Vitality London 10,000: Today Is The Day

Monday, 11 June 2018

The 28th of May was the day I decided to finally join an official race again after my challenging Winter Run in February 2015. I was basically inspired when I joined hundreds of runners in London to #FinishForMatt in April. That experience was strangely uplifting because I found myself amidst passionate runners who came together that day to pay tribute to a man most of us never knew. It was then I realised that I could actually join a race on my own and that it will be okay. So without any second thoughts, I registered for the Vitality 10,000 a few days later.

I chose the Vitality 10,000 to be my first official race in 2018 because I am a Vitality member and the event was where I normally run so it was convenient for me.

I left our flat 30 minutes before the start time thinking that it was only about 10 minutes walk, only to be told that my normal route was closed and that I had to walk all the way to Green Park via Piccadilly Road. With a hint of panic, I ran to the venue so I could make it on time (although I really hate warming up before a race). I got there just as runners were making way to their respective start zones.

We set off just after 1030 am. I was feeling excited as this was another thing that I've never done before (to join a race alone). I decided to listen to Keith's playlist as I have not listened to it in a while. I started strong I thought, but I felt a bit weird just after 1km. I was breathing heavily and felt that I was pushing myself too hard, and I just started. I know it is now a cliche for you, but Lighters came on and I was reminded of the boy who inspired me to run in the first place. So, I took one deep breath and reminded myself that I could do it. I felt better after a few minutes of much needed self-reassurance. Then I saw a kid reaching out for a high-five so I gave him one. And then the bands came on and that was it. I was definitely back on track. 

I did few more high fives with children throughout the race, and some of the bands almost got me into dancing because of their lively music. There were loads of people cheering- one thing that I love about London races. The London crowd is the best for me, although I've only done four other races outside LondonParis to Versailles, The HagueCardiff and Bristol).

5km seemed too far that day for some reason, but I was running at a steady pace. I later found out that I reached km 5 just under 30 minutes, so it was good. I felt even more energised when I heard some classical music from the West End Musical Choir. It was beautiful. Some parts of the City were quiet though. Luckily, I could hear some music from a distance, so that kept me entertained whilst I tried to convince myself to run a bit faster so I could finish in under an hour. Once I hit the 7km mark and heard loud cheers, I was more motivated to reach for my goal. And with Beyonce's "Crazy In Love" in the background, I was really up for it.

I didn't pay much attention to the landmarks to be honest. I was more interested in reading placards. Some people make up really funny "words of motivation" like "you look sexy when you sweat". Running becomes easier for me when I see things that make me giggle. :)

I was distracted for a while, so when I realised I have reached Trafalgar Square, I knew I was nearly home. With only so little energy left because of the hot weather, I smiled at every spectator who cheered me on and said thank you to them. The last 500m has always been the toughest for me mentally. It's just basically the thought of getting too close to the finish line, and yet it feels so far. But as always, the cheers became louder as I approached the finish line, which gave me the last push to hopefully finish on time. 

And I did. I finished in 59 minutes 6 seconds!

It really felt so good to be back on the race. Overall, it was a good. The route wasn't too bad. It was flat and we passed by some of London's landmarks such as the Nelson's Column, St Paul's Cathedral, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and the Westminster Abbey. There were water stations at 3km and at 6km. There were also some toilets available. I really liked that the staff actually "awarded" the medals instead of just handing it to the runners. That was really nice. The goodies were okay, too (race t-shirt, bottled water and some protein bar). So yes, I enjoyed my first solo run. :)

I was happy to receive a new medal because somehow I have lost my previous medals. It's a shame really because I worked hard for those medals but never mind. It is never too late to start over again.

I was also happy to get a glimpse of Sir Mo Farah during the event. I am glad he won the race.  Also, I learned a few things during the event which inspired me to do more races, and do more in life as a whole.

And here's some motivation for you and me...


Six Things I Have Learned In April

Friday, 18 May 2018

It's amazing how three weeks ago can feel like a very distant past, especially when good memories are quickly overshadowed by rather disappointing situations. Anyway, life goes on so here I am again, reflecting on the things that I have learned in April. But this time, I am writing more about what I've learned in Madrid when I went there last month. So, here goes...

1. The ability to take a selfie is a necessity when you're a solo-traveller
- I was never a fan of selfies because 1) although I love myself so much, I don't love me that way (if you know what I mean) 2)my eyes look weird when I am doing selfies because of my wrinkles, and 3) I couldn't find my best angle. But not having my human tripod with me majority of the time when I was in Madrid compelled me to learn how to take shameless selfies. Now, I can call myself a selfie-expert and I will never have a problem taking photos of myself again. Lol. 

