Dubai Atlantis

We stayed at Atlantis The Palm and it was magnificent. Here are some snapshots while going around the hotel resort.

Original like a donut, tasty like gelato

Literally a gingerbread house

I mean look at that ceiling

My lovely room

Just keep swimming!

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Dubai Diaries

I was in Dubai from December 21-29, 2017 and it was eight days of being in awe at everything and everyone around me. The city is truly a melting pot of the world’s cultures. Typical scenario: To my right is an Indian family wearing traditional sari and enjoying their holiday, while to my left was a European couple having a quiet moment as they enjoy their breakfast. Different variations of that every day and it made me feel giddy inside because I felt like I was out there in the world.

On the morning of our third day I woke up from an almost-nightmare and wrote a piece of what I’d like to call the first of my Dubai Diaries. Here goes:

It’s 3am in Dubai (7am back home and my body clock is still in Manila mode) and I just woke up from a bad dream where my dad is obligated to pay a huge fine for accidentally neglecting to settle a relatively small obligation a year ago. I was crying in my dream and I was sniffing from dry tears when I woke up. This is the second night that I woke up from a bad dream here in Dubai. The first one was yesterday when I had a dream about seeing a ghost, only to find out I was pranked by my cousin. These instances are ironic samples of when reality is actually better than the dreams.
In my two days here so far, I’ve been having lots of overwhelming fun and sometimes I just pause and wonder what I ever did to deserve this. I also get mindblown every now and then because of the sheer grandness of Dubai. This place is literally defying nature and is truly a purveyor of possibilities. I mean, Dubai is known for its desert, right? But they have a freakin Atlantis city! The hotel we’re staying at has a giant indoor aquarium and yesterday, as I was sipping my cold brew after breakfast, the only thing separating me from a stingray was a huge glass wall. I was just standing there, amazed and in awe at the wondrous things swimming right in front of me. Of course I couldn’t help but feel bad because look at these poor creatures who were plucked out of their natural habitat just so people could marvel at them. The irony is as palpable as the breakfast buffet I just had.
And then last night, we went to the Mall of the Emirates and it was humongous. I’m not really a fan of malls because it screams capitalism right in your face but I couldn’t help but stare in wonder at how huge and grand the whole place was. And the most amazing thing about it was that it has a freakin Snow City inside! The restaurant where we had dinner was right next to this man-made winter wonderland and it was such a visual circus because when I looked to my right, it was all a warm orange glow from the cozy atmosphere of The Cheesecake Factory (which had amazing food in huge servings, by the way), and when I looked to my left, it was a white Christmas feast with everyone in their winter clothes running around and playing in the snow. Again, mind… blown.
I pointed it out to my cousin and his explanation was simple: Oil. The middle east is known for being the world’s mecca of oil sources and when you got natural resources and you maximize them, you can achieve wonders. But he also pointed out another great irony about these Asian neighbors of us (I have to remind myself sometimes that the middle east is still Asia because it’s so different from our homeland). Geographically, countries in the middle east are located close to each other, but there is a big disparity in their respective realities. Some countries, truly a melting pot of practically all the world’s cultures, are so progressive where east meets west, yet some countries are war-torn and filled with geopolitical conflicts. It’s heartbreaking.
Well it’s almost 4am now and all I see out my windown is a thick haze. I haven’t seen clouds and stars in almost two days, but I’ve seen some pretty amazing things. We got six more days, Dubai. Take my breath away, will ya?

Books I’ve read in 2017

Happy new year, guys! Sharing with you the list that was 365 days and thousands of different emotions in the making.

1. Lucia, Lucia (2003) by Adriana Trigiani

~ January 2, Monday, 11:00 a.m.

2. The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Field Guide (2003) by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

~ January 4, Wednesday, 7:39 p.m.

3. The Devil’s Wind (2005) by Richard Rayner

~ January 12, Thursday, 10:28 p.m.

4. Lucy (1990) by Jamaica Kincaid

~ January 15, Sunday, 11:20 a.m.

5. Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit (2005) by Motoro Mase

~ January 24, Tuesday, 10:53 p.m.

