The Story of My 2013 in A Thousand Words & Million Happy Smiles

“Memory is a funny thing. When I was in the scene, I hardly paid it any attention.” – Haruki Murakami (Norwegian Wood)

In a few hours time, my 2013 will just be a memory to me. Another leaf in the calendar to throw away and replace with the new one. An old journal to keep inside the box and a new one with the blank pages to fill with fresh thoughts and new hopes. A new jar of happy pills to fill in with happy moments.

My 2013 seemed to happen so swiftly, but nevertheless, I believe that in all of the moments that happened to me this year, I was able to savor it and live within it during the time of their occurrences. I enjoyed every scene I played in my 2013 life story. I cherished every episodes with much appreciation and gratefulness because I know that after that, I can never recreate those special moments again. You can be with the same people in the scene again but the emotions you felt during that time could be a lot different.

Looking back at my 2013, my heart is full of gratitude for I really felt God’s love embracing me all throughout. Since the first month up to the last, God’s always present and involved in every bits and pieces of my 2013 story. I still don’t have a boyfriend and I’m too far to be engaged but who cares?! There are still a lot of things to thank Father God for the year that’s about to end.

I’m thankful that I still have my family with me. We are still complete and happy. Although there maybe occasional setbacks but our faith in God is steadfast that He will restore everything in His time. Every day that I wake up and I see them lying next to me, or when I go to my Lola’s house and see everyone there or have a phone call with a tito or tita or my cousins living a bit farther form us, I’m overwhelmed with much gratefulness that the protection of God is upon our family.

I’m thankful for the gift of friendship. I’m thankful that God gave me different set of friends who are really for keeps. Some of them, I’ve been friends with for almost two decades now, some for a decade, some for 6 or 5 years, some for a couple of months, but nevertheless, God’s been gracious to bless my life with friends who accept me for who I am, laugh at my weirdness, understand my randomness, feel for me when I feel down, and rebuke me if necessary. Thankful for the broken relationships and burned bridges which have been restored this year. There were friends I lose along the way but I’m still hopeful that God can restore my relationship with them. Just as I have faith in Him, I also have faith in the foundation of our friendship and that no amount of misunderstanding or strife can totally ruin it.

I’m thankful for the new people that God brought in my life this 2013. In one way or the other, these people have touched my life in a very special way. They are, undoubtedly, another addition to my bunch of friends for keeps. I hope that God will also make use of me to extend His unconditional love to them.

I’m thankful to God for sending me to the nation of Medan, Indonesia. That mission trip is perhaps one of the highlights of my 2013. The year before, that mission trip was just a desire, but God made that desire come into fruition this year and I just couldn’t contain the happiness and fulfillment I felt when I was finally in the mission field. Indeed, man has plans but it is the Lord who will direct his steps (Proverbs 16:9). It wasn’t an easy episode  and there were a lot of emotional struggles I had to battle just to get through but God remained true to His promise till the end. He never left me and was faithful and providing for me and our team during that time. I’m also grateful to those people who allowed themselves to be used by God for this mission trip. Their “yes” really made a big difference in my 2013.

I’m thankful for my spiritual family. These people never fail to remind me of God’s goodness in my life and they’ve been great instruments on the changes in my perspectives about life and love in general. And truly, my walk with Jesus is made even more fun and enjoyable because I’m walking with them, too.

Nine years has passed and still I am thankful to Oliver and his family. He might have long bid goodbye to this world but the pieces of his life are still connected with me. I am forever thankful that God blessed me with another family in them.

Travels. Some people might view it as just a luxury, a waste of money perhaps. But never for me. Traveling makes me appreciate the life I live and the world I live in. It makes me value my job and hard work but also helps me understand that life is not just about pushing your way to the top without stopping for a moment and enjoying the beauty surrounding the road your trudging on. Traveling makes me come to terms with my fears and issues. It makes me experience different cultures, understand that people have different opinions on things, and it makes me appreciate and love my country — the Philippines — more and more. Moreover, it helps me weave words in a more creative manner which I never thought I could do before.

And on that note, I thank God for blessing me with travel opportunities and provisions this 2013. My Bangkok trip was memorable because that’s the first time I traveled with my family out of the country. The joy that I see in my mom’s face every time she shares about that Bangkok experience is really priceless.

I’m thankful for the jobs I got to do and earn from without feeling stressed or slaved out. I’m thankful for the students who made me feel like I’m the best teacher ever especially during our summer class. I’m thankful for my online employers who continuously give me community development and writing projects. I’m thankful for our events clients who entrusted the special milestone of their lives to us and for appreciating our service. I might not be trudging the corporate ladder with my power suits on but I’m equally happy where I am now. I’m blessed to be doing the things that I love the most and earn from them– writing, teaching, and events management.

