Tuesday, October 31, 2017


So my knee's busted up.

About a week ago, during scrimmage, I was sprinting hard to the left before I abruptly changed direction to try and save the disc. I felt my knee twist and heard a series of cracks before I went down. At that point, I was more overcome by fear than by pain. And when our captain firmly said, "No lifting. No running," that's the only time I teared up.

Two weeks before

With a major tournament coming up in a few weeks, I wanted to know what was what, so I went to see an orthopedic surgeon (someone I've been good friends with for two decades). He asked me what happened and examined me, and said he was "90 percent sure it's a meniscus tear, but the ACL seems intact." I told him about my upcoming tournament, my voice dripping with the sound of hope (Please tell me I can play, it implied). "Oh, honey," he sighed. "There's always next year." He said we could wait it out to see if there was any improvement, or I could go get an MRI scan so we would know right away. Being the impatient person that I am, I opted for the MRI.

I don't think I've ever believed in anything as much as I believed in that 10%. I was so confident, so sure that it was nothing but a sprain. For a few days, I was haunted by that terrible sound--I shuddered as that crrrrack-crrrrack-crrrrack of my knee played over and over in my head. But I told myself it just sounded a lot like the really bad ankle sprain I got years ago. I was walking (OK, hobbling). I didn't really feel any pain except when I bent or twisted my leg. The only reason I took pain meds was to manage the swelling, but other than that I could do without.

I went to get my MRI results in great spirits. Finally, the little anxiety I had (if any) would be put to rest. I would be proven right. I was giddy thinking about how happy I would be to put this silliness behind me and be given the go-signal to work out.

And then I read it. Some parts of the summary jumped out at me:
Complex tear involving the posterior horn of the lateral meniscus, extending to the superior and inferior articular surfaces.
At this point, I felt my stomach sink. But it got worse: 
Complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament.
Mild to moderate grade partial tears involving the medial and fibular collateral ligaments.
I was stunned. I was heartbroken. At worst, I thought it would be a meniscus tear that would need surgery and six weeks' recovery time. But this? This meant I was out for at least six months.

Can they see my broken heart in my MRI results?

My doctor's first question: "Do you want to be competitive again?" I was still in shock, still trying to process everything, but without a doubt, the answer was yes. And that meant surgery. I was in a haze as we talked in general terms about the procedure and costs and recovery time. "Why are you crying? You can still walk! You'll get through this!" he said, upbeat. I knew there was much to be thankful for, and there was no doubt in my mind that I would come back from it, but the whole situation still sucked. For someone who works out almost every day, six months feels like an eternity.

I'd pretty much reformed my eating habits as I was committed to reaching my fitness goal by the end of the year. But the weekend I got the results, there was a whole lot of emotional eating going on. (There was also a lot of swearing and just utter disbelief.) But I gave myself a deadline, and told myself I wasn't going to wallow after that. I was going to re-commit to eating clean since that's the only thing I could really do, and I was going to come back stronger.

My IG story says it all

One of my best friends, M, remarked that mentally, I seem to be in a different place than I was a few months ago. I seem stronger. And she's right. I have absolute confidence that I'll be back (even with nega people telling me it took them years or blah blah--I tend to tune them out). I've asked those who've had similar injuries about the toughest parts of recovery, and I'm preparing myself to face those challenges. It helps that I'm getting so much support and encouragement from friends and family.

My moral support, I, when I got my results

I remember at my son's parent-teacher conference, his teacher mentioned that my kid is "single-minded"; when he puts his mind to one thing, he fully commits to it. And I marveled at that because at that time, I felt so unfocused. I wondered where he got it from. Now I'm starting to see that, hey, maybe he got it from me.

As with every other crappy thing that has happened this year, this made me wonder what the universe was trying to tell me. "The universe doesn't want me to get abs." "The universe is telling me to take a break from ultimate." And, with the looming cost of surgery: "The universe is telling me to get a job!" But one of my best friends, P, was more insightful: "With everything that's happening to you, it's like the universe is telling you to pause. And maybe redirect your attention to other things." 

And I think she may be right, too. (This is why she and M are my best friends.) This "pause" has allowed me to revisit some of my dreams, and they're starting to take shape. And the focus and drive I have when it comes to recovery is spilling over to this neglected area of my life.

When I had to tell the staff that our beloved magazine was being killed a few months ago, I said, "This could be the best thing that happens to you." I'm repeating these words to myself now. This injury, this pause, could be the best thing that ever happens to me.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Coming Clean

I've had many attempts over the years to get my best body ever. I used to think I could outrun the way I ate, but the older I got, the less viable that became. In recent years, I've heard that abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym; that being in shape is 70% food and 30% working out (or 80-20? The point is, it's mostly about the food). And I know that a week of eating clean does more for my body than a week of working out.

But try as I might, I always seem to falter after a few weeks. I get sugar out of my system, and I get headaches when I have a taste. But the taste turns into a serving, and soon I'm addicted again. It's an endless cycle. And I never quite understood people who would say, "I worked out so hard. I don't want to ruin it with a piece of cake." My thing was always: I work out hard so that I can eat cake.

Yesterday was the culmination of a few days of binge-eating, which started on a trip to Singapore. (My willpower likewise went on vacation.) I rarely eat burgers nowadays, but I couldn't resist 8 Cuts' P88 Day. I got me a Q Daddy, which had a quarter-pound of beef, peppered onion tanglers, jalapeno-garlic-ranch-tossed lettuce chiffonade, house-made smoked bacon, sharp yellow cheddar, Sauce no. 3, and sweetly spiced BBQ sauce. (And I also got spaghetti because there was a two-order minimum per person.)

It was glorious. And I told myself that I would enjoy the burger without guilt or regret. But in the back of my mind, I knew I would have to pay for it. I had worked out that morning, but I resolved to go for a run that evening.

So last night, after much hemming and hawing, I laced up my running shoes and went. And I hated every damn minute of it.

That's when I finally understood all my friends with admirable willpower. As I huffed and puffed my way up those little hills, I realized: I hated running more than I hated giving up junk. You just get more bang for your fitness buck by saying "no" to the bad stuff, than by suffering through a 45-minute run. I resolved to eat to fuel my runs, not to run so I could eat.

So here I am, recommitting to eating clean, but with a different why this time. I just don't want to keep running up and down those damn hills any more than I have to.

I normally start my day with a healthy breakfast so that if sh*t should happen during the day, I would at least have had one good-for-me meal: smoothie bowls, scrambled eggs, homemade granola, Greek yogurt are staples at home. Today, I added something new to my repertoire. My son wanted pancakes, so we made flourless ones (recipe below). This is me trying to convince myself that even when I'm eating clean, I don't have to feel kawawa--I can have my (pan)cake and eat it, too.

Flourless Banana Pancakes (original recipe from here; I just added vanilla*)
Takes about 20 minutes
Makes 6 small pancakes

2 bananas
2 eggs
1/2 cup oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

1 Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Let stand about 10 minutes.
2 Pour a small amount into a nonstick pan and cook over low heat until golden brown, about 40 seconds a side.
3 Serve with honey, maple syrup, or sugar-free nut butter.

*You can also add cinnamon or chocolate chips, or top with fruit and/or walnuts.

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.