2.  Travelling alone is good for the soul
- I wasn't technically alone during this trip but because J was at a conference for the whole five days, I was left to explore the city by myself. Everyday, I visited places on foot. This experience allowed me to connect more with myself and be more mindful of the things around me. Wandering around a seemingly different, but not unfamiliar city gave me the courage to get lost and face my fears of strangers (and silly things like eating alone). It provided me plenty of time to clear my mind and reassess my life- two things that I felt I desperately needed because since January, I have been pre-occupied with work and other people. For the first time since I came back from New Zealand, I stopped chasing time again. Although temporarily, it felt good to slow down for a little while.

3. Every little Spanish word helps
- I don't speak Spanish but luckily, some of the Filipino words we use are quite the same in Spanish. Of course, I made an effort to learn a bit more whilst I was there, but words as simple as mantequilla, tinidor, cuchara, la cuenta and resibo were very helpful. In fact, someone thought I genuinely spoke the language because I managed to ask for the bill in Spanish. :)

4. Memories of the past will guide your way
- I'm not going to deny that my two previous trips to Madrid was with an ex. It's strange because when I was in Madrid, I wasn't reminded of anything but the fact that I have been to Madrid twice before- and I say this with complete honesty. The place was familiar, but the memories were nothing but a blur. But as blurry as the memories were, it helped me find my way through the city. 

4. Eating alone is therapeutic
- In New Zealand, I learned how to eat alone but I haven't done that since I came back to London. In Madrid, I ate alone everyday for five days and it was one of the most liberating things I've ever done. I felt very confident going in a restaurant asking for a table for one, then demanding where I would like to be seated. I took my time in perusing the menu because I had plenty of time and I didn't have to think about anyone else. I ate at my own pace and looked at my food the way I never looked at it before. I took shameless food photos like a food blogger. I eavesdropped on conversations of other diners around me. I people watched. I ate every single food that I wanted to try and went to every single restaurant on my list. Eating alone gave me the freedom to explore my relationship with food (and myself) deeper. There is really no shame in eating alone, only soaring pride. :)

5. People in the software industry are some of the coolest people
- On our second night in Madrid, I found myself amidst men who talked about a rendering application which I knew nothing about. J was the only person I knew there and I was the only one who didn't work in the software industry but I didn't feel like an outsider. Everyone talked to me and showed genuine interest in me. I got to exchange jokes with one of the most important people in J's company. The event organiser from Canada approached me and thanked me for being there with J when in fact, I should be thanking them for inviting me. Everyone seemed to be genuinely nice, unpretentious and simply cool. Most importantly, they were consistently prim and proper even when intoxicated. :)

6. I have special connection with babies
- One of J's colleagues brought his one year old son to Madrid. Every morning at breakfast, I saw the baby and played with him a little. The mom then told me that the baby never paid attention to anyone the way he did to me. I made the baby smile and his eyes were on mine whenever I spoke to him. The mother even said that perhaps her baby saw something special in me that's why he liked me. I hope she was right. :)


On How Someone I Haven't Met Touched My Life

Sunday, 29 April 2018

One week ago today was the Virgin London Marathon which I missed because I was in Madrid. I am very thankful that my very good friend and her twin brothers successfully crossed the finish line but sadly, one of the runners collapsed at 22.5 miles (3.7 miles before the finish line) and died later in the hospital.

He happened to be my favourite chef, Matt Campbell.
Photo from Matt's Instagram Page

I don't know Matt personally. I only know him because he was my favourite to win at last year's Masterchef Professionals. To be honest, that series was the first Masterchef I watched from beginning to end. It was all because of Matt.

I fell in love at first sight with Matt's very creative dishes. There was a category in Masterchef wherein they had to create something personal to them or something to that effect. Matt created this sea bream dish inspired by his father and the Lake District. It was one of the most amazing dishes I've ever seen on television. Then there was his signature dish, the cod cheeks with spirulina, kale and kombucha. I must admit that I've never heard of spirulina and kombucha until Matt mentioned them on Masterchef. I loved him even more then because of his healthy approach to food. He also made this 100% raw cacao vegan dessert which I hoped to taste one day as I've never heard of this dessert before. He also used sheep sh*t to cook one of his dishes, I just can't remember which one. He was very innovative, interesting and a very talented chef indeed.

But most importantly, Matt appeared to be a wonderful man. He remained humble throughout the series, whether he impressed the judges or not. I followed him after Masterchef through his instagram page. He was full of life and doing all amazing things like doing residencies in different restaurants in England, turning junk food into astounding dishes, turning carrots to hotdogs and joining marathons. I was really looking forward to meeting him one day.I wish I took booking a table at Roux Parliament Square seriously when he had his residency there.

When I found out that Matt passed away, I was having a bad day at work. I accidentally opened MSN and there was the sad news. I couldn't believe it at first and hoped that it was a hoax. Unfortunately, it wasn't. I cried for two days- the first time I cried over the passing of someone I haven't met. He had that effect on me and I couldn't understand why. My friend who ran the marathon told me that perhaps, my spirit connected with his. And then I had a rethink. Perhaps it was my love for food, running and Lake District that connected me to him. But whatever it is, he touched my life in an inspiring and very special way.