Just as I’m part of the happy scenes in my 2013, there were also sad episodes that I had to act upon on. But I have to thank those melancholic moments, too for they helped me cling on to God more for strength and comfort. The issues and struggles I battled with in 2013 helped shaped the kind of faith I have now. And truly, at the end of every storms, there’s a rainbow to give hope and smiles for the coming days. I’m thankful that God was glorified even in my lowest points and I was able to bear witness to how He’s moving in my life.

2013 was also the year when I celebrated my 30th year of existence. Months, weeks, and days before my 30th birthday, I’ve been having mixed feelings about turning 30. In all honesty, I more of dreaded it before the day came. The thought of hitting the big 30 and still single, I believe, is a common dilemma. March 13 came and from 29, I finally became a 30-year-old single lady. But wait, I’m not just a 30-year-old single lady, I am a 30-year-old single but empowered, blessed, and complete woman of God. Hitting 30 did change some things in my life but I learned to embrace them all and celebrate the joy of hitting this age of maturity (hopefully). I am still single but I thank God endlessly for I know that He has already prepared “the one” for me. In His appointed time, I know our paths will meet. For now, I will busy myself doing what God has called me for while waiting for His best for me.

My 2013 wouldn’t be meaningful and complete without the presence of Father God in my life. I am eternally grateful that He is the Lord and Savior of my life. Each and everyday, I thank Him for the gift of my life and His involvement in every details of it. I hope that in the coming year, I will experience more of Him and soar higher with Him.

Happy New Year everyone!

Here’s to loving more the people you’re with, welcoming the new ones that will come into your life, embracing new changes, facing new challenges, winning over difficulties and trials, climbing more mountains and maybe hoping to move some, leaping of an even greater faith, sharing more laughter and joys, crying over heartbreaking moments, giving more of what we have, appreciating the people and things in our lives, giving more hugs, drinking more coffee and tsokolate batirol, munching more chocolates, reading more books, visiting more holes-in-the-wall, traveling to different places, and dreaming big dreams!

Let’s declare that 2014 is the Year of the Lord’s favor upon our lives!

Jeremiah 29: 11-13 

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Cheers! Life is better when you share it with the people who matters to you! Share the love! Be blessed! 😀

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My Unexpected Love Affair with Medan

Medan, Indonesia.

I never meant to fall in love with you. I didn’t expect it at all. I never had any expectations when I first stepped my feet in your grounds. All I wanted then was to experience more of God in a different land. But you gave me more than I expected–definitely a lot than I ever prayed for.

We arrived at Medan morning of October 15. I didn’t have much expectation of the place because I was told that it’s just like Manila. But I must admit that the city has surprised me in many ways.

The Airport.

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The streets and some sights.

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Maimoon Palace

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For our entire stay in the city, we were booked at Danau Toba International Hotel. It is a 5-star hotel located in the heart of Medan. The hotel is conveniently located just 5-10 minutes walk to shopping places like Sun Plaza and 15-minutes drive to Cambridge Plaza. We booked two rooms in the hotel–one for our guy friend and one for us 3 girls.

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This room served as our official home for our two-weeks stay in Medan.  And yes, this room was witness to the fun moments I had with our team, the heartfelt talks, the sharing of thoughts and opinions, the once-in-a-while not-so-heated arguments which we were able to give peaceful resolutions to at the end of the day. This room was also witness to the happy moments we’ve spent with some of our Indonesian friends whom we grew so fond with.

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Universitas Sumatera Utara.

One of the largest universities in the city of Medan. Almost everyday of our stay in the city were spent in this university. This humble university welcomed us and made us feel very much at home. I will never forget the times we’ve spent at Perpustakaan Universitas (University Library)–meeting different students and making friends with most of them, sharing stories, playing UNO cards, and eating with them. Although I’m not really fond of spicy foods, the joy of eating with these students surpassed that pungent taste.

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Kantin Mahira.

This canteen located within USU is not really extraordinary of sort. But this place holds a special place in my heart. This place saw how friendships were built between people from different beliefs and origins. It was a silent witness to deep, heartfelt, and hearty conversations we had with our Indonesian friends. This was also the very place where I first had my taste of TEH BOTOL—a famous Indonesian drink which I didn’t like at first but eventually learned to love and crave for. Kantin Mahira may just be your usual school canteen but for me, it was made extra special because of the memories created here–the people, the moments.

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My favorite! Teh Botol!

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Medan left me very special memories of the places I’ve been to when I was there–Sun Plaza, Cambridge Plaza, Aviation School, 061 Bistro, Maimoon Palace, Waroek Nenek, Kopi Ong, Coffee Cankir, Coffee Box, the A&W near USU, the Feng Huang Spa, Hermes Plaza, the restaurant where we ate Kwetiaw, Koki Sunda, Waringin, and of course, Solaria and Carrefour. I could still vividly recall the special moments created in every places mentioned and those moments were like my happy pills during my time of reminiscing.

