seventeen

It’s 1:00 AM. Last day of 2017. And I’m sitting on my bed with my air cooler, repeatedly humming the lyrics from the music I’m currently obsessed with, “A million dreams are keeping me awake …”; alternating with, “Why don’t we rewrite the stars …”.

I just had an absolutely random thought. I’m propelled to write something on my blog, pretty much as a year-ender article, or something that could discuss the highlights of my year.

I don’t know. I feel like every passing year brings something so significant that affects my way of life in many, different ways. And I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about the people and things and events that I encountered this whole year that had impacted me in one way or another. Things that inspired me, made me value my life a little bit more, and enabled me to rethink my life’s purpose more carefully and thoroughly.

I mean, I don’t know who’ll get to read this blogpost, or if anyone would bother. But I guess, it’s really more for me. I need to write this for myself—to help me reflect on how every one of these (let’s call them) “subjects” had made my year an interesting one; or how each one had made a difference; and perhaps, why I will choose to keep them in my life for the coming years, the coming successes, the coming endeavours. Let’s start.

1) Books

img_3066I think everyone knows that I’m a book lover. No. I’m a book addict. And a book hoarder. Sometimes, even a book maniac. A secretly imploding one. Well, this year was probably the year I bought the most books in my life. I purchased 24 new books in the last 365 days. Twenty-four. Christian life books, Bible study books, prayer books, selected fiction books. Have I touched each one of them? Yes. Have I finished reading all of them? No. Maybe if we had 8 more hours in a day then I’d be able to spend extra time on a couple more. But books give me so much joy. They inform and inspire and intrigue and impel my hungry soul. They’re my treasures. I simply can’t live without them. My love for reading has ridiculously escalated this year. I’ve never enjoyed it more.

 

2) Music albums 

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I don’t possess any luxurious things in this life. There’s only two things I treat as luxury—my library, and my record collection. For me, music albums are as much of a work-of-art as the music itself. If I really love the artist and his or her music, I have to have the physical copy of it. I enjoy how artistically the photos, lyrics, credits, and other cool stuff are put together in the one album. It makes you value the existence of the art and the artist a lot more. This year, I bought a stack of albums, old and new ones; some of them were gifts from friends and family. And they’re kept very safely in my room. Some of my favourites include Emeli Sande’s “Long Love the Angels” (2016), and Sam Smith’s “The Thrill of it All” (2017).

 

3) Tea

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I’m in love with tea. Tea is life! It gives me peace of mind and absolute relaxation, particularly Green Tea. This year, I took it upon myself to learn to like the tea types I used to find intolerable like Jasmine, Oolong, Ampalaya (Bitter Melon) and Moringa. Now, I got a good, abiding, vital relationship with these guys. I also got more friendly with White Tea and Matcha. Oh, by the way, some of my favourite brands include: Yogi, T2 and Twinings.

 

 

4) Writing

327bceaa-936c-4820-a6d4-f53a7a6cfd2dI wrote a lot this year, both in prose and poetry forms. Many of them have not been published publicly yet, because I feel like I can still improve and/or develop them further. They are all stored in my journal. Thankfully, I got more comfortable writing short poems and song lyrics. I also started writing haikus, which was quite interesting, because for some reason, it’s the most challenging one to do. Additionally, I’ve attempted writing some poems in Tagalog; which just makes me realise how badly I need to be in a Filipino literature class to be good at it. Basically, I would write anywhere, whenever I get that unreflective urge to; even in my workplace while working (most of them were done and edited there, to be honest).

 

5) Composing

img_4142I always seemed to have some sort of fear when it comes to composing—fear of not being able to match my melodies and my lyrics, or of not finding the perfect rhymes, or of sounding lame and freaky, or of not living up to my own artistic standards through this medium. I don’t know. But in 2017, who would’ve thought that I would be able to compose, co-write, and orchestrally arrange a musical theatre piece that has been used for a play last September? I spent two days working on the score. It was a very smooth and spontaneous process, which surprised me because in the past, scoring an original piece was not always comfortable and smooth-flowing; especially for someone so fuzzy, scrupulous, over-elaborate like me. It was totally refreshing!

 

6) Concerts

img_1838In the last two years, I have committed to investing in live concerts, and will continue to do so in the coming years. This year I went to quite a few significant events like Lea Salonga’s concert at the Sydney Opera House in February—this was phenomenal. I came to see Hans Zimmer and his fantabulous team at the Qudos Bank Arena in May. I also got to watch the sensational pop star, Ariana Grande at the ICC Theatre last September; and the extremely talented Leroy Sanchez at the Metro Theatre, mid-November. These concerts were all awe-inspiring and soul-stirring in their own unique ways. I look forward to more live events next year!

