10 Years Of Remembering The Child Who Changed My Life Forever

Friday 28 January 2022

It's really hard to believe how fast time flies. Today is Keith's 10th year anniversary in heaven, but it seems like we only lost him yesterday. You would think that by now, there will be no more tears, but no. There are still times when I think of Keith and the "would have beens" if he was not taken away from us, and I can't help but get emotional. Twice a year, on his birthday and death anniversary, I try my best to remember only the good times we've had with him , however I fail each time. As soon as I light a candle and start listening to his favourite song "Lighters", tears start flowing and there I go again. But I guess this is how it is. As they say, the pain never really goes away, you just learn how to live with it. 

In the last ten years, I have been consistently doing a few things to remember Keith on his angelversary. In the morning when I wake up, I visit his corner in our flat. In this corner is my favourite photo of him- a photo that I took when he was about 3 or 4 years old. On top of the photo frame hangs his favourite toy, Meowmeow. And beside the photo frame are a candle and a vase of flowers. It has become my tradition to light a candle, say a little prayer and play his favourite song. This morning was of course no different. 

Just like what I have done twice a year in the last five years or so, I headed to the West End Donor Centre to donate blood for the 11th time. Forgetting the time of my appointment, I attended thirty minutes early. Unfortunately, I was asked to go back due to COVID-19 restrictions. I waited at a nearby cafe until about five minutes before my appointment. I realised later that maybe this was a sign. Anyway, when I arrived, I was asked to fill in the blood donation checklist as usual. Then I was called for my iron check which was fine, so the lady asked me to proceed to the trolley where I would then give blood. The sister came to speak to me and asked how much I weighed. I was surprised because I have not been asked about my weight before and I've already donated 10 times. I told the sister I was 49.8kgs. She said unfortunately, although I was only .2kgs below the accepted weight of 50kgs, I couldn't give blood for my safety. I completely understood this because when I was in New Zealand, I also wasn't allowed to donate blood because I was less than 50kgs at that time. So,I said don't worry and left disappointed, but at the same time relieved because with my last two donations, I actually felt really dizzy afterwards. Perhaps, I was also underweight then. 

So instead, I went to the National Gallery to see Claude Monet's paintings. Why specifically Claude Monet, you may ask. When Keith started painting, I asked him who his inspiration was. He told me it was Claude Monet. I felt very proud that at such a young age, he knew who Monet was. So when Keith passed, I tried my very best to learn more about Monet and his paintings. I even went to Monet's Garden in Giverny, France with Meowmeow in his memory. 

At the National Gallery, I went straight to Room 41 where Monet's Water-Lilies painting is kept. I remember asking Keith to paint the waterlilies. And as classic Keith, he painted his own version of it and only painted a waterlily. This is what I loved about Keith when it came to his art. 

In the evening, I had dinner with my friend, Claudia. This was actually the first time I told her about Keith. I told her that I was wearing blue because it was Keith's favourite colour. She didn't ask why I was wearing blue of course, but I just felt like I needed to tell her about this. Then I told her that today is actually his 10th year death anniversary. And then our dessert came with a lighted candle on it. I was very surprised because it was neither our birthday. I later checked my reservation because I thought I mistakenly requested for it, but I didn't. On our way to a cafe after dinner, I carried on with my story about Keith. I then checked my phone and saw a missed call from the Philippines. I called the number but apparently, it was an incorrect number. I even googled the number, however it doesn't exist. Instead, it came up as a mathematical formula of some sort.

In times like this, more so today, I would like to believe that the candle on my dessert and the missed call were signs from the other side. Somehow I believe that during the times when we need it the most, the universe sends us signs to reassure us and to somehow make us feel better. Some people might say this is silly, but I do believe in signs. 

Keith may have been gone for 10 years now, but this little boy's legacy will remain in us, his family and in those whom he inspired at a young age. Keith in his 11 years on earth has accomplished more things and succeeded in most if not all of them, than most 11 year olds I know. I will always be proud of him and proud to have been his Mommy for 11 years.

I miss him terribly but I know he is in a better place now where he can paint and play the violin freely with all the angels in heaven. 

This boy will forever be loved by his family and friends and by those whose lives he touched unknowingly, with his faultless innocence, talent and pure heart.


My Hotel Quarantine Experience At Dusit Thani in Makati

Monday 24 January 2022

As of this writing, the United Kingdom remains on the "Yellow List" in the Philippines. This means that fully vaccinated travellers are still required to quarantine in a hotel facility for five days (previously six). Since I arrived back to London, I have been asked a few times about my experience in travelling to Manila during pandemic. I recently blogged about this journey, however I realised that I haven't written about my hotel quarantine experience, so here I am.

