My Personal Experience In Travelling To Manila During The Pandemic

Friday, 19 November 2021

A few weeks ago, I finally made the decision to go home after my father was hospitalised for an urgent operation. I know the world remains unstable and perhaps it was and still is not the best time to go home, but I know that I needed to see my parents sooner than later or I may not be able to forgive myself easily should anything happen to either of them, God forbid. I guess the universe was on my side during this journey because everything went smoothly as far as I am concerned. 

I would normally book my plane ticket directly from the airline, however on this occasion, I decided to use a travel agent as my flight was urgent and the only flights I could find online were business class. As much as I wanted to travel on business class (one day), this was not the right time. Mabuhay Travel was helpful in booking my flight and was very accommodating until after my transaction was completed. I still have reservations in using travel agents, so I would try my best to avoid them in the future.

Personally, my trip to Manila was not bad at all. I did my own research and made sure that all required documents were available in time for my departure, especially because I didn't have much time to prepare. As soon as I received my e-ticket, I booked an accredited quarantine hotel for 6 days via These two requirements are of course mandatory as well as the following:

1.  Covid Vaccine Pass
- I downloaded the NHS app (not the NHS Covid app) to obtain my Covid Vaccine Pass. I did this first before anything else because I wasn't sure how long it would take for them to send it. The application was easy and the pass came after 24 hours.  You can retrieve the result via the app.

2. Traze App 
- I am unsure if this is a mandatory requirement for other airlines but Etihad Airways required a screenshot of the app to verify my flight. Traze App is simply an app that uses a QR code for contact tracing in the Philippines. Registration is self-explanatory and it only takes a few minutes to complete.

3. Negative Covid-19 PCR Test Result
- A Covid 19 PCR test result that is valid within 72 hours of arrival in Manila is mandatory. Just to be sure, I had a swab at work two days before my flight and again, booked an express swab with Randox Health 24 hours before my flight. At £65, it was well worth it as the result came back within 2 hours on the same day. They also have different locations across the country so you can choose the location that is convenient for you.

4. One Health Pass
- All international travellers are required to have the Bureau of Quarantine's One Health Pass QR Code. You may be denied entry to the Philippines if you don't have this pass. Essentially, you will have to register your personal information, residence details in the Philippines, vaccine information, Covid PCR Test result, travel history, exposure history and clinical information. After I completed the registration, I was provided with a QR code. I took a screen shot of my QR code (and saved it in my phone), however I saw other travellers at the airport with a paper copy as well. Once the QR code was generated, I clicked a link at the bottom that took me to the Philippine Airport Diagnostic Laboratory (PADLAB) website. I assumed that this was the booking of my Covid PCR swab test on day 5 of my quarantine. I was asked to provide my One Health Pass QR Code even before boarding at the Abu Dhabi airport. 

Other online information advises to complete the One Health Pass in two stages, however I completed my registration in one go to save time at the airport. Each traveller, including children must have their own One Health Pass. I only managed to complete my One Health Pass registration the day before my flight because I had to wait for my PCR Test Result. This is required to be uploaded as well as the Covid Pass (or vaccine certificate as others call it). 

Etihad Airways also required me to complete the Case Investigation Form before my flight, however, there is also a paper copy provided on the plane before arrival to Manila, alongside the arrival card and the Bureau of Customs declaration form that you usually complete before landing.

As I am not a dual citizen, I used my British Passport under the Balikbayan program. I'm glad that I didn't stress at applying for a dual citizenship because they accepted my old Filipino passport that expired in 2008. I also brought my birth certificate as a back up which they didn't even ask for.

By the way, before my flight, I also bought a travel insurance with as recommended by my travel agent. I chose the basic cover for £75.

Arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport was seamless in my experience. A mandatory temperature check was conducted as a protocol however, we were scanned from afar and we didn't have to stop for it. I was directed to what I can only assume as the verification point. I was asked to provide my QR code and my Covid Pass. It was a quick check and then I went straight to Immigration where I was asked to present my Filipino passport. I wasn't asked any questions, but the Immigration Officer made a comment that my passport has expired a long time ago to which I just smiled. With no further questions asked, I went ahead to the hotel verification check area. I was asked to present my hotel booking confirmation and my One Health Pass QR Code. After which, I was instructed to collect my luggage. I passed by the Bureau of Customs but I wasn't asked to provide the completed customs declaration form as they did before. I made my way to the arrivals area where I was asked to present my QR code for the last time. At the terminal exit were a bunch of Coast Guards who readily helped me to locate the hotel driver that I pre-booked. I think you can also book your own taxi at the airport, but I chose an airport pick up via my hotel to save time and energy. :)

To be honest, I felt safe during the whole journey. I had a pleasant trip because everyone was so very helpful. The constant presence of the Philippine Coast Guards at the NAIA airport and their assistance was very reassuring. The airport was in my opinion compliant with COVID 19 protocols. When I arrived, the use of face shields was no longer mandatory, but some passengers still chose to wear them. 

I didn't have a PCR test at the airport like what other people assume- because I came from a yellow country. You are automatically booked for a PCR Test on the 5th day of your hotel quarantine via the One Health Pass. However, I still called PADLAB on my 3rd day of quarantine to confirm that my test has been booked, and I'm glad I did because they needed my hotel room number and my mode of payment. As I write this blog, I just had my Covid swab test for P2500. You can pay either cash or card. I was informed that results can be available in less than 24 hours, so fingers crossed.