 

7) Ben Platt

img_4819Ben made a lot of difference in my life this year, more than I could fully express in words. Earlier this year, for some reason I felt like my love for performing was slowly losing its grip on me. I questioned a lot of things. What used to be meaningful and special to me seemed and looked so superficial and pointless. After watching him perform songs from Dear Evan Hansen, I just saw pure talent and exceptional prowess—something I had always aspired and strived for. He made me get in touch with my passion for performing again. His remarkable artistry ignited a new kind of love for the arts in me. And for that, I will always be thankful. He is my Broadway icon and I will always look up to him.

 

 

8) Dear Evan Hansen by Pasek and Paul

7b3812b2-6fc7-483c-95f5-1d5e5415ceb1I just realised I haven’t formally written anything about this brilliant musical just yet. But I guess, by now everybody knows that I’m crazy for it and I’ve raved about it countless times. Dear Evan Hansen is simply the musical play of this generation that’s given a voice to people who felt inferior and insignificant. It has made a lot of people reflect on where they stand in the society; how each one of us is contributing to the solution and/or the problem with social anxiety, unbelonging, depression, suicide and relationship dysfunction. It mirrors us. Hence, we can take a better look at our own issues, our own dilemmas and rethink of how we deal with them. Furthermore, Dear Evan Hansen has redefined, if not, set a new trend for musicals today because of the amazing work of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul who seriously deserve the limelight for their genuine talents and innovative approach as composers.

 

9) The Greatest Showman

img_4796Another fantastic work by Pasek and Paul, which I recently raved about on this blog. I am just obsessed with this work of art, this enormous culmination of artistry, zeal, synergy and creative excellence. It’s taught me to “dream with my eyes wide open.” Here’s what I got to say about it. 

 

 

 

10) Keala Settle

showman-660x330I said this before, and I will say it over and over again: Keala Settle is a formidable force of nature. This artist just blew me away and continues to do so. She has a divine touch on what she does. And like Ben Platt, Keala offers something inimitable and unique to her audience and to other artists she gets to inspire. Her fire is contagious, and her kind of fire is what our generation of artists need today. I am unspeakably thankful for what she does. Watch her electric workshop performance of “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman here.

 

11) Family

img_4760Let’s talk about the people I’m thankful for, people I know in person and are related to me. And as expected, family’s always first. This year has been quite a challenging one for my family. And what I got to witness and appreciate is how my family stuck together through the serious hardships. No one’s bailed out. Everyone’s presence is all that mattered. I think our love for each other continues to grow and mature and expand as it also gets tested and measured by difficult circumstances that I can honestly be thankful for. I may not always verbalise it, but I love them inexpressibly. And I’m thankful that they’re the ones given to me in this life.

 

12) Bimby

img_2446The sadness when Bimby left us this year was unthinkable. He would have turned 3 today, the day we found him and adopted him. He was an important family member that radically changed our home. Yet still, I choose to be thankful that the Lord gifted us to him for almost three years. Bim brought our family together, and would always mellow the atmosphere, whatever tension or drama arose. And even now, his memories bring solace to us, with a slight pinch in the heart.

 

 

13) Friends

img_4227Truth be told, I only have a handful of true friends. True friends who I don’t need to see often to keep a good relationship with. True friends who are altogether loyal, honest, trustworthy and reliable. True friends who make me feel loved, understood and accepted. And I’ve never treasured them more until this year. I don’t know why or how, but that’s how I’m feeling. And I believe when people say that you don’t need a lot of friends; just a few good ones you can count on and trust is enough. If they’re reading this, I want to tell them how important they are to me, and how thankful I am for standing by me in the jumpiest and moodiest points of my life. You guys are tops!

 

 

14) Second family

img_4599-e1514710153403.jpgimg_4820They go by the name “Filozart” (I didn’t pick the name, and I’ve always been honest to say that I wish it wasn’t it, Ha-ha!). These people give me a second home, a home away from home. They give me a second family that I laugh and cry with, a second family that I discuss the most random, sometimes unusual things under the sun. They taught me to be honest, to be truthful of what I really feel without fearing judgment by the cruel society. They taught me to face my fears, and work around my insecurities. They taught me to break out of my inhibitions, and leave my comfort zone. They taught me that only I can set limitations to myself; it is only I who will and can determine how far I can go, how fast I can run, how high I can jump. They helped me discover myself in interesting, dumbfounding and uncomfortable ways. I will always treasure them.