As my travel to the Philippines was urgent, I didn't have much time to properly search for hotels. My travel agent recommended agoda.com which was a friendly hotel website. There were a few hotels available, however they were ridiculously expensive at that time. I chose Dusit Thani in Makati because it was the cheapest at 50% off from the original price. For five nights, I only paid £303 which was a real bargain for a five star hotel, hurray!

But, I had high expectations from a five star hotel because a few years ago, I was fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to stay at The Ritz in London and at The Waldorf Astoria in New York. To me, the quality of a five-star hotel was of those two hotels. Unfortunately, Dusit Thani didn't feel like a five star hotel at all. It was rather disappointing because when I was young and heard of Dusit Hotel, it sounded like only wealthy people could afford to stay there. But my experience was more like a three star if I could be honest, and I will tell you why. 

The Service
- I pre-arranged an airport pick up before my flight. At the airport, I was met by a friendly driver in classic Dusit Thani uniform. He was very polite and chatty. He was telling me about how difficult it was for him and for his colleagues during the pandemic. I actually felt quite bad that I didn't give him any tip because I didn't have the right cash for him. The rest of the hotel staff was okay. They were polite and helpful, although there were times when the service was slow. I actually didn't ask for anything apart from water and cutlery, but still I had to ring twice. One thing I must remember next time I stay in any hotel in the Philippines is to tip the staff. I didn't think about it because it's something that I am not accustomed to. 

The Room
- It was a king size room and was spacious enough for one person. The view was good, overlooking tall buildings, some greeneries and the SM Makati. I could tell that the hotel was old as the furniture was looking tired. I had to call for housekeeping as I saw a stain in the chiller. To be fair, she tried to scrub the stain as much as she could, however it didn't come off. It appeared like it was a very old stain. To make myself feel better, I sanitised the chiller with anti-bacterial wipes. I knew it was a chiller, but man, it didn't even chill my bottled water at all. 

Another thing that I had to raise with the housekeeping staff was the shower. The  shower glass was filled with soap and water stains. There were also moulds on the grout. When I told the staff about this, she explained that those stains and the mould have been there for ages and would be difficult to remove. I told her that I use some chemicals that really work back home. I recommended "Barkeeper's Friend" shower spray and "Cillit Bang" mould remover but Ate just laughed. Maybe she thought I was joking.

Anyway, I don't normally use the bathrobe when I'm staying at hotels. But since I was in quarantine, I decided to use it this time. I couldn't help but laugh out loud when I saw a large hole on the arm of the robe. I was so tempted to say something to the staff at that time, but decided not to as I don't wear them normally anyway. So I put the robe back in the cupboard instead. 

Not to mention that the towels were also rough. The remote control's writings were fading. The complimentary tea tasted awful. But at least, the kettle was clean.

The Food
- So, I had a long list of food that I wanted to try whilst in quarantine. But the excitement immediately turned into disappointment when the driver told me that no food deliveries were allowed in the hotel. Should have I known this when I was booking my hotel, I wouldn't have chosen Dusit Thani for this mere reason. I would even normally bring crisps and small snacks when travelling, but because I was excited to finally eat foods that I haven't eaten in a long time, I didn't bring any with me on this trip. 

Okay, I completely understand that they need to make business but they could have at least indicated this on their booking information. So having no choice, I ordered a meal on my first night. I was excited to try their sizzling sisig, but at almost P440, it was a huge disappointment. It was like eating a leftover. It was dry and the meat was tough. It just didn't taste right. I also had halo-halo (P332.45) and a can of coke zero (P159.57), but meh. My dinner definitely was not a five-star hotel meal. 

Luckily that night, my bestfriend called and offered to bring me some fruits. I asked her to kindly bring some Cheetos and cup noodles as well. I also ordered mini bibingkas from Bibingka Manila- one of the foods that I wanted to try.

The following morning, I craved for Pinoy breakfast so I ordered their Local's Best for P616.13. To be honest, my sister-in-law and my Ate Vicky can make a way better breakfast than whoever was the chef at Dusit Thani in Makati at that time. I only managed to eat the egg, two spoonfuls of rice, half a longanisa and two of the fried dilis. The tapa was so salty I felt sick after I tried a piece. The longanisa was a complete and utter disappointment. The longanisa that my family usually buys at our local market was hundred percent better than their stick-thin longanisa. I was scared to eat any more dilis because they were too hard, I was afraid it could chip my tooth if I carried on eating. And oh, the single fish that I thought was tuyo was actually tinapa. And the coffee certainly woke me up not because of the caffeine but because it was awful. Although I was prepared to suck it up and eat more rice and tapa as I didn't want to get hungry, I couldn't anymore because I was feeling sick. And this was the last time I ordered their food.

