Remember how complicated your child's birthday used to be?

It was Matt’s birthday last Friday but because everyone’s schedules was all over, dinner was re-set for Saturday. We went to Kalye Manila, a Filipino restaurant. Matt ordered everything he wanted to eat; he had sisig, tokwa’t baboy and lechon kawali. His grandmother would’ve been horrified, but he’s 23; he could eat anything he wants and does.

Media Noche 2018

The theme for this year (and the new one) is: less carbs. Well, I’ve been doing this for decades really but I guess it hits home when you try it and seeing for yourself how dramatic the results can be as Jong has found out. We had grilled lamb, pork and chicken, a salad, shrimps. For desert, Doyet baked a cassava cake- we tried to look up Erwan Heussaff’s recipe- but with half the sugar. Over-all, the meal was satisfying and the clean-up, a breeze. Less is definitely more.

It's Christmas: what did you give yourself?

How can you be generous to other people when you can’t be generous to yourself? I’m still mulling over getting a pair of Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35 Shield Water-Repellent running shoes but then who knows?

The Obsession

Someone told me that a long road trip would do wonders for my creativity, that it would stir up my imagination, make me want to write again and that this time, something would come out of it. Turned out they were right. My imagination was stirred up. I wanted to create something, but it wasn't stories- I wanted to take pictures and make videos.

Now, I've been taking photos the moment I had a mobile camera. I have photos on the cloud that pre-date Apple's iCloud. Sixty-percent of the storage on all my devices is images. There is a probably an image of something or someone every other day of my life since 2006. I barely remember stuff, but I can scroll back in time and see what I had done, what I had felt, eaten and worn. It makes sense to take pictures and make videos but what doesn't make sense is how shallow my understanding of it all is and how superficial. I take pretty pictures but have no understanding of how I do it.

I remember one summer (I think) when my dad brought home the first professional camera he's had since he was at university studying Fine Arts. It was a manual Canon, the model of which I can no longer remember. He took photos of all of us- of my mother posed touching flowers in the garden; of my sisters in half-profile, with those weird bowl-cut bangs of the 80s; of me super up-close, pupils half-way up as if I was rolling them; and the best photo of all, of my brother Jay with his famed curls that everyone envied and with our mother's beautiful, placid face.

But this was the thing- half the photos were bad. The one of my mothers' touching the flowers and even the close-up were under-exposed. There was a photo of my dad from the shoulders up taken as if someone had bent at the knees, camera tilted awkwardly downwards (was it my mother who took this with instructions from my dad? Was there a tripod I couldn't remember?) I would've used a different lens to capture a wider angle, or I would simply take the photo face on perpendicular to the subject.

And I know this now because since the trip, I've been studying- something which I HAD NEVER DONE. My dad did photography as well as painting when he was younger and in the space of time between that and the summer he got the camera, a lot of things had changed. I don't know why he had that idea to get the camera and do a leisurely shoot. Was it to take the photos as references to future paintings? Was it to update himself on a hobby/art that he used to do? Whatever the reason, that was the last and only time. The camera was put away in his closet and we would on occasion, try it out after saving enough money to buy film and to have it developed (we had this 'photo-shoot' once with my sisters where they put on make-up and wore black satin dresses and the whole mess turned out blurry and over-exposed, the face foundation coming off as if they fell face first, onto a plate of flour).

I just feel that most of the time, we do things where we just coast along, and I have a long list of these- but after the trip I felt like this is one thing I am simply no longer taking for granted. I don't want to look back and regret having just done things casually and in the same vain of what Leila and I have to label as impeccant mediocrity.

"Ang gand, pwede na" no longer cuts it.

The long drive

I didn't drive of course. In my mind though, I was the one behind the wheel. 

I try to imagine if I could drive and I see myself just driving on and on. I used to do that when I still had my motorcycle. The destination wasn't anything specific; the whole point was the drive itself and how it somehow puts your mind in a zone where you can be away from everything else. This is morbid but I also think of myself dying, some horrific accident that ends my life instantly (it could statistically happen) and the thought forces me to do a quick accounting- have I done enough? How far have I become as a person? Have I loved enough and how true?

And the thing is this, whether you reach this reckoning (of no return or alteration) or not, every so often you do need that accounting.