 

15) God’s Word

img_3047In 2017, I fell in love with God’s Word like I’ve never done so before; high up to a whole new level. It’s become my lifeline. I read it like my life depended on it (and as it should). My craving for wisdom and knowledge, for more of God’s say and involvement in my life had grown drastically this year. I recognised my weakness and dumbness, and my need for God. His say is all that matters at the end of the day. And He’s given us a chance to know Him and get connected with Him through His Word, through accepting Jesus, the true and eternal Word. I’m thankful that He’s given me that desire and hunger. I developed more consistent Bible reading habits; I read and studied more than ever; I gained more understanding of God, myself, the world, and why things are happening as they are. It’s not always fun and positive; sometimes God will confront you and make you realise the ugly things in your existence (like pride and envy), and how it is your fault that these things remain with you. And the learning does not finish. A verse or a chapter  a day is not enough to solve my personal issues, all the more the world’s. Understanding the Word, living it out, obeying it—this is all just the beginning of a life-long seeking for God’s truth and will. And His plans and purpose always prevail.

 

16) Dirty Bibles

img_4278This is the product or the “overflow” of my quiet time with the Lord that came to fruition late in July. It’s like the Holy Spirit had finally succeeded with the persistent divine nudging. This is the place where I share my personal Biblical reflections and  insights. I wanted to document what I’m learning and what I’m understanding from God’s Word that might enlighten or encourage whoever reads it; and to somehow help others who got the same questions and confusions as I have. And although I’m being interrogated with the name choice and all the potential “connotations” it may pertain to, the Lord knows the heart behind it. At the end of the day, it got people’s attention—but instead of finding something nasty, they are led to the place they’ve always been running away from: their appointment with God. And I will continue to do my best, use my research and writing abilities to bring the Gospel of Jesus to my own sphere and to the larger world. So help me God!

 

17) The G-O-D

img_4725This year, I went through some temperamental seasons—sometimes I’m awkward, awful and angry; sometimes I have it all figured out. This is my normal. This is my reality. But there’s always Someone who remains the same through these mercurial times. He is my constant. My faithful and consistent companion through life’s scornful roads. The One who reminds me of my identity and my inheritance. He is my Provider and Protector, my Guard and Guide. He is my comfort and peace, my joy and my strength. He is My Saviour and King. The One who was, is and will be in control. And I continue to seek Him and trust Him with my life. I continue to know and learn the things He wants me to do, the things He wants me to achieve, the places He wants me to go, the people He wants me to connect with. I continue to learn how to live for Him; how to serve Him and bring Him glory wherever He places me. I want to share Him with the ones who forgot about Him or turned their backs on Him. I want to be good for Him. I want to live out His grace, and love Him the best way I can. I am His, and His love for me has defined who I am and will be.

 

R

I joined the #WalkForFreedom!

And the day finally arrived. The third annual Walk for Freedom had taken place in Sydney last Saturday, 15th of October, and almost simultaneously in 270 other locations all over the globe to raise a massive shout for freedom.
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Registrations. I just love this scene! And I just love the colour black!

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It was my very first walk, that is why I find it significant.
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Hundreds have come to take part in the stand against slavery to let more people be aware of the viciousness of human trafficking and how we can be a part of the solution.
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Folks warming up for the event! We even did massages. Again, an unbelievably awkward and uncomfortable situation for me.

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This is one of the many steps we take to fight against modern day slavery, to stand up and speak up for the millions who have been silenced by it.
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The weather was on our side that day. It was bright and sunny, and pretty windy, too (which is a bonus). And the vibe was fantastic! The crowd of supporter was very wildly diverse! People of all colours and races joined in!
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The huge pack was divided into at least 5 queues. I was in the queue that first walked off and led the walk.