To honour Matt, I ran the 3.7 miles that he sadly was unable to finish twice this weekend, just like I did when I lost my son, Keith. They were both very talented individuals. Keith with his art and music, and Matt with his cooking. Perhaps this is also the reason why Matt's death hit me quite hard because another talented and amazing person was taken away too soon.

So, yesterday was my first run this year. My first run in the rain. My first run in miles. My first run with a complete stranger. My first run listening to Keith's favourite songs since November. All to honour my favourite chef.

Then again this morning, I ran the 3.7 miles poignantly for the second time to #FINISHFORMATT with hundreds of runners in London and thousands around the world. The outpouring support from the running community is truly unbelievable. People are coming together and spreading love, kindness and only positive vibes all over the globe. I've never seen my Facebook feed flooded with such warmth and sincere thoughts. The stories shared on the Facebook page created for Matt are awe-inspiring. I am moved every time I read a story on how this unfortunate incident motivated people to run or walk their first 3.7 miles. This to me, is running community at its best and I am very proud and humbled to be a part of it. This has sparked a new hope in me that perhaps there is after all, goodness in humanity.

As of this writing, Matt's Fundraising Page has reached £304,563- 12182% more than his original target. Simply amazing.

And to Matt,  I may not have had the chance to meet you and at least eat one of your out of this world dishes, but you will always be my favourite chef. I promise I will learn how to cook one of your dishes in your memory. You will hold a special place in my foodie and running heart. Rest now, beautiful soul. Keep cooking amazing dishes in heaven and hopefully, you will get to meet my angel Keith one day in that beautiful place where you both now live.


My Experience As A Solo Traveller In Madrid

Sunday, 22 April 2018

I finally reunited with my travel buddy yesterday after five days of wandering around the Spanish capital on my own. First of all, I never thought that I could easily find my way in Madrid considering my ridiculously poor sense of direction. Well actually, my previous trips to Madrid probably helped, although I can only remember the places that I went to but not how to get there. Luckily, citymapper works in Madrid so it saved me (although not totally) from getting lost. So, on Monday morning after J and I stuffed ourselves with pastries and delicious cured meats, I geared up for my solo adventure.

My first stop was at The Almudena Cathedral, approximately 15-minute walk from Central Madrid and located just beside the Palacio Real de Madrid. It has become my tradition to visit at least a church when I travel. I chose Almudena because I saw photos of its ornate ceiling on instagram and I was intrigued. So, after giving my thanks to the Lord (yes I did), I looked up and was amazed by the geometrical artwork on the ceiling. The church is new and was only consecrated in 1993. I spent almost an hour inside the church admiring the ceiling, the golden altar, the pipe organ which was also stunning and the gothic-style columns. 
Cathedral de Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena
Calle Bailen 10, 28013 Madrid  Spain

I was getting lost in the beauty of the church when I realised it was time to move on. I made my way to Mercado San Miguel, a foodie haven where you can find just about anything you want to eat in Madrid- tapas, ham, cheese, pastries, baked goods, canned foods, etc. It was still closed when I got there so I went for a little walk around the area to keep warm as it was a bit chilly that day. The market opened at 10am and already, it was packed with locals and tourists alike. It was as I remembered it- busy and full of mouth-watering food and meticulously arranged fruits and vegetables. I decided not to eat there this time because I wanted to eat churros.

Less than 5-minute walk from Mercado San Miguel is the most famous and oldest (it opened in 1894) chocolate shop in Madrid- Chocolateria San Gines. When I arrived, there was already a long queue (it's open 24 hours) but it didn't take long before I was seated. They have a ticketing system which is very efficient in my opinion, and they mainly serve churros and chocolate. When my crispy-looking churros and perfectly thick chocolate came, I was in heaven. Definitely the most delicious churros I have ever tasted. The churros were crunchy and not oily, and the chocolate was deliciously sweet.
Chocolateria San Gines
Pasadizo San Gines, 5, 28013 Madrid Spain

Still in churros heaven, I walked back to our hotel for an afternoon nap. When I woke up, I hung out in the balcony and read my book until it was time to meet up with J. We went to dinner with his colleagues that evening.