Also, as per ABS-CBN news, there is a plan to shorten the quarantine period of travellers arriving from countries on the Yellow list to only 3 days by December. So yes, hopefully things are really starting to get better.

I am thankful that I had a good experience in this journey. I hope that this blog will somehow reassure those who are also planning to go back home during this time.


Behind Some Of The Cafes I Visited in London Is A Story

Sunday, 7 November 2021

One of my favourite things to do in London is hang out in a cafe, alone or with some friends. Whenever I am in much need of a me-time, most especially when I am frustrated and stressed out from work, I would drop by a cafe to wind down before heading home. When I need some "clinical supervision", I would invite a work friend or two to join me. And when family and friends visit me in London, I like to bring them to cafes that I love to share the experience with them, or to a cafe that I have never been to, to make new memories together. 

To be honest, I have not always been a coffee lover. My love affair with coffee only started when I was 36. I was convinced that caffeine would keep me awake at our morning meetings, and therefore would buy it from a corner cafe every morning on my way to work. Since then, I have not stopped drinking coffee (although I was recently advised to reduce my caffeine intake).  Then I went to New Zealand where I drank some of the best coffees in the world, hence I fell in love deeper with the drink (hot or cold). And if I am not in the mood for coffee, alternatively, I would get my favourite cup of green tea.

Some of my trips to the cafe became very memorable and will stay with me for a very long time, whilst others are neglible. I recently went through some old photographs and was reminded of the cafes that I have been to before the pandemic, and so I decided to share them here to relive some of the memories.

1.  Saint Aymes, House of Fraser - 318 Oxford Street
- Before the pandemic last year, I frequented this cafe because it was close to where I used to work. I had a very challenging two months at work at that time and I found refuge in this cafe. I also worked there every now and again. Then one day, I was questioning my fate and asked for a rainbow (in any form) as a sign to reassure me that everything was going to be okay and voila, there was a rainbow on the cupcake!

2. Peggy Porschen- 116 Ebury St
- It's one of the most instagrammable cafes in London and therefore, one of the busiest too. When I first heard about this cafe, I didn't fall into the craze immediately because you know, sometimes you have to wait for the right person to go with. So, when Farrah visited me a few years ago, I knew I had to bring her there. I suppose the story behind this cafe is the fact that we had to queue up to get in and then it rained. I very seldom queue up in restaurants (let alone when it's raining), but I would sacrifice if I am with special people. 

Peggy Porschen has another branch in Chelsea which I have been to as well. Kristale was visiting from the Middle East and I thought I'd share the Peggy Porschen experience with her, too. Needless to say that we had a good laugh and enjoyed dining there. Mind you, the customer service in both branches is not the best, but perhaps I would go back again for what's in the menu and well, for its instagrammability - because who doesn't want a pretty backdrop in their photos, right? 😂 I went back to the Belgravia branch recently for a take away coffee after my morning run and quite disappointed with their take-away cup because it didn't live up to the Peggy Porschen brand, but well.

3.  Dominique Ansel- Formerly at 17-21 Elizabeth St
- I was sad to find out that Dominique Ansel Bakery in Elizabeth St is now permanently closed, as well as the Treehouse in Covent Garden. I've only been there a couple of times, but each time I had a good experience with their food and the customer service. No matter how busy they were, the staff were always friendly. The last time I went to their Elizabeth branch, I was with my friend Pearl. I was having a very difficult time at work during that time and I needed a "clinical supervision" so bad. However, when we arrived at the restaurant, my name was not on the guest list. Apparently, I forgot to confirm my reservation. I was impressed because they accommodated us immediately despite the fact that the cafe was busy. I particularly loved their cronut and Chocolate Chip Cookie Shots. Now, I may have to fly to New York to have them.

4. Elan Cafe- 9 Market Place, Oxford St
- I have been to at least three Elan Cafes in London but the one in Oxford Street holds a special place in my heart. This is where I used to hang out with my Atengs for a much needed catch up. We have been here a few times and it has always been a good experience because of each other's company. The service at times was slow, but it only meant more time spent with each other. 

5. The Parlour at Fortnum and Mason- 181 Piccadilly, St James's
- Every now and again, I go to The Parlour alone for a cup of coffee, most especially after my morning run. I haven't been for a while because I have been trying on other cafes that I recently discovered, but this cafe is my go to when I need a quick sit down with a cup of coffee. I try to go in the morning to avoid the crowd. Nowadays, it's a must to book a table to guarantee a seat.

6. Jardin du Jasmin- Great Portland Street
- Another cafe that my Atengs and I frequented. This was our cafe of choice when we needed a quick catch up after work. True to its name, eating here was like eating in a jasmine garden with the synthetic jasmine flowers all around. The food was always refreshing but my favourite was their selection of desserts. This cafe is memorable to me because it was the first Syrian cafe I've ever been to and it was a good experience. The only thing was that the smell of the food followed me home. Hehe. 

7. Cutter and Squidge- 20 Brewer St
- This cafe was newly opened when I first went there. I had the pleasure to meet one of the owners and she unselfishly shared why they named their cafe Cutter and Squidge. I have been here a few times since and I must say that their seasonal black and red velvet cake and their signature biskies are my favourite. Of course, I have also tried their other cakes as in the photo below. They are all good and light, you won't feel guilty of finishing the whole slice. The biskies are also perfect for gifts. 