You need to pause to see if you're moving forward to a destination wherever that may be and to be careful that you're not caught in an endless, repetitious loop like these GIFs below..

(after the holidays, what?) life just went on..

I need to get this post out...


Days feel like a time-lapse of sorts

New year happened

Everyone was a year older...


Summer was a record-scorcher

Christmas 2017

A bunch of firsts; first time to work until our office closed on the 22nd. First time to NOT stress on what to eat. First time to have a decent gift budget which I had half-saved for. And first time to be less nostalgic about the whole thing- and everything was just perfectly fine.

I hate summer. Used to.

Maybe it's a change of perspective, maybe it's age. Maybe winter has become a bit too evocative of what old age would be like- when your spirit is willing, but your body feels half-frozen, fraught with all the signs of physical unravelling. When I was younger, with no friends and no confidence, summer was spent indoors reading book after book. To this day, it's hard to connect with people whose experiences and memories of summer are of easy, physical fun. 

I am still resentful of the heat (even if it's nothing compared to the Philippines); the yellowing of the armpits of my white shirts; the constant application of sunscreen; slight twinges of envy when I see fit people. But I smile a bit now when the sun is on my face- acceptance is such a life-altering thing..

Anxious. Must relax

1. Another year has past and your mind convinces you that last year was just last week. It never feels anymore that you have 365 days in one year, more like half that.
2. I tried to change out the template of this blog and couldn't make sense of the infrastructure. On one hand, what's the point- no one reads me.
3. I do have great ideas to better my diet, restructure my wardrobe, start a writing regimen, and I get a good head-start, but as with anything, sustaining it is the challenge.
4. Why do spend so much for the holidays? How can we get out of the spending cycle?
5. How do I NOT spend so much?
6. Met with my insurance broker/agent who also happens to be a financial adviser and again I have to remind myself- I'll never be rich, but I can enjoy a worry-free retirement (!!) at least from a financial perspective.
7. Speaking of finances, I spent over 10% of my income in 2017 on new Apple products
8. And these Apple products are my gifts to myself this Christmas
9. Looking forward to a quieter Christmas in New Zealand
10. Missing the hectic, surreal holiday festivities of home


Art in your life

My father was an artist in another life. The life that I knew with him as his son didn't have art. It would be years before I would even make the connection that the paintings in his childhood home were made by him.

And I only ever witnessed him putting pen to paper to draw something just once. It was one of his election campaigns and he asked me to design his poster. There were no Macs then, or tablets. It wasn't really easy to open the computer as it was back then and create a mock design of what you wanted. So he sketched the layout with pen on paper and the ease by which he defined his own face on it or the economy of line to bring out an expression that could only be captured with a camera made me realise that I didn't know the person that he was as an artist.

But it never occured to me to be resentful that he didn't encourage us to take up art or to even have it in our home. He gave us everything we needed including things we didn't even think we needed. And at some point, we realised that he had to give something up in order to accomplish this. He taught us by example, that life is about trade-offs and that when you make them, it has to be for a good reason; a reason you will never regret. And I don't think he ever did. 

That art thing seems to be in our family DNA and nearly everyone in our family have dabbled in it at some point with some actually having it as a career. I keep telling myself I'll give it another try only to realise lately that I actually have, that my work as a content creator involves crafting images and design albeit done digitally. To have spun that as a career without any formal training is something I can credit my father for because it's true- you can't teach true talent, it's either you have it or you don't.

In short, I'm actually 'ma-arte' (which come to think of it, is a word that probably comes from 'art' and that if you have 'too much' of it to the point of being annoying, you're therefore, 'ma-arte')
1. I rarely eat lunch straight out of a plastic lunch container. It has to be put on a proper plate and I have even brought personal plates to the office when I think that the provided office plates are not 'proper' enough.
2. I wear my best clothes everywhere just as I present my 'best self' at all times. Why in the world would you dress down, or bring your problems to work?
3. There is no art in chaos as far as housekeeping is concerned. A dirty, ugly house is a dirty, ugly house. I clean up nearly every day otherwise I can't function.
4. Spend some time immersing yourself simply appreciating the beauty of things- like browsing in an LV store! 
5. If you find the balance between the simplicity of art and the outrageous commercialisation of it, you're good. 

(the following are images taken at this unique museum hotel in Wellington called the QT Museum Hotel where I stayed at recently for a conference).