Friday, April 7, 2017

The Saltwater Cure

Two years ago, Smart Parenting magazine asked me to write about my most memorable summer with my kid. And since he was only two, I only had two summers to choose from, and both of them were intensely personal: one was about the time I got my heart broken, and the other was about the time I started to heal. I was hesitant to open up because I didn't ever talk or write about these things in public. But that's the magic of a deadline. Lol.

In honor of Boracay Open, which I'm missing this year, I'm republishing the piece I wrote.


Almost every year, I go to Boracay for the annual Boracay Open, an ultimate Frisbee tournament which attracts teams from all over the world. Last year, I decided to take my then-15-month-old son along. It was his first plane ride, his first trip outside of Luzon, and our first family vacation.

Though his face doesn't show it, A appreciated that the pilot let us into the cockpit.

While I struggled with a fussier-than-normal toddler at the airport, the rest of the trip was much more enjoyable. It was fascinating seeing my son pick up handfuls of fine white sand, letting it run between his tiny fingers. I marveled at how someone who loved swimming pools and bath time so much could sprint away in alarm as small waves washed up against the shore. It melted my heart when, in the middle of playing, he would run up to me and throw his arms around my legs, a look of pure joy on his face. And it was a treat seeing him charm my friends with his bag of tricks: "pogi eyes" (his version of beautiful eyes), "tiyanak" (when he would growl like a little monster), and all his other funny little antics.

Photo by JP Santos

But the trip was bittersweet. Less than a year before, my son's father and I had parted ways, and I was still getting used to the dynamics of our family. My ex would come to visit regularly, but I realized that this was what a "family vacation" would be from that point on: me, my son, and maybe his yaya. I still hadn't fully recovered from the separation, and I still had so many apprehensions about raising a kid on my own, but there was nothing for me to do but soldier on.

On our last morning on the island, my son and I spent some time on the beach. There weren't a lot of people around, and yaya stayed some distance away, letting my son and me enjoy some quality time together. I watched as my kid, entranced, repeatedly dipped his little bucket into the water and let its contents fall back and merge with the sea. He would call out "Mommy!" just to make sure I was right there. In that quiet, fleeting moment, I felt at peace.

There's a quote that goes, "The cure for anything is salt water—sweat, tears, or the sea." I had spent the previous months running when I needed to clear my head. I cried for weeks, mourning the end of a 13-year relationship. And now the sea was doing its work. I had my son by my side, and we had the whole world in front of us; he and I were going to be OK.


And we are.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Baby Steps

This evening, I had an epiphany. On my walk home, I was inwardly reciting a mantra in time to my steps: "I. Have. Enough. I. Have. Enough. I. Have. Enough."

See, I have a lot of anxiety, and the thing I am most anxious about is money. I always worry about my future and how I'm not financially prepared for retirement, how I'm spending my money all wrong, and how I pale in comparison to my more "successful" peers. But earlier in the day, I read about a guy who makes P3 million a month (!). He said, "I try not to need things. You can be the wealthiest person in the world, but if, at the end of the day, you still keep needing some things, that's not really being rich."

And I thought, well the problem really isn't a lack of money, but an overabundance of "needs." And so, I started telling myself: "I have enough."

I thought that was my big a-ha! moment for the day, this reframing of my mindset. But interestingly and unconsciously, I found myself shifting from "I have enough. I have enough. I have enough" to "I am enough. I am enough. I am enough."


I started to tear up, because I hadn't even realized that that was (still) an underlying issue. After experiencing massive failure a few years ago, my self-esteem was pretty much dragged through the mud. With the support of the people around me, some counseling, and my built-in stubbornness, I was able to pick myself up, but I guess old demons have a way of rearing their ugly head.

I have a lot going on right now--I'm trying to expand my skill set and I'm tentatively venturing into unknown territory. But it's only today that I realized that the real reason I'm so tentative is that I am still haunted by the ghost of failure. I think about a fellow single mom whom I look up to, who met great success in her mid-30s after years of struggle, and think, "There's no way I can reach that level of success." I look at the goals I've set for myself, and though they seem small-time, I am still overwhelmed by what I have to do to reach them.

After the usual day of taking care of my kid and working, I sat there with a blank piece of paper as I thought about a setup for a small event I'm styling. I had a computer screen in front of me as I wondered about what online classes to look into. I had my phone beside me as I thought about what I needed to discuss with a partner in a fledgling business. It was just so many things at once, and I was shutting down. A friend prodded me to do what would take the least amount of time. I set aside the million and one things I was thinking about, and just started to sketch. In half an hour, I had a setup planned out for the event, and I felt so much better.