8. Java U- 195-197 Edgeware Road
- During one of the most difficult times in my life, Jave U became one of my constants. I would sit in the cafe for an hour by the window seat- people watching whilst I enjoyed my coffee (or smoothie) and piece of cake. Their cakes gave me comfort although temporarily, and they became some of my favourites.

9.  Festok- 14a St Christopher's Place
- I have been to at least a couple of Lebanese restaurants before but never had their ice cream. At Festok, I had one of the best ice creams I've ever had- it was simple, light and chewy. In fact, it was the first chewy ice cream I've had and I loved it. It was served on top of a hot kunafa which was equally delightful, then sprinkled generously with crushed pistachios and I think some edible rose petals. Then, I ordered their traditional coffee. I thought I'd try some coffee that I've never tried before and yeah, it was too strong for me in the end.

10. Swans Bar at Maison Assouline - 196A Piccadilly
- One of my favourite local places in our neighbourhood for coffees. Swans Bar is located inside Maison Assouline- an extravagant library where you can find the finest lifestyle and travel books. I love going there for coffee because it's often quiet. I guess not many people have discovered that in fact, you can actually eat and drink there. My favourite table is on the mezzanine, overlooking the library and the bar. I have been here alone a few times and one occasion with J and a friend. There is also a museum upstairs that houses some fine antique furniture. 

11. Ole and Steen-  56, No 2 Haymarket
- One of the cafes in the neighbourhood that J and I go to most of the time, more so during this pandemic. If you're looking for delicious Danish pastries and simple yet satisfying morgenmad, perhaps this cafe is one of the best places you can go to.

12. Said Dal 1923- 41 Broadwick St
- Before I fell in love with coffee, hot chocolate was my choice of drink. That's why when my friend suggested that we visit a cafe that serves apparently the best hot chocolate in town, I didn't hesitate. At Said Dal, the chocolate is excessive in everything! The triple chocolate drink aka mocha, the triple chocolate cake- all covered in milk, white and dark chocolate - even the cup! I actually struggled to lift the cup off the saucer because of the sticky chocolate that got stuck underneath. I mean, if you really need a chocolate fix, I suggest you visit Said Dal. Never mind the service, just go there for the chocolates. 😉

13. Tiger Cookies- 10 Shepherd St
- Okay, it was all about the tiny but delicious cookies. I first saw photos of the Tiger Cookies on instagram and they honestly looked mouth-watering and so I tried. Quite pricey for the size, but it's worth it for the yummy taste. 

14. Miel's Bakery- 57 Warren St
- There was a time when my stress levels at work were very high that one day, I asked one of my colleagues to accompany me outside amidst my shift to de-stress. We ended up in a local cafe across the road from work. There, I let all my frustrations out over a cup of coffee and pain au raisin. 

15. Kafi- 20 Cleveland Street
-  Someone once told me that I should at least sometimes try something that I haven't eaten or drank before. So, at the height of the Game of Thrones, I visited the then new cafe, Kafi in Fitzrovia. I ordered their "Night's Watch" which was activated charcoal, peppercorn and vanilla extract, borage honey and whole. The combination was as strange as the taste, but it was tolerable. It was like literally drinking charcoal. Would I have it again? Perhaps no.

16. J Evans - Warren St
- Another cafe perfect for "clinical supervision". I used to go to this cafe to meet up with a colleague mainly to talk about my frustrations at work. But don't worry, it was not all about frustrations, we also  talked about life in general. We liked the cafe because it was almost always quiet.

17. Queens of Mayfair - 17 Queen Street
- I had to think twice whether I should include this cafe on my list or not, but here we are. Post second lockdown, my friend Pearl and I visited this cafe because we thought it was going to be quiet but we were so wrong. The cafe was busy and it was only outdoor seating. As we were just getting out of lockdown, we were still very cautious. Disappointingly, social distancing was non-existent at the time. We were seated on the pavement, outside a shop that was presumably shut down due to the pandemic, and too close to the other diners. I was initially given a stool to sit on, but I demanded for a chair because I wanted to be comfortable. There were empty chairs at the next table, however, the staff didn't seem to bother. After waiting for almost 15 minutes, I decided to get the chair myself. We didn't have a good experience to say the least, but I would go back again because the cafe actually has good reviews. Perhaps we went there at the wrong time.

Unfortunately, some of the cafes closed during the pandemic and never opened again, however there are a few cafes that also opened post lockdown. I have been to some of them, however I probably will write about them separately next year.


An Open Letter To An Angel On What Could Have Been His 21st Birthday

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

My Dear Keith,

Happy 21st birthday in heaven, anak ko. I have no doubt you are celebrating this milestone in the kingdom of heaven with lighters all around you, and in the presence of all other angels. Perhaps, you have crossed path with Daddy Henry where you are, too.

