodbye to the show)

I've yet to watch the finale, but before everything is finally revealed - here, consider this my own tribute.

That was taken last October, when I celebrated my birthday at home with some high school friends over the semester break. I played it for my two friends, Hope and Tin, who were huge fans of the show as well. Hope recorded the entire song, but because of Instagram's 15-second limit, it had to be cut up a bit. Oh well, I'd like to believe the essence of the entire theme was there in that clip anyway (aka, it's still recognizable!)

This show has certainly been a rollercoaster ride. It's made me sad and happy for many things, for reasons within the world it has created, and for reasons that go beyond the 20-minute mark for each episode. It has been, in many ways, the encapsulation of a truly great friend - someone to be with you for the good times and the bad. Each episode is the equivalent of hanging out with a friend and a bottle of beer - it's easy, it's natural, but it's not always senseless. With each swig, a story is told, a laugh is shared. This show has taught me the importance of always valuing each story and each moment - because isn't that what we can all take away from this? The fact that everything leads up to something bigger, the fact that it all makes up a part of a greater picture?

At the end of the day, How I Met Your Mother has made me believe in love - all kinds of it. The kind you have for your self, the kind of fondness that grows for the people you choose to consider your family, the kind of love for the unknown and the uncertain. The kind of love that's grand, and unexpected. The love that makes sense, and the love that doesn't.

For many people, HIMYM probably doesn't make sense anymore. It doesn't make sense sometimes to me either. Truth be told, I'm scared about the finale (and I have a lot of ranting to do if it goes the way I fear it would). But however the ending goes, here's my takeaway from the entire series: The stories we're now living - we've yet to find out how they play in the greater scheme of things. And we'll never know. But the hope that one day we will be able to figure it out, the hope that one day we'll appreciate every little bit for what it was -- that's the dream.

Thanks, How I Met Your Mother. Adios, muchachos!



To say that I hated the Finale would be such an understatement. But I'm still too insulted over what happened, I don't think I can write about it objectively, without being so incoherent and angry. I'd have to reserve putting down my thoughts and feelings on paper for some other time - but I definitely have something to say about this. #veryaffected