I have to remind myself to think of just one thing at a time. And to take everything one step at a time. And with each step, I have to remember: I. Am. Enough.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Been a while. Part of the reason I haven't been blogging is because I'm in a different place in my life now, and I kind of feel like I have to start a new blog to reflect that. It feels a little weird blogging from somewhere I feel like I've outgrown, if that makes any sense. We'll see about that new blog. One of my flaws is I always like doing things right the first time so that tends to paralyze me into inaction. Just thinking about a domain name and figuring out the design and looking for a host and all that...GAAAHHH. For now, it just doesn't feel right to let A's fourth pass without the usual reflection on the past year. (A couple months late, but better late and all that.)

He joined a football camp. Started school and lost his trademark, charming Tagalog; only recently started properly pronouncing "fff" instead of "p". Went to Palawan. Outgrew his fascination with "up-and-downs" (parking barriers) but is still into construction stuff. Developed a taste for cartoon characters (particularly Transformers, Paw Patrol, Lightning McQueen, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Loves his Darth Vader and Storm Trooper PJs though he hasn't seen an entire Star Wars movie. (Kid can't sit through two hours of anything.) Still eats like a champ--my friends joked that he has an old person's breakfast (oats, fruit, boiled egg), but I made the mistake of introducing him to sugary cereal, so he munches on that for breakfast and as a snack and, well, pretty much all day. Can't blame him. I used to have Oreo-O's for dinner. (His teeth are fine, in case anyone's concerned.)

He is especially demanding of my attention at this age, and it can sometimes take a toll. I've been told that I'm so patient (which is something my mom will find hilarious because patience is definitely not one of my virtues), but honestly, it drives me up the wall sometimes, all the "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"s and the "Look at me! Look at this!" as he thrusts whatever I'm supposed to be looking at one millimeter from my face. And "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"? IT'S REAL, GUYS. And it's not quite as funny in real life. Sometimes when it's the weekend and it's just the two of us, I send out an S.O.S. to my friends: Help, I need adult conversation!!!

But he is also especially affectionate at this age. My heart feels like it's going to burst from sheer happiness when I see him waiting for me at the door, a big smile on his face as my car pulls in, and he joyfully calls out, "Mommy!" Like this is the best part of his day. When he wakes up and finds out it's the weekend, he's ecstatic (like jumping-on-the-bed ecstatic) because it means two things: ice cream, and Mommy doesn't have to work! (At least usually.) Sometimes we're both sitting quietly, doing our own thing--him watching something on his tablet, me reading--and he just reaches over and holds my hand, not taking his eyes away from the screen. When he knows I'm sick, he says he'll make me feel better by giving me a hug and a kiss, and offering to make me "pretend coffee" (because I don't drink coffee).

When I was in grade school, we were given some morbid exercise wherein we had to write our life stories, right until our death. I wrote that I would die of breast cancer at 45, because I was, like, 10, and thought 45 was ancient. And now, the nearer I get to 45, the bigger my fear gets. Because what if what I wrote comes true? It doesn't help that I have a family history of breast cancer. 

A few weeks ago, I was going through my mental checklist as I plotted out my schedule, "We have to make cards for his friends. He has to bring pastries to school on Tuesday. He has to wear red on that day..." and I thought, "Sh*t I can't die! Who else is going to remember this stuff?" 

So guys, it looks like I'm going to have to live forever.

When they're teeny tiny helpless babies, you feel like they're completely dependent on you, and it's overwhelming. Now that he's four, I feel like he needs me less, but needs me still. He needs me to remember all the stuff he needs for school. He needs me to make sure he gets fruits and veggies every day. He needs me to regulate his sugar intake, because I don't want him to turn into a sugar addict like me. He needs me to keep some order and routine in his life. He needs me to say no.

And while there are other things he doesn't need me for, it's nice to know he still wants me. He wants me to stay home with him. He wants me to be the one to give him a bath and tell him a story and tuck him into bed. He wants me to be the one to play with him (unless his cousin/best friend is around, then I'm just a poor second option). He wants to be in the same room as me, even if we're not doing anything together. When it all gets to be too much, I imagine his rebellious teenage years, and that's sometimes all I need to face all the "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"s with a smile. This will go by faster than I can imagine. And then he won't need me. But I'm hoping he'll still want me around.

