2013: Year in Review


Infographic breakdown:

Travel. I did a lot of it. Partly for my job and the other for sheer pleasure. I basically flew enough to equate a round trip to the Philippines, and then some. I calculated all of my weekend outings to SF and discovered that it’s about the equivalent of 2 round trip road trips from here to LA. The Vegas numbers are a little off because i had the (mis)fortune of going to Vegas twice. 😉

6 Concerts. My twinsie and bff, Jess, is a big concert nut, and she and I happen to have the same eclectic taste in music. The highlight was attending 2 (yes, 2) Turquoise Jeep concerts, where I was unexpectedly pulled onstage for some acrobatics.. Flynt Flossy was very keen on keeping in touch with me to hang out after the concert.

4 Published Pieces. When the whole Marissa Mayer thing went down, the blogs I wrote for my job got picked up on a couple of the digital news outlets. After Typhoon Haiyan, I was moved by my cousins’ story of survival. I hocked it to a couple Filipino outlets and was lucky to have it published.

2 Runs Done. I’m not an athletic person and would never consider doing a run, but my girlfriends know how to make anything fun. We did the Mud Run and Rave Run together.

2 Weddings + Bachelorette Parties. Two of my closest friends decided to have their bachelorette parties and weddings within mere weekends of each other. I was really tired during this time but blessed that these two ladies wanted me to be part of their special days.

2 Bucket List Items. One of my bucket list items has been to take a photography class. Now, every time I’m helping David to shoot, I feel like every opportunity is a lesson. The other item is spending a night on a sailboat. David found this cool deal where we were able to sail on Monterey Bay and have the sailboat all to ourselves for a night!

1 Paid Singing Gig. My church group had the honor of being asked to sing for the annual jazz festival downtown. None of us expected to be compensated, but it was a lovely gesture and actually made me feel like a professional.

1 Car Acquired. My shitty Maxima finally gave out on me and it couldn’t come at a better time. David was wonderful in helping me to find a car that I was going to love and even handled the negotiations over the phone, while he was in LA and I was here in SJ!

1 Motorcycle Rally. I had a really awesome experience of coming along on a rally with some of the guys from work. It was a really long ride and I was exhausted after, but I can see why motorcyclists are addicted. Let’s just say i was researching a teal bike after..

Dating has been a toss-up and we all know this. But a bit of persistence and a lot of faith have paid off.

Some things I didn’t mention: I went through a difficult break up. I also lost two people really close to me, my good friend Chin and my grandma. Life is strange. But I am grateful and blessed to be here.

A Vision to See



Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head,
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired:
For then my thoughts, from far where I abide,
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee and for myself no quiet find.

– W. Shakespeare 

David’s right eye is busted. But no more than both my eyes are blind.

At the moment, we could have met – he got mugged on the streets of San Francisco and suffered a pretty gnarly hit to his right eye. In his condition, it was understandable that he wanted to postpone our meet, at a time when he was feeling better and his wounds were on the mend. I could tell this was sincere because he went out of his way to call me to explain what had happened. (A boy actually calling? That is simply absurd.) In the short time we’ve gotten to know one another, and it has been really wonderful. He’s taken a liking to my IG photos and surprisingly, a very keen interest in my writing. As a result, he’s gotten to know me a lot faster and intimately than anyone I’ve ever met.

At first I felt strange at the thought of a guy I could potentially date, going in and seeing everything I am- bare and all. In the past, I’d been so ashamed of who I am and what I’ve done. That has always surfaced later in the life of my relationships and become a source of conflict. I decided that if he really wanted to read my writing, I wasn’t going to stop him. Who I am on paper, is basically who I am in real life. I’m proud of my writing; it has taken me so far and is the vehicle that will take me to even bigger places. But how is it that I can be proud of my writing, but be so ashamed of who I am?

I gave him permission to read it, confident enough in my craziness that if he can’t take it – he can just keep it moving. Surprisingly, the writing has intrigued him even more. So much so that he’s pushing for a date soon, but not before warning me and being slightly self-conscious about the condition of his appearance.

The more I pondered on it – I found there to be a cruel irony in David’s situation. His profession and life behind the camera is one that lives off of appearances. It’s ironic that what’s happened to him has altered his appearance and subsequently become the deterrent for our first meet. Despite that, it’s also a blessing that his attacker happened to hit his right eye, and not his left – which is his shooting eye. All things considered this is the most fortunate thing that could’ve happen to him. He’s still able to do his job, albeit a little bruised. But in this short week of getting to know one another, I wonder if the hit to his eye has skewed his vision and perspective.. because what in the world could he possibly see in me?

He’s only really seen me and likes me through the lens of my photos and writing but is that enough? And am I no better than he is, jumping into this, blinded by what could be love? In my doubt, I think about the thing that sparked our initial conversations, a love of photography; not the technical aspects, but the passion for taking a good photo, for striving to really capture the essence of the moment and freeze it in time.