The following day, I visited Templo de Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple. My memory of this place was a blur. I had no memory of how I got their last time, so I followed a group of school kids and that led me to a hill overlooking the city and the Almudena Cathedral. When I walked further up, the temple revealed itself to me. I enjoyed taking photos of the mirrored images, but what I was very pleased about was the fact that I learned how to do a proper selfie that day. :)
Templo de Debod
Paseo de Rosales, Madrid Spain

Happy that I learned a new skill, I passed by Plaza Mayor on my way to Calle Miguel Servet. Here's the story: I know that I may have missed the beautiful cherry blossoms in London (Regent's Park and St James's Park), and so I tried my luck in Madrid. I read somewhere that apparently, Calle Miguel Servet has a line of cherry blossoms. I walked almost half an hour away from central Madrid, through what I could only assume as the rougher part of the city. As the streets were getting quieter, I became more and more insecure. It dawned on me that I was the only tourist-looking person in the neighbourhood. Walking through that long stretched of very unfamiliar street, I feared that I could get mugged on broad daylight. I continued to walk anxiously until I finally saw the street that I was looking for. But I realised I was late. Perhaps, too late because all that greeted me was this:

No cherry blossoms sadly. I didn't bother to explore the area anymore so I went back to Plaza Mayor to have lunch. Now, in Plaza Mayor, it's always hard to identify which restaurant is a tourist trap or not. So, I consulted  and they recommended Cerveceria Eboli for their Galician-style octopus. I devoured my octopus al fresco while listening to a couple of performers playing "I did it my way" and people-watching at the same time. My day couldn't have been any better than that.
Cerveceria Eboli
Plaza Mayor 4, 28012 Madrid

On the third day, I decided to visit Retiro Park. I walked through Gran Via, apparently the street that never sleeps. It's one of the busiest streets in Madrid, filled with cinemas, cafes, bars, nightclubs, retail shops and theatres. After about 1.7km walk, I finally hit Puerta de Alcala.

Retiro Park's entrance is adjacent to Puerta de Alcala. A few metres away from the entrance is the lake where you can find the statue of Alfonso XII (King of Spain from 1874-1885). I was still hoping that somehow I would see some blossoms in the park but unfortunately didn't. I remembered the sculptured cypress trees in the park, so I went to look for that instead.
Retiro Park
Plaza de la Independencia, 7, 28001 Madrid

By this time, I thought I have explored Madrid enough to say that I have really experienced the city. I very much enjoyed walking through the tiny streets before the shops were opened. Surprisingly, Madrid has been quite chilly in the mornings even when the sun was up. I stopped at every tapas restaurant that looked appealing to me. In the end, I was overwhelmed by how much tapas and jamon were on offer that I decided to stick with my  own "list of restaurants to try in Madrid".

On my fourth day as a solo traveller wannabe, I was contemplating whether to go for another long walk or to lounge in the hotel balcony instead so I could finish my book. In the end, I thought I might as well take that 45 minute walk to pay respect to our Philippine National Hero- The Gat Jose Rizal.

So, off I went to Avenida de Filipinas to find the statue. The area was unsurprisingly quiet. In fact, I was the only tourist in the area at that time. And when I asked someone to take a photo of me with the statue, she gave me that "seriously?" look and a sarcastic chuckle. I didn't care as I know I probably won't see her again. Besides, she took my photo anyway so what have I got to lose, right?

After that very long walk, I decided to treat myself to one of the best paellas in Madrid (apparently)- Rosi La Loca Taberna. It was my second attempt to eat at the restaurant actually, and I wasn't disappointed. The guy who greeted me at the door spoke to me in Spanish despite telling him that "hablo poco Espanol". I kept hearing him say, "guapa and hermosa", while looking at me from head to toe. It was only when he asked me if I was alone (solo) in Madrid that I realised I was probably being chatted up. I confidently said I was with my husband but he was in a meeting so he couldn't join me for lunch. His face dropped then gave me the menu instead. Lol.

Anyway, their paella was indeed the best paella I've had in Spain so far. Not that I have been to many places in Spain but I had some in  Madrid already before and then in Barcelona and Toledo, but they were not as good. I would definitely recommend the restaurant to anyone who is looking for a good paella in Madrid.
Rosi La Loca Taberna
Calle Cadiz 4, 28012 Madrid

Before I went back to our hotel that afternoon, I dropped by Antigua Casa Talavera in Calle Isabel La Catolica, a store with a massive collection of handmade ceramic plates, saucers, bowls, cups, jars, tiles and a lot more. I had to ring the bell to be let in. The door was opened by the lovely owner who gave me a brief history of the store. Apparently, he and his wife are the fourth generation to take over the shop. Their products are handmade, from Toledo (not the city he said) and Talavera. At the bottom of some of the products are handwritten names of the family who created them. I was in awe. I wanted to buy one of the plates but I almost choked when I asked for the price. For a standard plate, it was £120 a piece. The owner then said that I had a good taste. I settled with that compliment because I couldn't afford the plate. Haha. I left the store with a £10 bowl (a small one) and a hope that one day, I will be able to go back and buy that beautifully crafted plate. :)

On Friday (my last day as a solo-traveller),I didn't have a plan as such because I thought I have already done everything that I wanted to do in Madrid. I still went for a walk in the morning though, and went back to Calle Mayor, another main road in Madrid. After which, I went back to the hotel to meet up with J and move our luggage to another hotel nearby. For lunch, I went to La Casa del Abuelo. The restaurant was recommended to me by J's boss. He said I must have the sizzling Gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp). Reviews were very good to be fair, but because I know how to cook garlic shrimp, I was expecting more. I was not that impressed to be honest. Not to say that I cook it better (perhaps I do), but the shrimps were swimming in butter. It was tasty but it was lacking something. Perhaps it would have been better if it was less buttery?
La Casa del Abuelo
Calle de la Victoria, 12, 28012 Madrid

My adventure as a solo-traveller ended with a bubble tea from a popular cafe in Gran Via called Wowble. It was nothing special but the bubbles were interesting as they popped inside my mouth. They were not the bubbles (or tapioca) I am used to really, but it was good enough to satisfy my cravings.