I need to live forever for this kid. How do I live forever?

Friday, June 10, 2016

Star Player

My sister-in-law asked if I wanted to sign A up for a summer football clinic. I was unsure about it, given his previous experience in a sports-oriented class (the coaches couldn't really rein in my hyper little man), but his dad was all for it. So we signed him up, and—true to my mantra of "If you can't perform, japorms"—got him a pair of cleats and some knee socks.

He and his cousin (a week younger than him) were the youngest ones in the group, and the others had already been exposed to football before. It was the first time for my son, so he lagged behind when it came to following instructions. Although I suspect that had more to do with the instructions being in English; he was, after all, the only Filipino-speaking kid in class.

Coach Ricci: Who wants to run?
Other kids: Me! Me! Me!
A: Ako din.
(By the way, Coach Ricci was awesome. It amazed me how A actually listened to him. Kid probably recognized that he wasn't the alpha in this group!)

As the days progressed, I became increasingly frustrated, seeing A run off somewhere, or be more interested in playing with the dirt than in scoring a goal. He probably spent more time eating on the sidelines than actually joining the scrimmage (or what counts as scrimmage for three- and four-year-olds).  

(From top) Eating a cookie during drills; having some taho; snacking on cereal. He is his mother's son.

Babycenter sent me a relevant email ("Should you sign him up for an organized sports team?") a few days too late: "Watch a little-tot soccer game and you're apt to see a child or two off picking dandelions and another in tears on the sidelines." That's my son! I thought. Except he's pulling up grass and playing with rocks.

On one particular day, my competitive spirit was getting the better of me. All the other kids were eagerly chasing the ball around, trying to score, while A was busily knocking over cones. I kept calling out to him, but he was off doing his own thing. And then as he ran across the field, laughing his hearty, infectious laugh, another soccer mom remarked, "He is such a happy kid!"

And that's when I caught myself.

My son is a happy kid. He laughs so easily, and he would crack up whenever they would do new things (like heading, which he thinks is the most hilarious thing). He would run around the field pretending to be Spider-Man until a bunch of other kids also started pretending to spew out webs from their wrists. Who cares if he wasn't quite living up to his Messi jersey just yet? He was having fun! Besides, he's three—there's loads of time for him to grow into an athlete.

And even if he doesn't, that's fine by me. I used to joke that he would be the next Lebron (same birthday, also raised by a single mom), but I've realized: I'd much rather have a son who's watching from the sidelines, but who's bursting with joy over the simplest things.


Friday, January 15, 2016


Two weeks ago, my little boy turned three. And I've been wanting to write something to mark the occasion, but I just couldn't figure out what to say.

The milestones: He was potty-trained by two and a half, and he self-weaned from the bottle shortly thereafter. He speaks fluent Tagalog, and has a thick Filipino accent when he tries to speak English ("One, two, three, pour, payb"). I think it's some sort of cosmic joke that I have a son who says things like "iskol bus" (school bus) and "kohkies" (cookies). He says the funniest things, and I have a collection of much-Liked Facebook posts to prove it. He eats like a champ--the first thing he does when we get home is open the fridge to see what he can munch on. And while he does love ice cream and chicharon, he will sometimes ask for vegetables for breakfast (!). He throws a tantrum like a pro, but also knows how to go up to the people he hurt and say sorry once he's calmed down. He loves to pretend to cook, and also helps me bake. He has blue-collar aspirations, pretending to be a taho vendor one day and a bote-dyaryo buyer on another. He's obsessed with construction vehicles (especially backhoes) and security barriers (which he calls "up and down")--it was a dream come true for him when a security guard let him assist with raising and lowering a barrier.

And while it's easy to describe those things, I can't put into words just how overwhelmed I am when I look at this boy, my boy. How my heart breaks when I watch him play because I wonder just how many more times I'll be able to watch him like that, content in his own little world where his imagination rules--no barkada, no crushes, none of the emo-ness of adolescence. How he infuriates me with his stubbornness, and yet I wouldn't trade this spirited, strong-willed kid for anything in the world. How he makes my heart swell so much when he smothers my face with kisses that it feels impossible, impossible to hold all the love I have for this little man.