Time has gone by really fast. You could have been 21 today. I always wonder how life would have been if you were still around. I wonder of the man you could have become being the boy who believed he could do anything because he could! Most of your friends are now in college. I know of one who is pursuing his Medical degree, one her Psychology degree and another her Culinary degree (or maybe Hotel and Restaurant Management- not entirely sure). Your best-friend, the last time I chatted with him, was pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry. Would you have pursued your passion in art or music, or would you have been a firefighter as you said when once asked what you wanted to be when you grew up? Whatever you would have chosen to pursue, we would have supported you, and I'm sure you would have been great at it. Sometimes when I imagine you as a young adult, I can't help but feel the pain. After all these years, I thought that there will no longer be bitterness inside me, but somehow it creeps in especially in times when I am missing you the most. And I miss you the most when I am going through some difficulties in life- only because I continue to draw strength from you. Because you taught me how to believe that I can do and get through anything. Because until now, I still have so many "Whys". I thought that I have found the reason why God took you too soon, however the more I struggle with some things in life, the more that I am beginning to let go of what I initially believed in. Perhaps one day, God will finally shine the light and things will be completely fine. So, I will keep hoping and praying for that time to come. For now, I will continue to honour you and celebrate you in any way I can.

As I've done in almost 10 years, I lit a candle for you as soon as I woke up this morning. It has been my tradition to also listen to your favourite song "Lighters"- today, I played it three times. There is no doubt I wore your favourite colour blue as well.

I am glad that today, Meow and I were able to donate blood for the 10th time as we were not able to do this in January due to the pandemic. The lady who attended to me asked why I brought my toy with me. She wondered if it was because I needed comfort. Partly true, but also because Meow is a part of you. Somehow I felt like I needed to tell her about you and the reason why I was giving blood. She said she was sorry but honestly, it was (and will always be) fine because I am doing this for you. I am giving back because of you, and I am proud to be doing something in your memory. 

After we donated blood, I met up with Tito Gil and Belle. Tito Gil has fond memories of you, especially when you were a toddler. He loved taking you (with him) because you were easy to look after. You would go for a drive and visit some ladies, and you would just sit until you were ready to go home. You see, you were really never a trouble to anyone. Belle played with Meow for a while and she just kept saying "Meowmeow". I wish you were able to met her, too.

I spoke briefly to Inang and she told me that she prayed the rosary for you this morning. I chatted intermittently with Papa, Mama and your Adings throughout the day. 

Ah, I also tried the face app as I have been wondering what you would've looked like now if only you were alive, and it didn't surprise me as you have always been good looking. 

It's almost ten years now since you left us. I thought I would not cry anymore and I say this every time, however I found myself crying in the bathroom again today. No matter how hard I try not to cry, tears will somehow build up and naturally fall down. I guess I will just have to live with this.

As your earthly birthday comes to a close, I would like you to know that you are  and will forever be loved and remembered. Please continue to watch over your Adings. Please pray to God to keep them safe and healthy always, and Papa and Mama too. Please can you also help me pray to God to give Inang and Tatang more strength and the will to hold on a little bit longer until I see them again? You see, with what is going on in the world, it has been very difficult for me to go home and see them. This, amongst other things, is giving me so much pain and anxiety at the moment. There are so many things to say anak, but today is your day. I know it gives me comfort to write you letters, and writing was one of the things that helped me cope with your passing, however I should really be letting you rest in peace.

Thank you, anak. I love and miss you always.


A Blessed Journey To 45

Sunday, 11 July 2021

Having celebrated my 44th birthday in lockdown last year, when life seemed so obscure and most people were living in fear, I chose to be hopeful that my journey to 45 was going to be meaningful regardless of what the world was going through. This is not to say that the journey between 44 and 45 was without challenges, but things could have definitely been worse. So, I remain grateful for what was, what is and what may be.

This morning, I woke up to the sight of one of my greatest blessings in life. He was stood by our bedroom door having just come back from the kitchen to get a glass of water. He talked gibberish (which he sometimes do to amuse me). We both giggled and whilst he cosied up back into bed, I said I was getting up. It was only 6am and already, I was wide awake. Perhaps I was excited to turn 45 today, or probably because I was thinking of the errands that I needed to do. Then I was reminded of the message that my staff sent me yesterday, "promise me boss, you will rest". And so I changed my mindset and put on my running shoes instead. As soon as I took my first stride, thoughts came rushing in. My pace was slow, but my mind was racing. I reflected on the past year and how I got here safely, at 45. A lot of things have happened to me personally in the last year, both good and bad.

I started reflecting on my relationship with J. We've been together for seven years now, and although things are not perfect, I can say that we are blessed to have each other. Our relationship grew stronger during this pandemic and to be honest, I couldn't imagine myself being in quarantine with anyone else but him. He was my dose of diazepam when my anxiety creeped in. He was my voice of reason when emotions took over me. He was (and still is) my constant reminder that life could always be worse, and that I am blessed to have everything that I need in life right now. And despite the fact that we haven't been anywhere in the last 16 months, we have been enjoying each other's company in the comfort of our home.

My pace was steady. At 06:20 per kilometre, I felt comfortable. I ran towards Buckingham Palace. It was very quiet at 08:00. The sky above the palace was clear blue, no single cloud in sight. As I turned left to Horse Guards Road, I reflected on my parents. I was reminded of that day when my mother fell. I was on the phone to her. She rushed to pick up the phone but stepped on a stone and lost her balance. She managed to answer the phone, but she was already on the ground. She has not been able to walk since. My father on the other hand was reasonably okay until about three months ago when his Diabetes became severely uncontrolled, affecting his eyesight, his legs and his kidneys. And only last month, I had the worst fear of the year when he suddenly taken ill and was hospitalised for the first time in his life at 75. Thank God, he is at home now recovering well and almost back to his old self. Despite their current medical condition, I remain blessed because they are both alive and fighting. And if I had one wish for my birthday, it is to go home to my parents as soon as it is possible.