What compels us to take a photo? Is it the chance, the hope that something incredible will turn out? I feel like my life has been the continuous pursuit of so many clicks, just hoping for that one perfect shot that will stick. I’ve bent over backwards, contorting and moving every which way, just to get the right angle. But what happens when the shot chooses you? What happens when you’re simply at the right place at the right time – and your eyes are open to the opportunity for something unexpected, amazing and life-changing?

Aside: David took this candid shot of me when I accompanied him on one of his engagement shoots. Talented or what? 😉

Vegas Strip & Yoyo Tricks

The-StripEveryone needs a good Vegas story. I just didn’t think I’d have one for a work trip.

I was at my first company tradeshow with only one objective in mind: make this show kickass. For the first couple of days, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to make sure the booth had everything it needed. Finally, I was able to take a breather and look around the tradeshow floor. I walked around and was approached by this guy with a yoyo. I had to admit that I noticed him before, but figured he was just talent that they hired out there in Vegas. He says to me,

“Do you want to see my heart?”

“Excuse me?”

“Do you want to see my heart?”

and then he proceeds to flip his yoyo and the strings into a heart. I melt instantly. Like a peacock, he brandishes the yoyo and gives me everything he’s got: he whips out a star, the word ‘Yo’ and a host of other tricks. I thank him for the performance and he wishes me a good show. I walk away, not quite sure what happened but floored at the seemingly cheesy but effective pickup line.

The next day and last day of the show I gathered my nerve and decided to ask him out. This was Vegas, right? Who cares if he lives far? Everyone needs a good story every time they leave Vegas. I walk towards his booth but at the last minute, lose my nerve. I get cold feet and am on the verge of aborting the plan when he walks up to me and says, “I remember you from yesterday!” I’m relieved. We introduce ourselves and I ask where he’s from. “Oh I’m not from here. I’m from San Francisco.” My heart stops. It just.got.interesting. I ask what he and his group are up to after the tradeshow. He says that his friend is coming in from Arizona and they’re going to go out tonight. I give him my card and let him know that my crew and I were also going out and we should hook up. (FALSE. Of course that was a lie.)

A few hours later he texts me and we coordinate plans for the evening. There’s chemistry over the phone, good banter and witty remarks. I’m excited and get ready to meet him at MGM. We end up at one of the bar lounges. He orders us drinks and we fall into easy conversation. First of which, I have to ask him about yoyo-ing because it’s not everyday you meet a professional yoyoer. He’s pretty much been in the game since he was young. He’s gotten so good that he competes and is lucky enough to do gigs like this as a living. He does anything from simple things like birthday parties or ‘stage 3’ as he calls them, which was this last Vegas show, where he gets flown out and given the grand treatment.

He asks me about my job and I basically talk about how I work 24×8 and how I’m completely invested in my career and professional endeavors. He takes a peek at my ID and realizes that he’s waay younger than me, like 5 years. SMH. I don’t know how I get to attracting these younguns. I just couldn’t help but think this guy is younger than the last guy I was kinda sorta seeing. I asked where he was from and he talked about growing up in Hawaii and eventually moving over to SF.

At some point during this, he took a shot and it’s starting to show. He’s much more talkative, loose and laughing, He’s telling me all kinds of stories and showing me pix from his ipod. He’s trying to sell me his friend from Arizona, James, and how good looking he was, just a little odd, but this makes sense later. We get to talking about Vegas and the different sites and seeing how well the other knew the city. We talked about the different ways we’d done Vegas, whether it be for work, single, attached, with family, etc, and how each experience is good but just different. I asked him how he was doing Vegas this time around and he said, ‘Work and attached.’ I paused for a second and checked myself – did he really just say he’s NOT available?

He wanted to get out of there and get to exploring the strip, so we basically tear out of there. He’s also rushing to find a bathroom, which kills me b/c I’m usually the one doing that. When he finally does that, I stop him for a sec and say.

‘Real talk. Did I just hear you say that you weren’t single?’

‘Ya…’ He sees the look on my face. ‘I didn’t lie.. is that a problem?’

‘Well…  I can’t talk to you anymore.’

‘Oh c’mon!’

I shake my head furiously.

‘Why not?’

‘Well, why did we even go out if you’re not available?’

‘A pretty girl hands you her number in VEGAS and you say ‘no??’

I wanted to kill him.

He presses on, “At the very least, I thought I could make a friend.”

Homie, people don’t come to Vegas to make friends. I insisted that there was no point in doing this. His friend was nearly to Vegas so i agreed to walk back with him to the hotel and just call it a night for me. He was trying to save the evening though.