So, I guess it has been a successful solo travel for me. Maybe not quite a solo travel really as I am technically with J, but I am happy that I was able to explore Madrid on my own and made new memories with myself and then today, with J. I particularly enjoyed my morning leisurely walks. I might have had one too many tapas as I feel like I have gained at least 5 kilos in the last five days, but I am happy because I got to eat some really nice food.

I also learned a few lessons during those five days which I will be writing about separately in the next few days.


On How I Became A Popster

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Since Sarah Geronimo has occupied most of my mind and my time this weekend, I might as well write something about her and why I am a fan.

It was 2003 when I first heard of her. I went back to the Philippines for the first time after three years of living abroad. On our way home from the airport, my cousin played a song in the car and asked me to guess the singer. It was one of my favourite karaoke songs (although I sounded like a cockroach being strangled whenever I sang it)- To Love You More by Celine Dion. And because Celine Dion was my favourite at that time, I confidently said it was her. My cousin was quick to correct me and said it was Sarah Geronimo. I was like, "who"? Apparently, she won a singing contest the year before. I listened to the whole song and I couldn't believe that I was listening to a 14-year old. I fell in love with her voice instantly, and that's how I became a Popster.
Photo grabbed from

For me, it wasn't hard to love Sarah Geronimo because she is different from other female Filipino celebrities of her generation. She is innately talented. She always sings from the heart, and makes "birit" with a class. I used to love watching ASAP because of her. Unfortunately, I don't watch it anymore because I don't have TFC. Luckily, Popsters are everywhere on Instagram so I am very much updated with what's going on with the Popstar Royalty.

In fact, whilst I am writing this, I am watching snippets of her concert last night at the same time and I am in awe. She is incredible. How can she do all that? She is the most versatile female performer in the Philippines as far as I am concerned. She seems to never get tired. She consistently sings and dances with so much energy and still manages to maintain her vocals. I think she is getting better with age. 

Anwyay, I love Sarah G because of how she is off-cam. Based on what I have read about her, she is very humble, shy and kind. She is apparently very different on stage- almost like she is possessed whenever she performs. 

I mean,  Sarah is everything that I am looking for in an artist- a total performer with a heart! I am still hoping that one day, I will be able to watch her concert. :)


Five Lessons March Taught Me

Sunday, 8 April 2018

The beginning of March was rather uplifting. There were some positive feedback from work, and some quality time well spent with people who really matter to us. It was an overdue catch up with one of our favourite couples in London, so what was the better way to spend the day than good food, good laugh and some karaoke with a 3-year old girl? I live for days like that and I am glad that I have amazing people to share it with.

However, just like anything in this world, some good things never last. Towards the end of March, my effectivity as a ward manager was put to test. I reflected long and hard as to why would this happen just over two months into my role. I asked myself multiple times, "is it me?". When I was at a point where I was going to start doubting myself yet again, I heard a voice inside me confidently telling me that it is not my fault and it will never be my fault. It felt like waking up from a bad dream. Since that day, I was fully convinced that whatever happens, it is not my fault because I know I am trying my very best. To be completely honest and not to brag, I am doing a good job despite not having a direct management background. This, I say with strong conviction because it is true.:)

This is why everything that is happening at work right now is a learning curve. I believe that every success and every failure is an opportunity for us to be one step closer to where we want to be. Hence, these lessons:

1. Let your work speak for you
- In the workplace where there are people who are in constant pursuit of recognition, if I may say, in every little thing that they do, you want to be different and be that person who works quietly and let your work do the talking.  At the end of the day, it is not how much you have done, but it is how the work was done that matters. Your motivation to work harder and be the best among the rest should be the difference that you make to yourself, your craft and to other people, and not the constant affirmation you get from others every time you do a great job. Those things do not last forever. Instead, let your actions define you as a person and not the words  you hear from other people. 

2. Be proud, not of what you have achieved, but of what you have become because of what you have achieved
- I get it. People work very hard to be successful and that's okay. What isn't okay is when people let their success get to their heads. I have worked with people who "power-trip" because they think they are better than others. They start picking on other people, making them feel incompetent of their jobs. And this is simply because they know they are in a higher position than them. People become too focused on their achievements that they often forget the person they once were. In this world where everything is temporary- even success, people should always go back to where they've come from and view success as nothing but an instrument in finding the person that they truly are. Only then they can truly be proud of themselves and call themselves successful. 