I decided to run past Trafalgar Square to check the pre-EU finals preparation. There was police presence and staff were busy putting more barricades in place. I ran towards Covent Garden, then reflected on work. It's been seven months since I left my first pandemic job and since I started my second. Two very different experiences, but it's safe to say that I am in a much better place now. Imperfect, but my team is perfect for me. This is despite the fact that there are  a few people who are quite challenging to manage. I am very blessed to have my team because above anything else, they are good people- and I guess this is the reason why we are successful as a team.  So, I can confidently say that despite the pandemic, I remain blessed because I was able to find a job that reasonably works for me, and also a short walking distance from home.

When I got home from my morning run, I took a moment to reflect on my health and J's. I was reminded of that time early this year when we both had COVID-19. We were lucky as we both had mild symptoms, but with Covid, any symptom can be quite worrying because it can progress quite quickly. We both recovered well from this and thank God, we haven't had any health issues since then.

My reflection was interrupted by a buzzer. It was a box of beautiful flowers from one of my former staff. The flowers came with a lovely note, followed by a text message that said, "You deserve more". Such a heartwarming gesture from someone that I've only worked with for seven months.

Then it was time to check my messages, and I felt so touched and humbled by the number of private messages I received from friends and family. These are the constant people who never forget to greet me on my birthday year after year. And for this, I am beyond grateful.

Today, I celebrate the blessings that I have received in the last year, big and small. And I am blessed to have been able to celebrate my birthday virtually with my family.  It was reassuring to see my mother at the dinner table for the first time in a long time, and my father in his usual grumpy self.

It was of course a real pleasure to have spent my birthday all day at home with J, catching up with family and friends and watching The Championships

At 45, I am blessed not because of my material possessions and my achievements, but because despite sadly losing a loved-one last year, all our family and friends are otherwise alive and well. Besides, I have a job that I am fairly happy with, and I have people around who care about me. And I guess during this time, this is all that matters.

So here I am, watching the Euro Finals hoping that England wins, so I can say that my 45th birthday is historical because England won after 55 years! 😆


What Leadership (in Healthcare) Means To Me During The Pandemic

Sunday, 30 May 2021

It's almost six months since I started my new role as a Ward Manager- my third managerial role in 3 years. Yes, so unlikely of me to change jobs this often, however circumstances compelled me to do so. Unfortunately, I was made redundant from the job that built my foundation as a manager in March last year, then difference in values made me quit the next job after that. But here I am now, finally settled in a place where I can say I am happy. 

I remember going for my interview amidst the second lockdown. I was asked to present on "How to Ensure the Right People with the Right Skills are in the Right Place". I really wanted to get this job, so I worked really hard for it although I was only given a few days to prepare. But you know what, I had a very good feeling about this job because every conversation I had with HR was positive. When I submitted  my presentation, she called me and said that the panel has seen my presentation and that they were impressed and couldn't wait to meet me. Apparently, I have answered all their questions through my presentation - exactly my aim whenever I am asked to present during interviews.

So, I decided to share bits of my presentation here because I have been reflecting on my experience in the last six months and realised that although I had a very challenging start, I believe that I have made a real difference as a leader as early as the first 3 months into my role. This was only possible because I have a good bunch of genuinely good people supporting me. The moment I finally built my own team was the moment things started to change positively. As a ward and as a team, we have received very positive feedbacks from our colleagues from other departments as well as from our patients. As a leader, my staff rated me 100% in the recent ward accreditation review. I know I am not perfect, but every positive feedback that I receive from my staff and my other colleagues on my leadership motivates me to do better as a leader. All this because I believe that I have the "Right People with the Right Skills in the Right Place".😉

One of the many things that I learned during this pandemic is stated in a quote by James Lane Allen, "Crisis does not build character. It reveals it." This resonates more so now that there is (still) a pandemic because the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we act and behave as individuals. It has massively impacted our healthcare system, too. And it is in these trying times that the true character of people is revealed.

In this current environment where people are constantly challenged, where risks are high and people are living in constant  fear and uncertainty, we need people who are able to adapt quickly and efficiently, therefore the more we need the right people with the right skills to be in the right place. So....

Right People

When I talk about the Right People, what do I exactly mean? For me, it all starts at recruitment and selection. During interviews, I specifically look for only three things: 
- The Right Qualification.
- The Right Attitude which for me, is the most important thing in the whole recruitment process. The right person with the right attitude should be able to demonstrate compassion, kindness and a caring attitude in their experience and intentions in applying for the role, as well as how well they respond to scenario questions during the interview.
- The Right Experience which is not always necessarily within the speciality but the right person should be able to demonstrate the ability to provide a safe and high standards of nursing care.

Right Skills

The right people will bring in their own skills, however to have the right skills, as a leader, I must empower then to communicate and identify the skills they posses and need to develop, the decisions they have to make, and allow them to be autonomous in performing their tasks. One good example I have for this was when I empowered and developed a junior staff who lacked self-confidence but showing a lot of potential to take on an Infection Control Lead role.

In addition to this, I motivate staff by maintaining open communication and infusing optimism in them. In my first managerial role, I implemented an award for staff of the month as a way of recognising the staff for the difference that they have made to the patients, displaying positive behaviour and going the extra mile for a patient, colleague or a member of the public.