Then he basically proceeds to pad my ego. ‘A gorgeous girl like you? I can’t even understand how you’re single.’ He even tries to pawn me off to his friend, James, which made me feel even more pathetic. It’s important to note that the minute he told he wasn’t single, the whole mood of the night changed. I wasn’t flirtatious, I kept my distance and hands to myself and was very stand-offish. He noticed so he of course tried to compensate by padding my ego. His mom called him and he was talking to her in Vietnamese. I got a flashback of Phil and wondered what the hell is up w/ my attraction w/ the Viets. He said ‘I love you’ before he hung up and showed me his phone, as if to prove he was really talking to his mom. I say thank you in Viet and he makes fun of my accent. I ask what his mix was and he said he was part Chinese, Viet and white. The minute he said Viet I shook my head.

‘What’s wrong w/ Viet?’

‘Nothing- it’s just that I’ve dated you already.’

The more I looked at him, the more I saw John’s smile, Cristern’s energy, Phil’s heritage, Jason’s situation, and Armen’s age. This guy was the embodiment of everything that had gone wrong in my dating life, from looks, personality, and the fact that he was already in a relationship. Only this time he also happened to be a professional yoyo-er. I couldn’t do this. I refused to do this. I have been the homewrecker and the wrecked. I’ve already done this dance and it never ends well.

Finally we get on the subject on friendship. I argue that men and women simply cannot be friends. He stops in his tracks and says, ‘Really??’ He goes on to say that one of his closest friends is a girl that he met fairly recently. He strongly believed it was possible. I said, ‘Look, maybe I’m just jaded, or have been exposed to my brother and my guy friends, and too many douchebags. It’s just not possible in my experience.’ I think we were sensing the night was nearing its end and we were deciding how to move forward. Basically, if we could be friends. I wanted to give him shit for the reason why he was making ‘friends’ like this. I wanted to accuse him of being emotionally unfaithful and basically being unhappy in his own relationship, but finding other outlets to feel validated. But I held back. I didn’t know him or his situation. I didn’t want to be cruel and unkind so I kept my mouth shut, knowing that parts of my assessment had to be true or else he wouldn’t be out walking the Vegas strip with me.

We awkwardly run into his friend, James, on the street and had to make an abrupt goodbye on the street. He gives me a hug and says, ‘Look, I’d love to hear from you, but if I don’t, I’ll understand.’ I smile, walk away, seething with every bone in my body. I’d never felt so infuriated in my life. Who DOES shit like this!?!? I tore about his business card on the way back to the hotel and cursed the fact that I even gave him my number. But really though- if he were a good boyfriend, he would’ve thrown my number away and not even give me a second thought. I would’ve been bummed and reasoned out that he really wasn’t interested or b) HAD A GIRLFRIEND. That would’ve been fine and I would’ve had a funny story about a professional yoyo-er, tugging on my heart strings. But that’s not what he did. He did the guy thing and capitalized. Pretty girl’s phone number + Vegas = you call her and you make a night of it. Asshole.

I shouldn’t be so upset. After all, he was a performer, giving me a performance. This is his specialty. Nothing was real to begin with. Just a lot of flash and no substance. I feel sorry for him and his poor girlfriend who has to be subjected to the push and pull, the tug and shove of his emotional tricks. Performers are only as good as their audience. And I’ve stopped watching.

The Great Purge


I always have a hard time thinking about what to give up for Lent- but given my breakup, it was clear. I had to give up Cristern. I had to give up the hope of reunion and the hope of anything ever happening between us. The one tangible thing I can think of was to finally drop off his things. When I tell people I haven’t done this, they look at me aghast and think –  why didn’t I do this sooner? Fact is, I didn’t have anything of his that was terribly valuable, just some clothes he left at my house. Because they were things of little valuable, I made that my excuse. But in truth, I was scared to do it because it would mean making a monumental step in letting go. And with Easter next weekend, I knew that the time had finally come.

Before packing up his things, I decided to go through my own things and put aside anything that had to do with him. I came across movie stubs, pictures, old ticket stubs and receipts from our trips together. Then I looked in my bookshelf, right behind my bed pillows and found the letters he’d written me. This was the hardest thing to put away. In the last few months of our relationship, these letters kept me afloat. They gave me hope that our love could be like what it was in simpler, more romantic and carefree days. I felt the urge to open them in start reading but I knew that it would tear my heart open and make this process even harder. Cristern was always so dirt broke but these letters were the one thing that he gave me that made me feel so special. He put so much thought into them, and would attach ticket stubs, fortune cookie fortunes, anything kind of knick knack to decorate it. As our relationship wound down, I’d have to beg him to write me letters. I should have known that when the letters were becoming less frequent, it was a sign of his waning love for me. I solemnly put everything into a shoebox and put it out of my room.