3. The right people will stay
- And this applies to all aspects in life. Whilst I almost blamed myself for losing a good member of my team, I realised immediately that perhaps she wasn't meant to stay. I've always believed that the right people will stay no matter what the circumstances are. Where there are many challenges, the right people will stand by you and will walk through the journey with you. This is why I remain positive that things will get better in time, when I finally have all the right people around me.

4. People leave not because of the job, but because of people
- I know this very well because I left my previous job for the same reason. It is a disheartening fact, but no one can blame anyone for leaving work because of their colleagues. The truth is, we spend eight hours a day, five days a week of our precious time with people at work. That is more than what we actually spend with our loved-ones. Personally, I would like to spend my valuable eight hours with people that I get a long with. People I can share a laugh with. People who are kind and compassionate towards each other. People I can call my family outside my family. Life is too short to be spending it with people who judge you, undermine you and constantly try to make you feel bad about yourself. So, why stay?

5. Focus on what's important
- Sometimes it is very hard to determine what truly is important in our lives. It has been a constant battle for me in the last three months to resist sacrifising my life outside work in order to fulfil professional demands. I had to constantly remind myself of how I rose above those who made me feel less of the person than I am at my previous job- and that is the fact that I have a good life outside work. I used that as a weapon to defy all the negativity back then, and I will use that again so that I don't lose focus on what truly is important in my life.

Ha, these lessons reminded me of everything that I went through for the last five years. But life goes on because things can only get better.


On Acceptance, Forgiveness and Death

Saturday, 31 March 2018

I was expecting to see Kuya in bed- looking gaunt, weak and in pain. Instead, he was sat on the couch, chatting away-looking strong and far from that person I was told only has a few days (or a month at most) to live. He was sort of surprised to see me, whilst I was happy to see him healthier than I expected. We hugged like old friends. And as I closed my eyes, I emptied my mind and my heart for a second to allow all the emotions through, silently and wholeheartedly. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes as I let go of his tight embrace, but I knew he didn't need tears at the time. He then said,"O, paupuin niyo si Cristine". Ate asked him very politely to go back to his bed so I could sit on the sofa. That simple gesture evoked some good memories of when I used to regularly hang out in their flat in Bristol. Suffice to say that I remain grateful for this couple's generosity towards me back then.

After an hour of catching up and sharing our positively stressful life in London with his other visitors, our conversation somewhat turned deeper. Kuya spoke in an almost melancholy voice. As I listened to him though, I saw the same person I met over five years ago- eloquent, sharp and passionate. Whilst he used to consistently speak with strong conviction, that day, there was this sense of humility in his voice. That hour of honest conversation with him reminded me of three of the most important lessons that I have learned through the years:

1. Acceptance
- Sometime in 2014, I wrote that "acceptance is the key" in one of my blogs about letting go and moving on. This was validated by Kuya when he said that he needed to accept things the way they were before he could finally let go. His words still echo in my head, "acceptance talaga". He said it took him a long time to be able to do this which really surprised me. I have always known him to be feisty and I assumed that he could easily let things go. 

What I have learned (and still learning) from this life is that there are things that you cannot change no matter how hard you try. Stopping when you know you have done your best doesn't mean you are giving up. It only means that you have accepted the situation for what it is. Once you have done this, find it in your heart to let go, and believe that you can and will move on. Only then that you can truly be happy and free.

2. Forgiveness
- Kuya and I parted ways in a rather disheartening circumstance. What once was a very strong alliance became somewhat a painful separation. To be honest, all that has happened in the past no longer matter to me, but my visit to Kuya made me reflect on what happened then. Perhaps during that time, we cared too much for other people that we were both unsure what and who was really worth fighting for. I can only assume that on his part, he fought for the right reasons and for the right people.  Whilst on my part, well, I may have fought solely for the person who ended up hurting me, but then again, if it were not for that reason, I wouldn't be where I am now- in a place where every single battle is worth fighting for.

I don't know about you, but a person doesn't even have to ask for my forgiveness for me to forgive them. That's why when Kuya asked for forgiveness that afternoon, I knew in my heart and in my mind that there was nothing to forgive, only bridges to rebuild. 

3. Death
- As morbid as it is to talk about, death is a reality we all have to accept. I can't remember witnessing anyone I personally know openly talk about death, but Kuya did exactly that that afternoon. He bravely said that he is not afraid to die. This left me speechless, but I admired his strength. It seemed like he has accepted his fate and is ready to be with his Creator (from the words he confidently uttered). But not yet. I would like to believe that four weeks can be many more weeks, as examining him, he looked physically and mentally able to make it a little bit further. And I am claiming it.