And so my bestfriend brought the fruits at the reception the following day. I received a phone call from the receptionist informing me of her arrival. The receptionist challenged the fact that my friend brought me fruits because it was apparently not allowed. I explained to her that when I checked in, her colleague told me that fruits were allowed. She defended herself by saying, "But Ma'am there are two cup noodles in the bag. They're also not allowed." I was annoyed so I asked her if she wanted me to starve. She then said that they would allow me to have the fruits but that would be the first and last time. So, for the next 5 days of my quarantine, I ate fruits, bibingka, crisps and cup noodles.

Despite the not so good experience I had with Dusit Thani Makati, I remain grateful for the fact that it was cheap, centrally located and had a good view. I know I have no right to complain as I am aware that some people were in a worse quarantine situation, but this is a hotel claiming to be a five-star hotel, when in my experience it isn't. Personally, I wouldn't recommend this hotel for quarantine for the main reason that food delivery is not allowed and their food is expensive and disappointing. Additionally, the hotel really needs an upgrade as to be fair, it's one of the oldest hotels in Manila.


Grateful For Time and Opportunity In 2021

Saturday 1 January 2022

Despite contracting the Coronavirus early last year, I still believe that 2021 was definitely a better year for me than 2020 for many reasons. Looking at the photos I took last year, it's evident that 2021 was all about spending time with the people I truly love the most. It was also the year when I made new connections with so many wonderful people, and gladly took an opportunity to progress in my career. 

The first four months of 2021 was definitely full of mixed emotions, personally and professionally. Having lost my second father the month before, I was still sort of grieving. Then J and I had the coronavirus, although we only had minor symptoms. But what probably hit me the most was the condition of my mother and the fact that I couldn't go home and see her. The loss of Daddy Henry made me realise that I really didn't try hard enough to go home to my parents- for six years. It was very hard for me, but I knew it was definitely harder for my mother. 

Work, on the other hand was going well during this period. I believe I was performing at my best. I had the best team any manager could ever ask for, and that's probably why. But honestly speaking, I was very blessed with good people at work. People who truly cared about me, the patients and each other. And if I were to talk about opportunity, knowing the people at work and the chance to have worked with them for a year was one of the greatest opportunities of last year. Then there was the blessing of friendship that was built through shared frustrations, difficult shifts, instability, and of course, many happy days inside and outside work! 

The rest of my 2021 was pretty great. I was able to spend time with the people I care about in London. And most importantly, I was able to go home and see my parents and the rest of my family.

Yes, I was finally able to go home in November after six years. Whilst some people doubted my genuine intentions in booking an urgent flight to the Philippines and the validity of the reason why I had to go, I knew it was the right thing for me to do at the time.

Few weeks before I decided to go home, my mother was having frequent abdominal pains. I feared that her symptom was related to her medical condition, hence I wanted to see her before anything regretful happened. Then my father was taken ill and subsequently had an amputation. And with the imminent rise in Covid cases, I wasn't sure if travel restrictions will change again. This is the reason why I needed to go home and unwillingly spent only six days with my family. Short as it was, my trip back home was the highlight of my year. I just wish my parents were healthier, but at least I was able to spend time with them. It was a risk I had to take, and it was definitely worth it.

When I came back to the UK, I only had two weeks left at my job. Three months before, my former manager contacted me and asked if I wanted to work with her again and take on a higher position. I reluctantly accepted her offer and went for the interview. I was reluctant because although my workplace at that time has become too stressful, I didn't want to leave my team. I had the best team and I wanted to make it work for us and for the ward. But I also wanted to progress, so I made the difficult decision to accept the job offer and leave the most amazing nursing team I have ever worked with in my entire nursing career.

I have left several jobs through the years but this one was the most heartbreaking one. I guess it was hard because I made a special connection with most of my staff. As much as I was their manager, and despite the professional boundaries, they treated me as a human being. I hate to say this but for the first time in my nursing career, I felt truly valued and cared for by not just the minority of the staff, but by every single one of them, and then there were some from other departments as well. These people picked me up when I was really down at work. They lighted my path when the road at work seemed so dark. They lifted me up when I felt like I was drowning. This is why I am very grateful for the opportunity to have worked with them.

The messages they left me at my work leaving do brought me to tears. I had no idea how much I've touched these people's lives. And to hear it directly from them was so overwhelming. For the first time in a long time, I believed that I have done something right. 

The people that I met at work last year were some of the reasons why I am who and what I am today as a person and as a professional. I may have left my job, but I gained two inspiring Aunties, one wonderful Ate, a handful of amazing Adings, and some really good friends. There were also some nice people I met just before I left that I wished I met earlier. But I've always believed that the world is small so I'm sure one day, our paths will cross again.

2021 remained challenging for most of us. I have so much to be thankful for but I am most thankful that I made it through the year healthy. As much as I have been blessed with time and opportunity last year, I hope and pray that 2022 will bring us more time to share with the people we love and opportunity to do the things that make us happy.

TIN x 
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