A couple days later, I tackled his things.  I took an empty box from work and slowly folded his pajamas and shirts. The very last thing I placed on top was a Sharks sweatshirt that mom got for xmas one year. I have the same sweatshirt. That whole process hurt like hell. The moment I put the lid on the box, I got a text from a guy that I’ve been talking to. He  asked me out on a date. Coincidence?

Yesterday I went out on a coffee date with that guy and had an amazing time. It felt foreign to feel beautiful, attractive and wanted. This person wanted to be in my presence and wanted to get to know me. He was not hurrying to get to anywhere or looking to push me aside for better things. He was content to sit there with me.

Later that night, I knew it was time for me to start a new chapter of my life. I took the box with Cristern’s things and put it in the front seat of my car and drove the oh so familiar route to his house. I methodically took a back route to avoid any sort of uncomfortable run-in.  I pulled up to his place, scoped out the scene and saw that he wasn’t home.  I pulled out a pen and wrote his name on a post-it note and stuck it on the box. It was strange to write his name. I left the engine running and sprinted to the house. I quietly placed the box in the corner of the porch and quickly ran back to my car, my heart racing the whole time.

I think about the frenzy in my body and wonder if it was the same feeling he had when he taped a birthday card on my car window, only a few days after we had broken up. Now that I’m without the weight of his things, do I feel any lighter? Do I feel free to finally move forward? Not yet, but I know I will. I honestly feel like I’m still reeling from taking that painful but necessary trip down memory lane when I had to parse through his things. I knew that I had been avoiding that feeling. This process has forced me to face that pain head-on.

Lent is about doing something that makes you a better person, something that brings you closer to God and the person you’re meant to be, no matter how hard it is. I know that in order for me to move my life forward, I have to let go. God wants that for me. God wants me to be happy. I have to learn to want it for myself.

10 Steps to Startup Survival

office-culture-in-startups1I’m fast approaching my 1 year at the startup I work for and I can now recount the successes and failures that have gotten me this far. Everyone wants to work at a startup: the free food, the games, the relaxed attitude and dress code are all very attractive. While all that is exists, it’s also a lot of hard work. Here are my humble two cents.  (Note: this is not a photo of my office, although it would be amazing to have a slide.)

1) Say Yes – No matter how big the project, how improbable the idea – always say yes. (Even if you no idea how the hell to do it.) Startup is all about trial by fire and making a lot of mistakes- it’s great because the culture allows for that. Google is your best friend, as are your colleagues. 9 times out of 10 I don’t know the answer to requests that my boss makes. But I’ve learned to get the answer.

2) Stay Hungry –  Complacency doesn’t cut it. Even if you’re making your goals, you have to go above and beyond. Startup is about disruption and keeping one step ahead of the competition. And in adopting that mentality, you have to constantly think about fresh, innovative ideas to throw in the mix. No idea is too crazy.

3) Rule of 70/30 – Our business can get very technical and the tech-speak goes way above my head. But, my boss has taught me the rule of 70/30. When I’m reading something, my goal is to grasp at least 70% of what the article/blog post is saying. I have to look at something and say, “Why the heck does this matter?” The other 30% is negligible.

4) Iteration- As a perfectionist, this was the hardest thing for me to learn. I always wanted to turn out perfect slides/reports for my boss – but this would of course take longer than he was willing to wait for them. There’s power in iteration – and it pushes creative collaboration between me and my boss. Completion is a team effort.

5) Agility – When there’s a way to newsjack and capitalize on the moment – you seize it! You have to constantly keep your eyes and ears open to industry and general news. When you execute, the masses will pay attention and will not only notice your snark/wit, but your ability to move quickly and respond. That’s really the heart of what startup is about.

6) Flexibility – I’ve been in a meeting and have had my boss text me to drop everything because Mashable is calling. My boss has asked me to pull together complex reports/slide decks and will ask for them in 10 minutes. I could be working on something for 2 hours and then someone decides to scrap it and we don’t need it all. Point is, you have to be ready for anything and everything.

7) Move On- Sometimes you get roadblocked on a project and can’t do anything on it or have a really bad day because of someone’s inane comment. You have approximately 30 seconds to grieve and then move on. Things move so quickly so you have to be able to pick yourself up just the same.

8) Stamina- Startup is not for the faint of heart. You work late, protracted hours and you’ll find yourself overly fatigued and caffeinated. You have to be a mind over matter kind of person and to keep the big picture in mind. When I’m tired, I think about what I’m building and I take pride in knowing that I can point to it one day and say, “I did that.”

9) Maintain Boundaries- Because you work a lot, you have to make boundaries to ensure you have a healthy work-life balance. When I open up my laptop at home, I set an alarm for 30 minutes and I’m not allowed to work more than that. It’s a bit extreme but it helps me to make the most of that time, prioritize accordingly and only do what is absolutely necessary.