I have always believed that empowered and motivated staff provide the safest and highest standard of care to patients.😊

I am also an advocate for staff development. I actively mentor and assess staff, supporting them in their training and development needs. As a manager, I facilitate annual appraisals, organise ward meetings and facilitate ward teachings. I also encourage staff to seek continuous improvements by encouraging them to attend trainings and take on extended roles such as link roles and participation in audits.

Right Place

I believe that the right place is nurturing and has a robust leadership and management. As a leader (first) and a manager (second), I deliver the best quality of evidence-based care to patients with integrity and always maintaining patient's dignity and privacy. Above all, I always prioritise patient safety. 

As a clinical leader, I am a pivotal source of information and of clinical expertise. As a previous Clinical Nurse Specialist and Nurse Practitioner, I have the ability to perform practical procedures and perform skilled assessment to patients.

In order to gain trust and respect from staff and patients, I believe that authenticity is the key. In addition to this, my team and my ward are a reflection of my leadership, therefore I have to be transparent even in times of failure, and hold strong moral principles.

Also, through my lengthy tenure as a nurse, I have developed confidence and initiative in communicating with other multi-disciplinary teams to ensure patient care is optimal during their hospital stay.

Resiliency is one of my greatest strengths as I believe that I need to be tough to be an effective leader.

It is also important for me to be sensitive to other people's emotions and concerns, and putting myself in other people's shoes. I am more understanding of staff with childcare issues, disabilities or illnesses. Personal reflection is also essential for my personal and professional improvement.

As a clinical leader, I have the ability to rise above challenges. Especially in this current environment, I have to ensure that I boost the staff morale and performance by showing that I care.


The Untold and Unheard Feelings

Monday, 19 April 2021

I have been extra emotional lately due to a few things that have been bothering me, mainly about my mother. It has been rather difficult for me to share any of my feelings to anyone because I know that no one will ever understand how I feel. So why am I here, you may ask? The simple answer is because no one is obliged to listen to me and understand me when I write. So, please allow me.

Firstly, I feel guilty that I didn't make an effort to go home to my parents in the past six years. And with the virus still raging (especially in the Philippines), I am unsure when I will be able to go home safely. It is very hard because I know that my mother is not very well, and all I want is to see her and hug her one more time. I didn't go home for six years because I was selfish. The only time I decided to prioritise myself because I finally realised that I've given so much to others and so little to myself, was the time fate played its trick on me. I would blame it to the circumstances, but still, I should have tried harder. 

Then the most unexpected thing happened early last year. My mother was diagnosed with a medical condition that is rather dangerous. As soon as I found out about this, I made plans to go home that April, but then coronavirus came. I have been speaking to her most days, if not everyday since then. I want to make up for the days I lost in not going home to see them- and this is the only way I know how. I felt very guilty and even guiltier when she had an accident in October last year which limited her mobility. 

I know my mother is suffering physically and emotionally, but she is trying her best because I know she still wants to see me. It breaks my heart every time I speak to her on the phone. I avoid video calls as much as possible because I don't want to see her in bed. I don't want to see her that way. 

You see, my mother is far from perfect. She has said things that hurt me and other people. She says things that make her sound ungrateful, but I know she just can't express herself that well. No one, not even herself expected this to happen to her. Her health was obviously declining, but we didn't anticipate her to be in this situation. And knowing my mother, this is very hard for her. Hence, her defence is to give in to the situation and (very reluctantly) accept that she is not going to walk again. My mother is not normally a negative person. She instilled positivity in me since childhood, no matter how difficult life was for us back then, so it is quite painful for me to listen to her utter words that only mean weakness. That's why whenever she tells me that she has accepted  her fate and that she is now going to be like this until she dies, it hurts me. My mother is one of the strongest people I know and it breaks my heart to hear her speak like there is no hope left for her. 

My mother without a doubt is showing signs of depression. It is not easy for an independent and sociable person to suddenly be confined in a room on her own majority of the time. She is feeling sorry for herself, and I can hear and feel her sinking deep into self-pity. She feels helpless and hopeless. So hopeless that she is even willing to sacrifice her own comfort, because she feels bad that other people are having to care for her. But has she got a choice? No. I know my mother would rather look after herself -if only she could. 

And here I am, thousands of miles away from home, looking after other people when I cannot even look after my parents, especially my mother. Every time I hold a patient's hand to reassure them that everything is going to be alright, my heart sinks. I always wish that it is my mother's hand that I am holding, and it is my mother that I am saying those reassuring words to. Lately, my morning rounds have become sort of a torture. My staff would address complaints to me and whenever I speak to a patient about their complaints, I think of my mother. I spend time listening to patients complain about little things- how I wish I can do that with my mother, too - in person, so that I can hold her hand and reassure her that I will do my  best to make things right. Being a manager has helped me gain a better understanding as to why some patients complain- because they are not in control. And my mother is definitely not in control of her life and her health at the moment, and this is why she expresses herself so negatively sometimes. My mother is not a bad person. I know there are worse people out there. In fact, when my mother was able, she helped a lot of people. Kind of made me realise that when you are no longer able and are the one in need of help, there will only be a handful of people who will genuinely pay it back to you. Not that you're asking for anything in return, but reciprocity should be given.