Looking back on that afternoon, I am really glad I made an effort to visit Kuya no matter how busy my life has been. I am grateful that I was able to listen to him once again and make proper conversation with him, just like the old times really. I am praying that God will allow us to see each other again soon, hopefully not for the last time.

That afternoon was a poignant reminder that life is indeed too short. I am guilty of not reaching out earlier, but all that matters now is our renewed friendship. It honestly feels great to let Kuya and Ate back in my life again. I know not everyone deserves a second chance, but I believe we do. It certainly is never too late to start over again.


8 Lessons February Taught Me

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Boom. Just like that and it's mid-March. I certainly don't know where the time is going. All I know is that I am back at chasing it. Life in 2018 so far has been a roller coaster for me, but I am very much enjoying every bit of the ride. There are days of course when it all becomes overwhelmingly nauseating.  But when this happens, all I do is close my eyes and think of all the blessings that have come and are still coming my way, then I am renewed almost instantly.

To say the least, the first three months of 2018 has been a learning curve. And whilst I enjoy writing about food and places, all that this year has allowed me so far is to reflect on the lessons that I have learned, hence this second entry for my lessons learned series.

1. There is such a thing as good stress
- I am not going to deny that I am under quite a bit of stress at the moment. However, the stress I am going through right now isn't the stress that can cause skin breakout or the stress that will make you like a zombie. Instead, it is that kind of stress that excites you and pushes you harder to achieve a certain goal. It is the stress that makes you feel good about yourself and see things in a more positive light. It is the stress that keeps you motivated despite all the negativity that surrounds you. It's the kind of stress that makes you love life even more despite the challenges. It is that- good stress. I never knew it existed until I experienced it, and it feels so good.

2. Be kind and the world will be kind to you
-  If you are an innately kind person, the universe will find its way to repay your kindness. It may not be the biggest things that you are hoping for, but you should remember that oftentimes, it's those little things that really matter. Be it a weekly free coffee from your favourite coffee shop, a free chocolate bar from somebody you've just recently met or an extra stamp on your loyalty card- be grateful just the same. Or it could be that priceless moment when a five year old said that you are the kindest in the family.

3. Don't give up on something without even trying
- One day at work, we were talking about marmite. Someone asked me if I like it and I confidently said no as if I've tried it before. When I admitted that I actually haven't tried it, I realised one thing: that I have given up on something without even trying. That moment, I was reminded of those times when I was easily convinced I couldn't do something, when in fact I never actually tried anything. Luckily now,I have an angel up in heaven who always reminds me that I can do anything. He gives me the courage to keep on believing and trying on something even if I am often feel like a failure. He made me believe that everything and everyone deserve a chance in this world.

4. Always be mindful of your words and your actions
- I can no longer count how many times I have actually said this to other people in the last month. Personally, I have been a victim of misinterpretation and I have fallen out with really good friends because of this. I have learned my lessons since then and now, I am trying really hard to be mindful of how I say things and react to a situation or a person. What I learned recently is that some people interact with you to find something that they can criticise about you. Hence, every single word you say, every eyebrow you raise and every body action you make is going to be scrutinised. Believe it or not, if any of those is not of their "standard" (whatever that is), you will be portrayed as rude, abrupt, inappropriate, etc. But saying all that, also remember that you are not here to please anyone. 

5. Owning up to your mistake is easier than explaining yourself
- Recently, I made a mistake of not arranging something important and as a result of this, someone was very disappointed. Whilst I used to be very defensive and would waste time explaining to people why I made a mistake no matter how small, on this occasion, I just said sorry and admitted it was my fault. Being an occasional perfectionist doesn't always allow me to own up to my mistakes easily, you see. Of course I would apologise but I would then give as much justification as I can just so I don't look like a complete idiot. It's only when I have accepted the fact that I am now a manager that I decided to learn how to take full ownership of my mistakes. I learned that by doing so, I can make better decisions for myself and the people around me. 

6. It only takes one  person to ruin the whole experience
- Just as when you think that you are in an almost perfect place, someone comes along and makes everything more interesting for all the wrong reasons. Life is funny like that. 

7. Chain letters- sometimes it's some people's way of asking for a miracle
- Last month, a close family friend passed away. I wasn't aware that he was suffering from a medical condition, but he frequently sent me chain letters. Now I must tell you that although I broke the chain all the time (because I never passed it on),I always acknowledged his letters and said thank you. Somehow when I heard the bad news, this was the first thing that came to my mind. It suddenly dawned on me that perhaps, he was sending those chain letters hoping for a miracle. Then I realised that although those letters get so annoying sometimes, we should at least try and not ignore them because that could probably be some people's only hope.

8. It can always be worse
- I am normally a very positive person, but there were at least a couple of times last month when I was very tired and complained about silly things like not having time to do household chores and not having things that I don't really need. J was quick to remind me that my situation wasn't really bad. He asked me questions like, "what about the mothers who work full time and don't have maids?" and "what about the people who die in war everyday?". And he was right. My situation could definitely be worse. Therefore, I shouldn't really complain especially when I am fully aware that there are other people out there who are genuinely suffering.