10) Don’t Take it Personal – I love startup because everyone is blunt as f*ck. It’s great because there isn’t any bullshit to read through, because people will tell you exactly what they feel and what they need from you. That kind of feedback can be hard for an overly sensitive person. You just have to know that it’s not personal. Impassioned comments come from people who care about the business and the product. I’d rather have that fire, than people who don’t care at all.

Coping & Acceptance


6 months later.. this is my attempt at making peace and finally acknowledging my breakup.

Like all breakups, you already see the relationship slowly unraveling in months, if not years before you have enough courage to let go. In my case, it was years. How do I always get myself into these messes? I always seem to find men who are never in the same place in life as I am. John was all about going next level and making that full leap of commitment.  I was scared and just wasn’t ready to go full bore like that- especially since he was my first  long-term relationship. With Cristern, it was like pulling teeth. We spoke a lot in generality about our future, but never the specifics. When it got down to it, he was just too busy playing and trying to figure out his own life, and there just wasn’t room for me. I kept pushing, and waiting and hoping someday that there’d be room for me. But all that waiting was in vain. In our 3.5 years together, he was still the same person: scraping the bottom of the barrel, just struggling to get by, and going out and not having a care in the world.

Had I changed in that 3.5 years? I came from working for free for an aspiring author, working for free again and commuting to SF for an editorial job, to working a shitty job at retail, to having some semblance of security working in publishing, and finally – having a legitimate career at a startup, where I bust my ass, get to do what I love, and feeling more financially secure than I have ever felt in my life. Was it wrong to want more? No… but my professional circumstances, biological clock, and tenure at that relationship made me feel entitled to want more. That feeling wasn’t wrong. But that was always a point of friction for the two of us. He was just trying to get by, figure stuff out, and here’s me, ready to take it to the next step, and just waiting for him to grow up and catch up.

They say that the heart of a couple’s break up and problems boils down to 1-2 things. They take on various forms but at the heart of it, they’re essentially the same thing. Inevitably you fight about those things and rationalize the mending of it because of two reasons: 1) you’re scared to let go 2) you’re naïve. The crux of our problem was that we were at different places in life and every other problem sprung from that. His want to go out and party w/out me made me insecure – it would make me think, ‘shouldn’t he be trying to find a better job?’ ‘shouldn’t he want to invite me to go out with him?’. That insecurity got out of control and pushed him away because he thought that I was made of stronger stuff. The insecure girlfriend sitting at home waiting for her boyfriend to call was not the same independent, ‘I don’t need a man’ chick that he was so attracted to 3.5 years prior. He did not sign up for this. So he began to even question who I really was. And doing that, it made me question and really doubt myself.

There is nothing worse than losing yourself and doubting who you are; especially when that doubt springs from someone who you had always believed loved you unconditionally as you were, better or worse. I think about my natural disposition and will admit that I’ve always been a sucker for love. I’ve always bent over backwards at the thought of being with a man. And when I’m with one, I give wholeheartedly and dangerously. The independent chick spurts happen as a result of single life. I’m literally forced to accept and be in love with myself- and that is a sad fact. I’ve never been really happy with myself and that is something I’ve long struggled with – and it really has nothing to do with a man. I am a consummate perfectionist and perpetually hard on myself. I never let myself enjoy anything because I feel guilty for feeling good – that I’m so severely lacking that I don’t deserve to feel good about anything. Where does this come from?

I love my parents but part of it as a function of how I was raised. Everyone was always watching, judging, and you had to be perfect because our family was the best. You fall short and it is unacceptable. Throw in being a woman in this botox and boob job age, oldest child syndrome, and Catholic guilt and you got a hot mess. The other part of it is that it’s only been in recent months that I’ve started to work through who I am and be accepting of who I am and to realize there’s beauty in that. I have to be ok with me before anyone else can be ok with me.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if I’m miss independent chick or dependent wannabe girlfriend. I’m me. And the one for me will love me no mater what labels i put on myself. I am Virg. Neurotic at times, a scathing perfectionist, all-together too hard on myself, but… The people i care about- they always come first. Even before you think you’ll need help, i’m already one step ahead thinking about what i can do. And most of all, i’m loyal. I will love you, I will love you, I will love you. Someone out there will want that. Someone out there will need that. For someone out there, that will be more than enough.

Men who don’t want that aren’t for me. They don’t deserve me.

A Change of View

D4046B9A-782F-11E1-9A28-D2AD052995DAWhen I had my one-on-one with my mentor, M. Evelina Galang at VONA, I was bout to piss my pants. My manuscript was scattered with no real plot or cohesion. The one story that did have promise was, “A Christmas Robbery,” the one thing I actually worked and re-worked (and re-worked) so that it won me that place in Tayo Lit Mag. I guess it shouldn’t be any surprise that the one piece that I actually spent the most time perfecting was the one that had the most potential.