Honestly, this is very hard on my part. God knows that if given the choice, I would rather go home and look after my own mother. I feel guilty that I am not there for her when she needs me the most. I know my mother feels that she is alone, but she is not because she has me even if I am not physically with her. There is nothing worse in life than being surrounded by people and yet you feel lonely. Sadly, this is my mother's truth. She may not say it, but I know. She is my mother. She brought me into this world. 

It's really difficult for me to express exactly how I feel, because all there is is guilt. I have never felt so guilty in my life before. I know I have been mumbling throughout this blog, but my emotions are all over the place right now. So please forgive me if you're reading this and it doesn't make sense to you. Ultimately, there is only one thing that I am hoping and praying for- to hold my mother's hand once more.


My COVID-19 Vaccine Experience- First Dose

Sunday, 7 March 2021

It's been over a week now since I finally had my first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Just like some people, I was skeptical about the vaccines when they first emerged because there was not enough clinical studies to evidence their efficacy and the side effects that they may potentially cause. I felt that the scientists rushed the production of the vaccines. But one of my closest friends who is very sensible and is a doctor told me to believe in science. And why shouldn't I? After all, I am in a profession governed by science. However, I wanted to wait until there was enough study at least for the side effects. And then COVID-19 hit me. That's when I realised that maybe I should get the vaccine sooner than later, but I was told that I couldn't get the vaccine until 21 days after my positive COVID test. Unfortunately, there were no longer appointments available at work when I finally could have the vaccine, so I had to book via the NHS.

And so, two Thursdays ago, I arrived at a pharmacy in Marylebone to have my vaccine. The process was a breeze. A pharmacist went through some safety checks including allergies, current COVID symptoms, medications, bleeding problems and whether I had a vaccine seven days prior- all of which was a no. And then I was asked to wait. A young lady came to hand me a leaflet regarding the vaccine. When I looked at the leaflet, I figured the vaccine I was receiving that day was the Astra-Zeneca. I would have preferred the Pfizer vaccine, but with a lot of people waiting to have their vaccines, I was not in the position to be choosy. At least, Astra-Zeneca was proven to have 76% efficacy after a first dose. Then I was called in a booth where they administered the vaccine. It was not painful as such. I felt the prick but that was it. The lady then said I was good to go. I didn't wait for 15 minutes like the others, nor did I get a vaccination card. The vaccination card didn't occur to me until I got home. It was only a week later that I was able to go back and get it. 

Now, let's talk about side effects. Unfortunately, I was one of those who experienced side effects but not straight away. The day after I had my vaccine, I experienced muscle pains, most particularly on my legs. Throughout the day, my legs felt achy and heavy. My left knee felt like I had an injury. I felt very cold and felt like I had a fever. I didn't check my temperature because I knew I was experiencing side effects from my vaccine. I only took Paracetamol. I didn't do any exercise that weekend because I didn't want to make things worse. My arm was still heavy at this point. I had my vaccine on a Thursday and on the following Monday, I woke up with a very painful arm. When I checked my vaccination site, it was red. It was elevated and although it was not itchy, it was quite painful. I couldn't even lift my arm. When I got home that evening, the redness was worse. This was after four days of having the vaccine. The swelling and redness lasted for 48 hours. Apart from those symptoms, I was totally fine.

As much as I was initially reluctant to have my COVID-19 vaccine this soon, I am glad that I made a conscious decision to do so. I know the vaccine does not give me 100% protection from the corona virus, but at least I have some protection. These days, a degree of protection is better than no protection at all. And having had the vaccine also gives me half the passport I need to finally go home and see my family. 

I am happy that I finally had my first dose, but this does not mean I am complacent. I will still continue to wear my mask and take extra precautions because the world outside remains dangerous.

Until the pandemic is completely over, we must stay safe.


6 Books That Helped Me Get Through Lockdown 2020

Sunday, 7 February 2021

I have been blogging for sometime now, but I've never written about books. So, this blog is my first. Just to be clear that this is not a review as I am not a book critic. I just thought I'd share the books that I read in 2020 which helped me get through the lockdown, one way or the other.

Back in high school, I used to read a lot of books- from the Bible, to Sweet Valley High, to Danielle Steel and Sidney Sheldon. Somehow I lost interest when I started university. I very rarely read pocket books, if not at all. Perhaps because I was focused on my studies- too focused that I used to cram for my exams quite a lot. Hehe. Seriously speaking though, in hindsight,  I shouldn't have stopped reading pocket books because it would have helped me with my writing. But whatever. Here we are now. A few decades later, I am actually writing about some of the books that I've read. Another milestone in my blogging adventure. :) 

Actually, I have already posted these on my Instagram account, but if you're not following me there, then here they are:
1. Help Me by Marianne Power
- "Help Me" is only one of the five books that I read in less than a week. It is an easy read and made me laugh out loud a few times. This book reaffirmed me why I never followed the advice of self-help books before.

Anyway, at one point in my life, I resorted to some self-help books which didn't necessarily helped me. I realised that I didn't have to be someone other than myself to get through a difficult situation. I learned how to follow my heart instead, and believed (and I still do) that life is a trial and error. If I made mistakes along the way, I tried again until I got it right. Also, I dated a man who saw one of my self-help books called "Why Men Love B*tches". He told me that I didn't need to be a b*tch to be loved by a man. And almost 6 years later, I am still with him. So yeah, just like Marianne Power, I learned that all I needed to do to overcome the challenges was to be myself, and to accept the situation that I was in. After all, acceptance is the key.

2. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
- The first ever book that I finished reading inside a bookstore. Once I started reading it, I just couldn't stop. This book reaffirms everything that I have been trying to do (all this time) in order to live a happier and a more meaningful life. I am still a work in progress, and this book will now be one of my constant reminders of what life should truly be all about. And oh, the illustration is just wonderful. Every household should have a copy of this book.

3. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by David Kelley
- "To ultimately reach creative breakthrough, you just need to start, regardless of small failures that may occur along the way. It's unlikely that your first try at anything will be a success. But that's okay. It's hard to be "best" right away, so commit to rapid and continuous improvements. The messiness of such trial and error may seem uncomfortable at first, but action allows most of us to learn at a faster rate; it's almost a prerequisite for success. Otherwise, the desire to be best can get in the way of getting better."- Tom Kelley and David Kelley. Although this book is very corporate, this book reaffirmed the way I think and act as a leader in healthcare.

4. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
- " The law is simply reflecting and giving back to you exactly what you are focusing on with your thoughts. With this powerful knowledge, you can completely change every circumstance and event in your entire life, by changing the way you think". I have always believed that I am a positive person and knew what I wanted in life. But, I think I have always been wrong. Or perhaps I didn't think about them enough. Or maybe because I didn't have a vision board. Whatever it is, apparently it's something to do with the state of mind. So, yes I am still working hard on this one. And apparently, it's never too late. All I need to do is learn how to control my thoughts, and think and act with conviction. 😉

5. Dear NHS by Adam Kay
- Not quite sure about this book, but thank you NHS. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work and live abroad. Thank you for building my nursing foundation in the UK. Thank you for shaping me to become the nurse that I am today. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet and work with some of the most amazing nurses, nurse assistants, surgeons, doctors, allied health professionals, admin staff, cleaners, porters, etc. Thank you for all the wonderful things that you do. I will always be grateful and proud to have spent most of my nursing life with you. I hope to return one day. For now, I pray that the universe will keep you and my friends safe.

6. Sex and Vanity by Kewin Kwan
- I loved the Crazy Rich Asians movie, but actually haven't read the book series yet. Sex and Vanity is the first Kevin Kwan book that I have read. Despite the mixed reviews, I actually liked it. It's light and funny with a heart. A perfect summer read if I may say. Everything in the book is over the top extravagant- and loads of name dropping! I wonder who will play my favourite characters Freddie and George if ever the book will be made into a film, and oh, the Ortiz  sisters from the Philippines! And guess what? Kevin Kwan himself actually liked my post on instagram, so yes!

So, those were the 6 books that I read during last year's lockdown. But I don't want to end this blog without sharing the book that received the most likes on my instagram feed, although I finished reading it in 2019. I am not actually sharing it just for that, but also because the photo is one of the best photos I've ever taken. In fact, someone from California (Magnolia Wellness in Costa Mesa) actually used my photo (with permission) to promote their virtual book club. It also stayed in top 5 photos of #goopbookclub for a few weeks. And if you check #lauralynnejackson, two of my photos of the book are currently in top ten. So yes, I am proud of myself for those little things.

The book is called "Signs" by Laura Lynne Jackson. It took me a month to finish the book and I finished it whilst I was in Montreal, Canada.  For me, it was worth the read because it somehow made me reflect on the "signs" that were sent to me by Keith when he crossed- and there were so many of them. There were stories in the book that validated my personal experiences and made me want to fully believe in signs. I guess this book becomes more meaningful if you actually have lost someone really close to your heart. There is definitely something beyond this world that is quite hard to understand. And the signs that the universe is sending us may just be the answers to a lot of our questions- we just need to be more aware of them. Maybe, just maybe. There is definitely no harm in believing anyway. 

My aim is to finish at least one book a month this year. So far, I have finished two books, so I'm crossing my fingers that I'll be able to reach my reading goals this year. 


Keith's 9th Year In Heaven

Thursday, 28 January 2021

Where did the time go? Next thing I know, it's been nine years since Keith left us. 28th of January nine years ago remains the saddest day of our lives, but in the last nine years, we have kept Keith's memories alive in more ways than one. We still talk about him as if he never left. Although whenever I look at his photos, I still feel the pain because I really miss him. But, they are also one of the things that remind me how lucky I was (and still am) to have been called Mommy by a beautiful boy who was truly an angel on earth. 

So, today we remember Keith on his 9th year in heaven. Whilst I would normally donate blood to honour Keith, I didn't this time because I recently had COVID-19. I, however, continued other traditions that I started nine years ago. I wore Keith's favourite colour baby blue all day. As I've always done since he left, I lit a candle this morning and played his favourite song "Lighters". I sat for a while browsing at his photos whilst cuddling his favourite toy, Meowmeow. 

Back home, it's customary for them to prepare some food for the family to remember Keith on this day. When I called this morning, they had some close family members over. Although the way we remember Keith has changed over the years, we still make sure that we do things no matter how little to honour him. As I said before, he touched so many lives in his short life on earth. And even if other people will forget him, his loved ones will not. He will always be our Keith who inspired so many children. He was a boy who was very shy, but was always willing to share his talents. He was our Keith, who lit up our lives and who made us all very proud.

We miss him dearly. He may have left us but he remains in our hearts forever. We love you always, our dear Keith.

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