New Year

2013 and Where My Heart's Been

It's been a damn long year. 

2013 will go down in my books as one of the craziest, most unpredictable and unbelievable years I've had. But I'm not entirely surprised. I opened this year telling myself that this was the time to really push myself out of my comfort zone and put myself out there. An old journal entry from exactly a year ago today has these simple words splayed on the page in gigantic, capital letters: DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY. 

So I did. And oh, the places it's taken me! 

Those three simple words have taken me to Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda in a journey that I still find myself daydreaming about, wondering if it was actually real. That experience taught me about patience, understanding, empathy, friendship, leadership, and what true cross-cultural dialogue and solidarity really looks like. It taught me the importance of staying present in every moment. And it connected me to some of the most gentle souls I've ever met who will always be the shape and the depth of these dots on a map. 

This year I found myself in places and situations I wouldn't have expected. I found myself--against all reason--willingly jumping off a fucking 44m-high ledge into the Nile River (or what others like to call "bungee jumping"). I found myself on a boat in the pitch dark with nothing but the boundless sky above me and the Indian Ocean around me. I found myself writing a cover story for a magazine. I found myself taking up rock climbing and being kinda obsessed with it. I found myself running a 5K and then climbing up the CN Tower again. I found myself in New York City in the same room as Bill Clinton, Muhammed Yunus, Belinda Gates, and Richard Branson. And then I found myself roaming the city alone. I found myself learning how and really loving to paint. I found myself solidifying a number of friendships, forming new ones, and truly recognizing the depth of what it means to be a family...

...and that's just a snapshot of where my heart's been in 2013.

It's been an intentional year and though I've yet to scribbe the words to define my 2014, here's hoping it will be just as purposeful and full of love. 


Ah, 2012. What is there to say? Probably the fastest year of my life...still blows my mind that we find ourselves here again so quickly, looking back on the year that was and trying to make sense of where it all went. It's been a strange year with a lot of bumps, a year where I oscillated between knowing everything and absolutely nothing almost every other day (like a true twenty-something should).

But more than anything else, 2012 is the year that I gained a new family. I joined the Operation Groundswell team in early June and it has changed my life entirely. OG is unlike anything I've ever experienced before. Our office is a home, our staff is a family, and our work is the passion that drives us all. Getting up to go to work isn't drudgery, but something that I long to do. Everyday I'm surrounded by people who I admire so much and who push me to do and be better. It's a rarity in this world to do the work you love and be surrounded by such crazy cool cats at the same time. I've drank the Kool Aid, no doubt...every last sip of it! 

So here's to a 2013 full of laughter, love, discoveries, and adventure. May you find what you're really good at, what you really want to do, and both the courage and the luck to make it all happen. 

Unvisited Corners

It's been two weeks since I got back from the Philippines, ending my "journey to the motherland" and propelling me straight into a different kind of madness -- no, not the chaos of the streets of Manila but the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. I haven't really had a chance to properly process everything that I've been through, all the odd emotions that have swept through me. But alas, the year is coming to an end (still don't know how this happened so fast) and I'm sitting here, reminiscing as I always do...

I've spent the past year all over the place. After graduation (a milestone I often overlook), I took off to travel and explore the wider world. Thirty cities, nine countries, and three continents later, I'm here exhausted by all the moving around, but bursting at my heart seams with a lifetime of memories and an even greater passion for all of life's adventures.

2011 has just been one big love story, albeit an unconventional one. You see, I've fallen a little bit in love with every city and country I've visited. Whether the scenery, the architecture, the culture, the food, or the people...I'm always enamoured by something and I never fail to find something to appreciate. And at the end of every trip, a certain melancholy sets in as I leave a part of myself there. In Florence, I left myself on the steps of the Piazalle Michaelangelo, up top the Alps of Switzerland, in the night clubs of Berlin, on the canals of Amsterdam, in the chocolate shops of Bruges, the riverside in Phnom Penh, the temple mountains of Angkor...

But that's where the Philippines is different. I don't think I've left any part of myself there, but rather I've found pieces of myself. This trip has been in every sense a journey...not just an exploration of some country, but of my roots. On so many occasions during my time there, I felt national pride for a country I've barely spent any time in. Yes, I was born there and am, by blood, a Filipina...and yet, I've spent my life in Canada and for the past nearly two decades, that has been my home. It's an odd feeling. When I read Jose Rizal's books (our national hero), look into the faces of the people, look out into the country's natural landscape, travel through the madness of its streets, I can't help but feel such a strong affinity for and kinship with this place...

I'll never forget the time we were watching Manny Pacquiao's fight and the Philippine national anthem came on. Naturally, everyone rose to their feet. I don't know why but it took me aback...I've never had to get up for any other anthem but Canada's before. And I didn't know the words...I've only ever known Canada's. I am Canadian after all. And yet, as I stood there watching and listening to the people sing the anthem, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmingly patriotic. And it isn't just patriotism either, there's this familial feeling too where everyone, even strangers, becomes your Tita, Tito, Kuya, or Ate (aunt, uncle, big brother, or big sister).

It's like I've stumbled on to these unvisited corners of myself...and what a surprise to find them miles away from "home" (now a fluid word). And it's even more perplexing to hold on to these pieces and not know quite yet how and where to fit them all in the bigger puzzle that is myself...

It's like Pico Iyer once wrote, "every trip to a foreign country can be a love affair where you're left puzzling over who you are and whom you've fallen in love with"...


Oh, the inevitable year in review post! It's New Year's Eve and I find myself (as usual) looking back on the year's blog posts, written letters, and photos, allowing myself that moment's respite. What can I really say about 2010? I think more than anything else, it's been a year of stability. A year of settling into myself. I've gotten into my groove at work and learned that I do really love and enjoy working at the intersection of the non-profit sector and online media. I've mastered this world of undergraduate studies (and am so very ready to move on!). And I've spent many a lovely moments with the people that I love...learning how to balance this trifecta that is my life. After the whirlwind that was my 2009, I think it's safe to say that this year was relatively tame...and thankfully so!

But it's drawing to a close and something tells me that what lies ahead will be anything but tame or stable. 2011 is graduation year and no longer will I be enclosed in the safe shell that I've known all my life, this world of school and academia. I end my 16 year romance with formal education...thrilled and apprehensive at the same time. And what comes next? Who knows? I've no plans and no maps laid out in front of me. I didn't do the whole grad school application thing nor am I planning to do the whole find-a-job-and-jump-into-the-rat-race thing either. Instead, I hope only to satisfy this beast of wanderlust that lies inside of me, travelling to new countries and exploring different cultures. I'll be in this in-between place, a sort of limbo as I figure out what my next move should be. 2011 and beyond is just a whole load of uncertainty. No firm plans of any sort. Terrifying? A tad. Exciting? Beyond.

Alas, it looks like 2010 has been the calm before the storm. And as for 2011? Je ne sais pas! So in the meantime, let's drink to the year that was and welcome the unknown that lies ahead of all of us!

Cheers to you all! Here's to making ourselves and the world better each day...