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 

img_4816

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

img_4818

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

The Sissums in Sydney!

Please tell me that was a clever title. I’ve learned that ‘sissum’ (pronounced as /siz-‘uhm/, which means “sister”) is what they’d call each other often, and what their fans also regard them as i.e., “the sissums”.

But anyway, two of my most favourite Filipino artists visited their fans down under! They did a couple of shows over the weekend, one in Blacktown (the one I attended), and one in Mt Pritchard. And even after two shows and two M&G sessions, it seems like we still can’t get enough of these two lovely hotshots.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 5.26.18 pm

Fresh from the success of her 15th anniversary concert titled “Celestine” last year at the MOA Arena, Toni Gonzaga, who is dubbed as the Philippines’ Ultimate Multimedia Star has graced the Australian concert stage for the second time since her last visit, which was apparently more or less than eight years ago (now, I’m not very sure if I got the number right). And this time around, she’s brought her amazing sister with her—star on the rise, Alex Gonzaga, who has also been having a prolific career after wrapping up a very successful TV series last year; publishing a bestseller book, then releasing a studio album recently. Now she’s set to conquer the concert scene as she stages her very first major one at the Big Dome this April entitled “AG from the East: The Unexpected Concert.” She also stars in a TV remake of the iconic “Inday Bote.” Wow, this girl ain’t busy.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 5.28.25 pm

I’ve always known and loved Toni even before she moved to Kapamilya. I’ve always admired Alex ever since she was Alex on “Let’s Go!” back in 2006. They’re not only talented artists, they’re also faith-driven, practicing Christians who have always stood behind their values and principles, and have not compromised their faith for the sake of work. This is just admirable.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 5.30.29 pm

I swear, I just die every time Toni flicks her hair. And oh, the Ari pose by Alex.

I was just flippin’ excited when I first heard the news about their show. I probably was one of the first people to purchase tickets, which I booked mid last year. All I can say really is what an amazing experience! I just love them heaps. They’re probably the only celebrities I look out for on TFC. I’m always on the qui vive for their shows, TV appearances and what not. It was hard to believe that I was gonna see their faces in person.

It was July last year when I posted this mini article about Alex called “My Sassy Señorita.” I wrote in that blogpost how much I admire her and how much I want to meet her and stuff. Who knew that in the less than year, I actually would meet her even if it’s just merely for 30 seconds? Or probably more.

The sisters opened the show with a showstopping song, which I believe is called “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea (featuring Chari XCX). Look, I’m not even sure if that’s actually correct because I do not really know the song and I do not listen to a lot of rap music to be honest. I might have actually confused it with “Black Widow” (featuring Rita Ora), which they performed as well.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 5.32.16 pm

Alex becomes a completely different person every time she raps. Her moves are ostentatious, her hands and hips are everywhere.

One of the best parts of the show was during the gaps, when they basically just talked with each other on stage. They have a funny and interesting relationship, and it shows when they chat and make fun of each other. I just loved and enjoyed the mini banters happening here and there. They’d slag each other off from time to time while everybody would have a good laugh about it.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 5.34.26 pm

I have found the chit-chat’s in between songs very special because you just realise that they’re just right there, that they’re real!

What really astonished me was Alex’ sui generis persona—her highly diverting nature that incredibly blends singing and uproarious comedy. She is a cogent mix of charm, charisma, and chaos (Wow, dang that alliteration. LOL). Her voice has a lot of promise—she’s got the tone and the range. My Mum was bemused to know and hear that Alex can actually sing as she’s normally used to seeing Alex trifling with a microphone in the karaoke segment on ASAP every Sunday on TFC. Well, I’ve always known that she’s had it all along.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 5.33.16 pm

Her humour knocks the stuffing out of me. My laugh was uncontrollable, and my friends know how I laugh—it’s pretty diaphragmatic. I laughed even at her lamest jokes. She blows my mind. She knows how to put up a good and lively show without even trying.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 5.37.04 pm

Alex singing “Break Free” by Ariana Grande. Wow, she CAN sing Ariana stuff! I am well convinced.

.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 5.38.15 pm

This is AG from the East channelling AG from Hollywood.

Alex got to perform a couple of her tracks from her first record called “I Am Alex G.” such as “Panaginip Lang”, and “‘Di Ko Akalain”. They’re very tasteful tunes. Also, I must say that both songs showed her sweet side and that she does have vocal abilities.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 5.38.36 pm

Getting into the belting parts!

.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 5.42.44 pm

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 5.46.35 pm

With some guy from the audience. If only I were fast enough.

With some guy from the audience. If only I were fast enough.

.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 5.52.40 pm

Transitions.