She gave me some interesting feedback and asked me to write the story from the perspective of the mother. I had never thought to do it that way because I had always been so busy trying to capture it from my point view, the point of view of the little girl, because it’s the way the story has unfolded in my memory.

But Evelina taught me an important lesson in distancing myself from my work. I had been so invested in staying “true” to story that I had missed the potential in exploring the mother’s complexity. No, not my mom’s complexity, but the woman in the story. (Although, admittedly in writing it, I did begin to empathize with my mother during that difficult time in our lives.) In taking this step back I was able to find new paths in developing the character and the conflict that propels her forward through the plot… and I’m still not done yet! Here’s the revision of the story I made while I was in Miami.

I didn’t want to take her into the city, but I had to.  Her yaya fell ill and I had no one to take care of her.  Before the jeepney arrived I slowly bent down and told her, “Huwag mo bitawan yong kamay ko.” She obeyed and took my hand. Manila was dangerous so I pressed on, “If you let go of my hand, walang ka nang nanay.” Tears filed her inchik eyes.  She always did look like her father more than me.  I wanted to comfort her and apologize for my harshness.  She was only 4 years old, but I knew she had to learn.   If she let go, she would be lost.

It broke my heart to utter the words, but how much more if something should happen to her? She needed that fear to survive out there.

We moved quickly down the streets, her little feet struggling to keep up.  I had so many errands to run and I wanted to get her out of the city as quickly as possible.  We were stopped on the sidewalk and I looked down to check on her.  Her cute mouth agape, staring at a banana-q stand.  I wish I had a camera to snap a photo and send to her father.  I asked her if she wanted one but she shook her head.  Her eyes though, always betrayed her.  You could see and know everything by them. I was always at the hospital with J.R’s constant illnesses.  The Philippine pollution and heat were difficult on his fragile body.  Every month he would be in there for a new illness.  I’d have to leave her with the yaya every time.  During those difficult times I would ask her how she was doing and she would lie.  She was so small, but so brave.  She had learned to put on a face for me, while I tended to her brother.  I knew I had to do better by her.   I bought her two banana-q and promised we’d go to Magnolia ice cream shop before returning home.

Paroles brightly lit the streets and this gave me hope.  Soon, Virgil would be coming home to visit and stay for a couple of weeks.  A few months ago, the kids had a small recital at school where they learned “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” It was their first English production.  Ginette vigorously rowed her arms just the way the teachers taught her.  Her sherbet colored sailor dress bobbed on the papier mache waves.  J.R. gallantly wore a miniature navy man’s uniform and sharply saluted the crowd.  His arms were covered in mosquito bites, ones that I tried to cover with makeup.  “Iwanan mo, mommy, they make me look like a real sailor!” I had never been so proud.  After the show I saw both moms and dads rushing to their children.  JR and Ginette could only run up to me.  I didn’t have enough arms to hold them.

Today was a special vigil for St. Anthony.  I had to light a candle for Virgil to assure a safe trip home.  The paperwork never seemed to end.  These 6-month stints were growing more difficult.  When would we truly be a family again?

I positioned my little girl in one of the middle pews.  She sat forward with her short legs hanging over the side of the pew.  The pew was so large, it enveloped this tiny girl.  I scanned the church to see only a few worshipers scattered throughout.  I didn’t want to leave her there but St. Anthony would grant our family special favor today for his feast day.  I needed to pray for us.  Reluctantly I handed her my purse and told her to wait there while I prayed.

The walk down the aisle didn’t seem as long the first time.  I could almost see Virgil at the altar, waiting for me.   I took a padded pew before St. Anthony.   I hated the idea that St. Anthony was the patron saint of the lost.  My husband was not missing, but in those agonizing months apart, I felt lost.  Could I be both mother and father? Was I enough? Ginette was 4 and JR only 2.  Would I lose my family even before we had had a chance to begin?

Hot tears cascaded down my rosary.  And then I felt a tug on my on sleeve.


Anakko! Are you ok?” I struggled to stand up and wipe my face with a pano.

She lowered her eyes and faintly whispered, “Kunin nila yong purse mo…”

My heart stopped.  I looked toward the empty pew.  I looked to her small empty hands.  And in the distance, I could hear a rapid click clack of footsteps against the marble floor.  I took her hand and we raced through the church, and out onto the street.

I raced to the Carriedo Fountain just in front of church and climbed onto the edge.  I paced the perimeter of the fountain, feverishly scouring the busy street, searching for anyone with the purse Virgil had given me.  I looked down to my little girl below, fighting back her tears.  What had I done?

I spotted a policeman nearby and explained what had happened, but he hadn’t seen a thing.  It hurt for me to beg for money but I had no other choice.  Somehow I had to find away to get us out of there.  We took the first jeepney to the nearest bank.