There you have it. Despite how ridiculously busy I am these days, I am enjoying this chapter in my life because I am learning and growing  a lot personally and professionally. 


Important Lessons January Taught Me

Sunday, 11 February 2018

A month that started very strong ended with a trip to A&E, some minor operation and a health scare. January was indeed a very weird month for me. It was a month of promising beginnings, yet it was emotionally and physically demanding. It's okay though, because it was in January when I finally found the place where I belong professionally, and it was when I proved my worth without even trying.

So, despite January being a roller coaster ride, it inspired me to do better and make things happen. And with just a month gone, 2018 has already taught me a number of valuable lessons. This is the reason why I started this blog series, so I can share what I have learned and hopefully inspire other people too. 

1. Confidence is everything.
- I never thought that I could get my confidence back that easy. It only took me a black jumpsuit and a 3-inch heels to stand up tall and say, "Confidence, Darling". Haha. But seriously speaking, life-changing decisions can make or break your confidence. I decided to leave my plain-sailing job of 5 years because of some people who constantly made me question my abilities and doubt myself. Where I am now, I see women everyday who want nothing but have their confidence back and be completely happy again. I am so grateful to be a part of this team who empowers women (and men) to be who they want to be. 

My new found confidence has given me the power to make positive change and motivate other people. It is now my job to protect the fire that's burning inside me, and not let anyone steal my confidence ever again.

2. Use your time wisely.
- This is one lesson I learned ages ago but in January, I felt like everyone wanted a piece of me more than ever before. To be fair, I always try my best to be there for the people I love and care about, be it physically or virtually, but January was out of control. As much as I appreciate that perhaps people sometimes forget that you also have your own life to live, own problems to solve and a body (and soul) to nourish, you don't need people to infuse negativity into your already challenging life, especially when you have implied that you too are going through something.  For once, I decided to step back from those people and devoted more of my time and effort to those who genuinely deserve them. By doing so, I made people who were very deprived of support and attention, feel more valued and appreciated.

3. You can't fake kindness.
- You are either kind or you're not. However, there is also such a thing as opportunistic kindness. I know people who are only kind to those above them because they need their approval and they are afraid of rejection. The same people can also be nice to people below them, only because they believe they have the power and control over them. So, the people in between don't get the same act of kindness because they are basically of no use to them. But they fake kindness regardless because they feel the need to impress. Kindness should be consistent. It shouldn't only be given to people you can benefit from. Kindness should be extended to anyone at any given time. You can fake kindness until you make it, but ultimately, what is not innate will betray you. 

4. Anywhere you go, whatever you do, there is always someone who is not going to like you.
- Generally, people at my new job are kind and helpful. However, there is this one lady from another department that hasn't shown any interest in me at all. Not that I need her approval, but as professionals, I expect her to at least acknowledge me when I say hi to her. But I guess someone has to be that person, otherwise professional life will be less exciting. :)

5. When your instinct tells you it's time to move on, move on. You are on your way to making your dreams come true. 
- It took a painful betrayal, a trip to Venice and a liberating divorce experience for me to finally learn how to listen to my instincts carefully. There are only a few things in this world that are worth fighting for. If you have a single doubt whether someone or something is worth the battle, it's your instinct telling you that perhaps it's time to move on. So listen carefully. 

Last year, just like in the years before that, I let go of a few things, including dear friends and dream jobs, and yet I am definitely happier now than I have ever been in my life in the UK.  I am really happy that I followed my gut feelings and left my previous job in December. And because I moved on,  I am more positive and happier in my new job. Despite the fact that where I am now is very different from the respectable surgeons and the equally reputable hospital that I am used to, I am still very much excited and inspired because this is another dream come true.

6. Difficult situations are the best teachers in life, so treasure them.
- On my first official day at work, I was thrown into a difficult situation where I was forced to showcase my managerial skills in a still unfamiliar place, with people I barely knew. But this was the best thing that happened that day because I effortlessly eased into my role and instantly became a part of the team. I didn't do anything special other than be myself. I am grateful to the cause of the problem because I never had to go through the dreadful anxiety of starting a new job. That day was a learning curve and I haven't stopped since.

7. Hone that skill that nobody taught you.
- I've always known that I have the skill to inspire and empower people in my own little way and I believe nobody taught me this. This is a skill that came so naturally. One day, I found myself empowering someone who was convinced she was a failure. That's how I realised that I don't have to be in the television or in youtube, or even a writer (which was my dream by the way) to motivate other people. I can just be myself and be there for others when they need someone to lift them higher. I am fortunate that I am now in a professional environment where I can surely develop this skill.

Well, January has gone by quickly and we're almost half-way through February. I already have learned a few valuable lessons in the first ten days of February and I am eager to learn more. Life is more exciting when there are lessons to be learned.


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