.

The punas-pawis scene. Ate Toni being an Ate to her bunso. What a beautiful and amusing sight!

The punas-pawis scene. Ate Toni being an Ate to her bunso. What a beautiful and amusing sight!

.

The sisters singing "Put It in a Love Song" by Alicia Keys (featuring Beyoncé). I was waiting for this!

The sisters singing “Put It in a Love Song” by Alicia Keys (featuring Beyoncé). I was waiting for this!

.

I remember this conversation. It's Alex warning her Ate to keep the energy up as she started it skyrocket high.

I remember this conversation. It’s Alex warning her Ate to keep the energy up as she started it skyrocket high.

Oh, Toni Gonzaga. Her presence overawed the crap in me. She has a formidable aura that gently scuffles with her ravishing, angelic face. In other words, she is drop-dead gorgeous! She has a delightful personality that everybody loves. Her voice is sensational. It has that deep and warm resonance, and a sweet, silver-toned quality that her fans have loved ever since. Like all other singers, she sounds so much better live.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.02.07 pm

Simply stunning.

.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.03.05 pm

“We’re beautiful like diamonds in the sky…”

She performed some of her best-loved hits including her very first single, “We Belong” (which just got me nuts!!!), “Catch Me I’m Falling” (this would have to be my fav), and my sister’s favourite, “Kasalan Ko Ba?” These have really thrilled the audience and got them wanting for more. I was a little sad that she didn’t perform her latest tracks from her album “Celestine” like “This Love is Like”, and her original composition, “Awit ni Ginny.” I’ll hear them live one day. She also performed her rendition of “Starting Over Again” (originally by Natalie Cole), which was the theme song of her hit movie with the same title.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.04.44 pm

Finally got to witness her awesome singing prowess. I’ve always been a fan of her vocals and style.

.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.12.38 pm

Is there ever a female counterpart for a “balladeer/balladist”? Because if there’s one, then that’s Toni.

.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.11.04 pm

For a fleeting moment, Toni flashed her engagement ring leading up to singing “Diamonds” by Rihanna. A little heartbroken and devastated, I do know and believe that she deserves the joy and happiness that this engagement is giving her right now, plus, the excitement of her forthcoming wedding with his betrothed. Toni also mentioned that it was probably her last big show or concert as a single woman, as she and Paul Soriano are finally tying the knot later this year.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.14.16 pm

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.05.14 pm

At some point, I was waiting for them to sing their popular rendition of “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” by Celine Dion, which they had already done in the past. Again, maybe someday.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.16.33 pm

More funny conversations.

The sister capped off the show with Katy Perry’s “Roar”. But because the audience have clamoured for one more song, they sang “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift (They obviously garnered more cheers after the audience realised it’s a Swiftie song). And then finally, they took their last bow.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.23.54 pm

Oh, this number.

.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.27.33 pm

For someone who has poor eyesight like me, they would look like twins!

.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.28.15 pm

I failed to capture what Alex was exactly trying to do here. But she was trying to creep through her Ate’s legs. You just can never know enough what she is capable of.

.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.29.01 pm

Certainly working that pose.

.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.30.57 pm

My last photo of the sissums on stage on my camera.

I could keep writing about how I admire these two women and how I have enjoyed and appreciated their live performance here in Sydney. I really wish that they’d come back to do another show soon. It was genuinely fun. My smile was just indefatigable. I wish the sissums all the best for their future endeavours, future projects and milestones.

Autograph signing! I got all flustered when as I came closer to them.

Autograph signing! I got all flustered as I came closer to them. Why are these people so pretty? Seriously, what do they eat?

. Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.35.28 pm Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.35.47 pm

A glimpse of super short encounter with them. They were very kind to even write my name on the stuff!

A glimpse of my super short encounter with them. They were very kind to even write my name on the stuff! Also, I remember telling Toni, “Gosh, you smell so good!” She freaking does though!

.

Probably the only decent photo we have with them. I don't understand why people always fail to take decent photos every time it's needed regardless of the kind of camera in use. But I guess this photo's good enough.

Taken from my iPhone by a friend. Probably the only decent photo we have with them. My dad had the good camera but failed to capture a good one. I still don’t understand why he didn’t manage to capture this on the DSLR.

.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 6.37.13 pm

I literally squealed when I saw this in the captured photos!

.

IMG_4442

Boo-yah! Finally! This has been sitting in my collection for months.

.

IMG_4445

Again, boo-yah! Wow, I’m still head over heels for this woman.

.

Follow them on Instagram @celestinegonzaga @cathygonzaga. And on Twitter @PBBToniG @Mscathygonzaga

.

.

R.