I explained the story to the tellers and tried to hide my shame for doing something so foolish.  How could I leave my daughter like that? How could I risk making her lost? Her head hung low all day.  She hadn’t said a word since we ran out of the church.   All the bank employees marveled at her bravery.  I did too.  They all offered her candy but she refused.  My child was needlessly hard on herself.  She needed something more.  I was going to make good on my promise.

We walked out of the bank and down a few blocks.  Ginette’s shoes were scuffed from our tear of the city.  It was much more of Manila than I wanted her to see.

I turned the corner and said to her, “Ah, dito na tayo.”

I pointed to the shop window and her cute mouth opened in awe.  Mango, macapuno, jackfruit, and her favorite, ube ice cream melting before her eyes.

Gusto mo ba?” I asked.

Tears filled her eyes and she couldn’t bring herself to look up at me.  I bent down to wipe them away and took her gently in my arms.

I pulled out pesos from the bank, “See? Wala lang.”



I’ve been terrible, I know, and haven’t posted since I got back from Miami (which btw- was an AMAZING experience that I will write about soon.) At the end of VONA, each participant had to do a reading of one of his/her pieces. I had originally picked something that I’d already written just to play it safe. But my mentor and residency leader, M. Evelina Galang, threw a wrench in my plans. On our last day of the program, we were invited to her home for lunch and a day of writing. It was lovely to sit outside in the Miami sun and have the singular mandate of writing. (Although, I was reprimanded for ‘liking’ my mentor’s pix on FB while i should have been writing..  what can i say – i’m a rebel and stubborn when it comes to my own good.)

She had us do an exercise where we closed our eyes and channeled our ancestors. While doing this, the one person I could think of was my Lolo on my dad’s side. When I sat down to write I started having a conversation with him and what spawned out of that conversation is the piece you see below.  When i shared it with my cohort, I was in tears, thinking about and loving and longing for a man whom i never knew. My cohort encouraged me to read this piece instead of the one I had planned b/c the feeling that brought it to life is the source of where my writing comes from. And so.. after the initial writing, I spent the whole afternoon editing it. And when I presented to all of VONA, my cohort was surprised that it was the same piece I had produced earlier. One of them commented, “You edited the shit out of that didn’t you?” Yes, yes I did.

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to Abraham De La Cruz Acacio.

I hate Werther’s caramel candy.  Whenever those commercials came on, I would quickly change the channel.  The child in the scene is unable to open a small piece of candy, and the grandfather gently undoes the gold foil and tenderly places it in his mouth.  Where was that person to unwrap my candy?

Everyone knew lolo or abuelo.  They celebrated mass, birthdays and Christmases with him.  I have no such memory, only a lingering feeling that something had been taken from me much too soon.

Lolo, how did you fall in love with lola? How did you comfort a widow who grieved the loss of her first husband? How do you take on a child who is not yours? How do you begin a chapter for this family by adding new life to it? How do you explain to the priest why all the host is gone even before Mass starts, and why your son, the altar server, can’t stop laughing in the back? How do you explain why you risked your life to save stacks of books from the public library, while Manila burned all around you?

All I know of you lolo, are a few stories, good stories.  Stories to help me paint who you are.  I see you with a chicken in one hand a machete in the other, ready to put dinner on the table for Inocencia and your three boys.  I see your hands calloused from corralling the pigs to and from market. The sweetness of smoke and tuba are your daily cologne.  Lola hates it when you smoke and drink but she’s still drawn into your kisses.

You wear the same white T shirt.  It was always clean because lola made sure of that, but the hole at the nape of your back grew bigger with each typhoon season.  Character, you’d call it.  Things needed to be worn in, like people.  If they didn’t have any holes in them, they’d be less interesting.  “This is where the stories are,” you would say. Lolo, I do know you. You and me, we are so like.  Because the holes in me, they make me long for you.

2012: The Year of Ill


Let’s face, 2012 was an interesting year. For some reason the only way I could think of the year was in terms of illnesses I had dealt with. This is TMI, so if you hate this kind of stuff, I’d turn away now.

1)   Bronchitis. At the end of 2011, I was battling what I thought was a pretty severe cold that had a lingering cough. I went for at least 3 weeks with this hacking cough before getting it checked out. I was only prompted by the fact that I was going on a 3-week trip to the Philippines and didn’t want to be SOL w/out any medicine if I did in fact have something more serious. When I arrived at the doctor’s office, I ended up breathing into a tube to clear my congested lungs.  My doctor scolded me for not coming in sooner. How was I to know that it was bronchitis? But the fact that I was hacking out my life with each cough, should’ve tipped me off.  I went to the Philippines  (the place with probably the worst air quality in the world) strapped with an inhaler.