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And how will I ever forget my Koro-Koro experience in Happy Puppy? Koro-Koro is Indonesia’s term for videoke/karaoke. Along with our Indonesian friends, our team sang to our heart’s content to the songs of Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, The Script, Bruno Mars, Backstreet Boys, One Direction, Christian Bautista, and many others. We even sang Regine Velasquez’s Pangako and our Indonesian friends sang some of their local songs, too.

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My Medan, Indonesia experience was definitely beyond compare. It was two wonderful weeks that I will never ever forget. I am grateful beyond words to Father God for allowing me to experience this overwhelming adventure. And yes, I was able to really encounter Him in that city more than I ever imagined. My sojourn  in this city may be quick but I could say it was experience-full. I learned a lot of things through this journey that I am certain to keep forever with me. I discovered things about myself which I never thought I have. I battled with fears, insecurities and anxieties but through the grace of God, I won over all of them. I welcomed the differences in every person and embraced the truth about individuality. And yes, I believe that this journey to Medan has made me an even better person than what I was before I stepped my feet on this city’s grounds.

I have to thank the people who have been instrumental in making this Medan experience a really awesome and unforgettable one. These people have caused a different kind of stir in my heart and in my life.

I will forever be grateful to the special people who served as our mentors while we were in Medan. These people carefully guided us on the various things we needed to do while in the city. All our special moments together, the random talks and sharing that really encouraged us, and all the hearty laughs we shared—I will certainly keep them locked in my heart forever. You never know how much you’ve inspired and encouraged me and my friends. If there’s a word that weighs more than THANK YOU, that would be my word for you guys.

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This whole Medan episode in my life wouldn’t be that unforgettable and remarkable if I haven’t met these Indonesians and became friends with them. You made me believe that even people with different beliefs, customs, and values could really be friends. Thank you for welcoming us in your city and for making us feel like very much at home. Thank you for all your ready smiles, the laughs at our jokes, the amused and fascinated look every time I talk about something ridiculous, the interest in my Korean stars fascination, your attentiveness whenever I am in the mood to talk about serious stuff on life and love. Thank you for always making time to meet us and spend time with us despite your busy university schedules. Thank you for the wonderful friendship you offered to me and my friends.

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To the four students whom we got to spent a big chunk of time while in Medan–Dina, Fanny, Ingrid and Nova–Thank you! You keep telling us that we made a big impact in your lives, but really, it was you who created a lasting impression in our hearts. Thank you for all the times you spent with us, assisting us, bringing us to different places and letting us experience riding an Angkot. You might not be aware of it but all four of you have inspired us in many ways. Your unpretentious and humble heart to really know more about God is just so overwhelming. We’re as excited to see you soaring higher with Him. Thank you for being our younger sisters while we were in Medan. All the moments we’ve spent together are kept in my jar of happy pills. Whenever I think of Medan, your faces always flash in my memory. I will always remember each of your laughs, your distinct characters, and all the special moments I’ve spent with each of you. Thank you for introducing me to Teh Botol and Solaria, for giving a new meaning to “Impartation,” and for bringing me to Carrefour 🙂 Each of you has a special place in my heart ;). And thank you for making us feel special, too 🙂

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Medan is just a regular city to me until you all became my friends. You made me look at this city in a different light and love it even more. Terima Kasih! Thank you for never making us feel like a foreigner in a foreign land.  I will never ever forget all of you 🙂

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Jeff Goins wrote:

“Traveling will change you like little else can. It will put you in places that will force you to care for issues that are bigger than you. You will begin to understand that the world is both very large and very small. You will have a new-found respect for pain and suffering….While you’re still young, get cultured. Get to know the world and the magnificent people that fill it. The world is a stunning place, full of outstanding works of art. See it.”

With conviction, I would say my life is never the same again after Medan. Yes, it may seem like a simple travel to another country for some, but it left a significant mark in my life. I may walk the same road again but I know in my heart that  I will look at that same road in a different light now. 

My unending gratefulness goes out to all the people who allowed themselves to be used by God and be instruments for this remarkable journey. You never know how much your YES meant so much to me and for this trip 😉

And for the people whom I spent almost 14 days with (or maybe more than since we’ve had weekly meetings before Medan)—the H.A.R.D team–I am just so happy that God put all of us together in one team. We may have differences, we may had moments when we couldn’t stand each other, but I know I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. I couldn’t imagine myself going to Medan with a different set of people. Thank you for letting me be myself with you and for accepting me for who I am. All our talks, our sharings–they all meant so much to me. I am glad to get to know more the other side of each and everyone of you while we were in Medan. Thank you for the friendship 🙂 And indeed, it’s Medan and beyond 😉

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From all of us in the team: Terima kasih! Sampai kita bertemu lagi.

(Playing Anna Kendrick’s “When I’m Gone” while writing this piece 🙂