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The walk took about an hour and a half just around the metropolis. Crossing streets was one of our struggles. I mean how would you take 500 people to the other side of the road without rapidly breaking apart? So as expected, there were a few times we had to stop and wait until everybody got through.
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It was a silent walk, to resemble the people who are silenced by slavery. And this “rally” breaks traditions somehow. We didn’t need to hurl up a barrage and be disruptive to make a statement. We just got to walk in silence. I was even expecting that we were gonna walk with our mouths covered with a strip of black tape like in the other walks. But I guess I missed it this time.
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I witnessed some members of the walk team being approached by random passers-by asking what this long terrain of people in black was about. And I could just imagine the possibility of being able to share with them about our the cause that we support, and grab the opportunity to be involved, educated and equipped as an individual regarding the issue.
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I honestly think I took better photos. These are the best ones I could share! #Backfest

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I’d like to emphasise that I am not directly affiliated with A21 or any group at all, but I believe that God has put in my heart the desire to support this initiative, to echo this dialogue, and help to eradicate slavery.
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Honestly, I believe that you don’t need any label to be able to help. You don’t need to have a big name to contribute. You just gotta offer some time to get to know about human trafficking, make people aware of this horrific crime, donate to the funds, and try our best to eliminate the problem in our own spheres.
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This was after the rally, time to rehydrate and take more photos!

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Nobody deserves to be enslaved. Nobody deserves to be trafficked. Nobody deserves to be sold. Humans are not commodities, but people who have life and goals and aspirations. We all have a right to be free.
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Because I had to have one.

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I feel very thankful to A21 for giving me a chance to help even in such small, comfortable ways. And I feel privileged and humbled to be with hundreds of people, thousands around the globe who choose to be a voice for the victims, to raise not just funds but most importantly awareness about this horrendous problem.
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I’d like to express my gratitude to every single person who supported my fundraiser, and believed that this cause makes sense and is for something notable. My fundraiser, High Five to Freedom is still active and alive even after I have met my target of $500. I knew I could make it before October!
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Visit www.a21.org to get to know more about human trafficking and how the A21 campaign is working towards setting people free and helping them rebuild their lives and identities. Find information on donating, fundraising, getting involved and other relevant things as well.
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R.

Valentine’s Day?

Well, yes, it is Valentine’s Day. This day is certainly not for me. But no, I ain’t sad nor bitter over the irrelevance of this occasion in my life ever since I realised what February 14th is for.

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Simple Valentine’s day present I gave to my parents wrapped in recycled paper (You wouldn’t wanna know what it was or where it came from), cards are handcrafted (a much better term than ‘recycled card cut-outs’). Personally, I believe that I still can’t afford to have a GF right now, so what the heck.

Still and all, what makes this day special for the love hungry milieu in general would be the treats that pretty much marshal what this day is for: chocolates, sweets, cakes; schmaltzy love songs and tear-jerking romantic movies lovers and the loveless can all relate to. Simply classic. Anyway, I wouldn’t even wanna go to that sphere of things.

On a personal note, I see it as a day to celebrate and reflect on the concept of love. Look, I am not gonna go define what love is, as though I’m a love guru, a preacher or some psychologist. Everyone has his and her definition and interpretation of this emotion and/or phenomenon.

Yet, maybe we can all agree that love is the greatest, most special, most wonderful feeling in the human emotional system. Although, sometimes we will just realise that it can be the hardest task to ever do, or to be good at, or to be consistent with, or perhaps, to give.

But one thing is for sure: We all know love, and can love because He first loved us. That’s what the Bible teaches us as written in 1 John 4. God is the author, the pioneer, the spear-header and the absolute personification of love. We can never fully understand or even practice love if we never try to grasp or think about who He is and how the Lord has lavished His love upon us. And I think that’s the most important thing to do today.

We all heard the Jesus-died-on-the-cross-and-rose-again story, right? Well, that’s a good start. We probably should find a way to acquire more depth or meaning from what that episode is about.

But really, hope we can all take a moment to reflect on God’s love and see how it has unfolded in your personal life. Do not focus on the lack or the absence of the things you wish you have but turn your eyes on the ones you do have. Seek Him, His Word, His righteousness on a daily basis.

Wallow in the richness and the glory of His love, and realise that love is beyond the superficial–beyond the chocolates, the movie dates and all the commercialism. Love comes from God and is defined by God and must be given back to God by serving Him and by loving one another. And, we get to know how to really love because indeed, He first loved and continues to love us.

I might not make sense to some, or you might think that I just fudged this post but the He-first-loved-us bit is truth, it’s inescapable and is not gonna change. It’s in your favour anyway.

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This simple sketch is called “Three Cupcakes”, my attempt on mimimal-inspired repeated drawings. You could tell that the caption completely has nothing to do with it. But I think I’ve made a point in the writing bit. Ha-ha!