2)   Severe Diarrhea. When I went to the Philippines back in 2007, I drank the local tap water and fearlessly ate food from street vendors and was completely fine. When I went there in January 2012, despite my better efforts of avoiding al tap water and ice, I suffered the most terrible bout of diarrhea. I wanted to kill myself. It was such a hindrance to our crazy travel itineraries. And because it’s a 3rd world country, there would be times when bathrooms were nonexistent.

3)   UTI – Just when I thought I was on my back to the comforts of the US, I experienced the worst flight of my life. I left Manila with what I thought were cramps but quickly realized it was UTI. I went to the bathroom every 5 minutes in excruciating pain. All I had to fight it was a bottle full of pain relievers. The warning label read that I shouldn’t take no more than 8 in a given period or I could risk kidney failure. I weighed out the mind-numbing pain I was experiencing against the possibility of kidney failure and my pain won out. I spent 16 hours on that flight, sweating and praying for relief. I asked the gentleman next to me if he wouldn’t mind giving up his aisle seat because I was stepping over him so often. He declined, saying that he always had to pee too.  MEN.

4)   Food poisoning – This was my own damn fault. I did a very Filipino thing and left out some fish to defrost so I could cook it when I got home. I got home late that night and didn’t have a chance to cook it until later in the evening. The fish tasted funny but braved it, since I was hungry. Bad decision. The next day I was feeling awful.  I was shaking and sweating and thought maybe I had come down with a fever. The room was spinning and I couldn’t keep anything down. Finally, I yacked my life away and felt immediately better.

5)   Vertigo – The food and poisoning and vertigo somewhat overlapped and so I was confused about what I was suffering from.  I was fitfully dizzy and all I wanted to do was lay in bed so the room would stop moving. I wanted to eat but would immediately feel nauseous after I did.  I went into Skyfall and couldn’t stomach the first chase scene so I had to leave after the first 10 minutes. I wanted to refund my ticket but was so nauseous that all I wanted to do was go home and lay down. Damn you Skyfall!

6)   Neck and back problems – Ordinarily I wouldn’t consider this an ailment but I’ve been dealing with it for the past couple weeks and it’s really affected my day to day activities. At first it was just a slight soreness I was experiencing, but one morning I woke up was unable to move my neck. I literally slid off my bed horizontally and onto the floor and put both hands behind my neck to lift myself upright. It was absolutely awful. I’m currently seeing a chiropractor.

7)   Heartbreak – This was one I didn’t see coming. But in hindsight, it was inevitable. What can anyone say about the pain of heartache? It’s a pain that slowly rises like thunder in the distance. You know it’s coming, but you somehow think the storm clouds won’t ever come near you. There are moments that overwhelm me, like I’m drowning in so much sadness and loneliness don’t know how I’ll ever make it out. There are others that prick like a thorn, a memory, a scent, a song – that send me spiraling down onto my knees.  There are moments of longing for comfort that tear me in two. Others where I am seething with rage and hatred. There is nothing I can do, there is nothing I can take to get past this pain.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from all this is that my latter ailments followed my breakup. Coincidence? Who knows, but one thing is clear: I have to take better care of myself. And while there are doctors to see and medicines to take for most of these ailments- how am I to deal with the heartbreak? I recall a quote that once said, “The best way out of difficulty is through it.” I’m bigger and stronger than the sum of my illnesses and past hurts. I’ve gotten past them, and I’m getting past them. I’m still here.



This was a fun poetry exercise. We took fragments of others’ poetry and spliced it with our own work to make an entirely new poem. It was a great opportunity to force experimentation and stretch our creative sensibilities. Some of these lines are so cutting and graphic, I wish I could tell you who wrote them and properly acknowledge these talented poets. But I can tell you clearly which lines are mine! This whole thing is emo, so I’ve identified my lines in blue.

Masochistic Melancholy

I watch the purple-gray day suffocate in the quilt of night
Like a newly-formed tooth piercing through the tender flesh of a baby’s gum
It feels like shards of stained glass have pierced my eye
The day ends, but now my journey begins
In waking I sleep, but through dreams I live
To rape your mind…
I am Aphrodite- condemned on her scarred knees
Craving words like a shiver does sun
Underpaid in love, starving for compassion,
Like a siren, you sing to me in the sweet notes of a minor key, calling me in tempting treble
Waiting with indulgent glee to become the most beautiful of butterflies
Eager to steal my breath in one long, life-giving, passionate kiss and then-
For a moment our eyes caught, and you gazed at me as we shared the loudest silence

Last scraps of light slip from celestial bodies
You coax me to down the drunken apothecary’s ground-stirred-foaming concoction
Filling me with the ashes of You.
For you I bleed, for you I climb,
The sweet I sought, the bitter I find.