In the morning, one of the first things he asks me, with a hopeful look in his eye, is "Mommy, hindi ka aalis?" ("Mommy, you're not leaving are you?") He just wants to be with Mommy, so much so that I sometimes can't even go to the bathroom without an audience. And it makes me a little bit sad when I have to tell him that I have to go to work, or that I have to run some errands--but I'll be back, I say, Mommy will always be back.

And sometimes, I want to ask my little boy the same question, "Hindi ka aalis?" Because part of me wishes he could be like this forever, that he didn't have to grow up and eventually go out on his own. But I understand that that's how things work, that's how things are supposed to be. I just wish with all my heart that when he's all grown up, he'll also feel like he has a compelling reason to go back, to always go back home.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

10 Struggles Only Ultimate Players Understand

1. Chasing after you mark when your teammate lets a break pass through

2. Seeing zero cutters

3. Being surrounded by super fit athletes and getting your self-esteem trampled on

Images from here and here

4. Zombie toenails

5. Swapping spit from sharing Nalgenes

6. Spending a bundle on sunblock...

7. ...but still ending up with weird tan lines

8. Forking out money for league fees, provincial/international tournaments, gear, and Golden Siomai

9. Being judged for ordering extra rice

10. Dreaming of an 8-to-5 job playing disc.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


I'm struggling with a massive case of writer's block, and a friend suggested that I write something—anything—just to plow through it. And so, as I wait for inspiration to strike, allow me to share something another friend sent me recently.

by Russell Kelfer

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried;
Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate...
And the Master so gently said, "Wait."

"Wait? You say wait?" my indignant reply.
"Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard?
By faith I have asked, and I'm claiming your Word.

"My future and all to which I relate
Hangs in the balance, and you tell me to wait?
I'm needing a 'yes,' a go-ahead sign,
Or even a 'no' to which I can resign.

"You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe,
We need but to ask, and we shall receive.
And Lord I've been asking, and this is my cry:
I'm weary of asking! I need a reply."

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate,
As my Master replied again, "Wait."
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,
And grumbled to God, "So, I'm waiting for what?"

 He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes met with mine...
and He tenderly said, "I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.

"I could give all you seek and pleased you would be.
You'd have what you want, but you wouldn't know Me.
You'd not know the depth of my love for each saint.
You'd not know the power that I give to the faint.

"You'd not learn to see through clouds of despair;
You'd not learn to trust just by knowing I'm there.
You'd not know the joy of resting in Me
When darkness and silence are all you can see.

"You'd never experience the fullness of love
When the peace of my spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,
But you'd not know the depth of the beat of my heart.

"The glow of my comfort late into the night,
The faith that I give you when you walk without sight.
The depth that's beyond getting just what you ask
From an infinite God who makes what you have last.

"You'd never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that My grace is sufficient for three.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,
But, oh, the loss, if you missed what I'm doing in you.

"So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see
That the greatest of gifts is to truly know me.
And though oft My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still...Wait."

I've mentioned a few times before that patience is my weakness, so the universe keeps putting me in situations wherein there's nothing I can do but wait. You know that bumper sticker that goes, "Lord, give me patience...right now!"? So me.

Recently, I was stuck in traffic near my office, and I found myself reflecting on where I was, both literally and figuratively. I looked out my window and saw the restaurant where my co-workers and I would go for a nice-ish lunch when we couldn't go too far from the office. I thought about how mundane my life was, and wondered how long I would have to wait for amazing things to start happening. "This couldn't be it, could it?" I thought. My life just seemed so...ordinary.

And then I thought about myself ten years from now. And even though my future is still so unclear, I knew in my heart that I would look back on these days with fondness, even longing. I thought of Future Me thinking about the silly-to-serious conversations my team and I would have over pork chops and garlic rice, while Just for Laughs played on the restaurant's flat-screen. And I realized that if I stepped back and viewed my life from a different perspective, I would see that, in fact, amazing is happening every day.

It's in the camaraderie that my co-workers and I have developed, banding together through collective stress and working holidays. It's in the moments when I clutch my son close to me and spin him around, dancing as he belts out a made-up song. It's in the times I'm stuck in traffic with my teammates, singing along to a boyband playlist. It's in the Sundays spent under a scorching sun, playing a sport that I truly enjoy. It's in the nights when my son insists on hearing the same story ten times before he goes to bed.

The big, bells-and-whistles events I'm waiting for are awesome, for sure, but I'm realizing life is more about the little things, the everyday. And when I think of it that way, well, it's not a bad life at all.