6. Freaky Green Eyes (2003) by Joyce Carol Oates

~ January 28, Saturday, 10:28 a.m.
7. George’s Marvellous Medicine (1981) by Roald Dahl

~ February 4, Saturday, 7:48 p.m.
8. Love and Vertigo (2000) by Hsu-Ming Teo

~ February 12, Sunday, 1:18 a.m.
9. Anna and the French Kiss (2010) by Stephanie Perkins

~ February 19, Sunday, 8:37 a.m.
10. Summer Sisters (1998) bu Judy Blume

~ March 1, Wednesday, 5:32 p.m.
11. A Virtuous Woman (1989) by Kaye Gibbons

~ March 9, Thursday, 6:41 a.m.
12. The Book of Evidence (1989) by John Banville

~ April 15, Saturday, 9:45 a.m.
13. Digging to America (2006) by Anne Tyler

~ April 28, Friday, 6:54 p.m.
14. Brick Lane (2003) by Monica Ali

~ June 18, Sunday, 7:53 p.m.
15. Sabine’s Notebook (1992) by Nick Bantock

~ July 1, Sunday, 12:28 a.m.
16. The Beach (1996) by Alex Garland

~ July 6, Thursday, 5:30 p.m.
17. The Wonderful Man (2004) by Edward Monkton

~ July 8, Saturday, 7:17 p.m.
18. How to be Good (2001) by Nick Hornby

~ July 30, Sunday, 3:50 p.m.
19. One Day (2009) by David Nicholls

~ August 20, Sunday, 1:11 p.m.
20. Smaller and Smaller Circles (2015) by F.H. Batacan

~ Seltember 2, Saturday, 8:40 p.m.
21. A Walk One Winter Night (2013) by Al Andrews

~ September 10, Sunday, 10:12 a.m.
22. Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause (2011) by Mignon F. Ballard

~ September 23, Saturday, 12:22 p.m.
23. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962) by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

~ October 15, Sunday, 1:50 p.m.
24. Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self (2009) edited by Joseph Galliano

~ October 31, Tuesday, 2:43 p.m.
25. Sam’s Letters to Jennifer (2004) by James Patterson

~ November 1, Wednesday, 11:49 a.m.
26. Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend (1993) by Robert James Waller

~ November 7, Tuesday, 11:30 p.m.
27. The Help (2009) by Kathryn Stockett

~ December 31, Sunday, 6:34 p.m.

25

I can’t believe I used to think 25 is old and it just makes me laugh that there was a time when I thought I’d get married at 25. I turned 25 yesterday and I must say it feels a bit weird to be in this age and still be as go-with-the-flow as I am. It’s a bit complicated and I’m not in the mood for some existential discourse right now; I just want to chronicle how I spent my silver birthday hehe.

I woke up to a happy birthday song from Daddy, Mommy and Vicoy and was surprised when they showered me with gifts, each one competing on which gift I liked best. I felt so loved!

Fresh from sleep birthday girl!

I treated the family to lunch at SumoSam because Japanese food is my favorite hehe.

The crew sang a birthday song for me and gave me free ice cream. It was strawberry cheesecake flavor and Vicoy and I took turns eating it.

My brother and I absolutely love the Korean group BTS and here we are channeling our inner V.

We booked an overnight stay at a nearby hotel and we were all excited because it’s our first time to try this staycation thingy. It was definitely a fun, hilarious, and almost ridiculous experience. A weekend of carefree joy and relaxation, indeed.

Vicoy is so into the K-pop look, hence the eyeliner. Or as he called it, guy-liner.

After we got settled in the room, we decided to walk around the hotel.

We love beanies!

After walking around, we went back to the room for some beer and a game of Uno cards.

Okay that’s supposed to be 25, not 52 šŸ˜…

We had poolside barbecue buffet for dinner. The air was a bit cold, the kind that reminds you of Christmas. We teased each other endlessly and filled our tummies.

I fell in love with the Japanese drama Pride in August after my friend recommended it to me. She even gave me this hockey jersey from Pride!

After dinner, it was time to blow the birthday cake. Every year, my only wish to my parents is to have as many birthday cake candles as my new age. Hehe. It’s just one of my tiny quirks.

It took three of us to light all those candles. We were in a hurry because we were worried the fire detector might get triggered with 25 burning candles. Hehe. Thankfully it didn’t.

After the birthday cake ceremony (haha), we went to the hotel bar to watch the live band.

It was also where we accidentally got this magic shot that I absolutely love because it looks a bit like one of Jungkook’s photos from the BTS’ Love Yourself album. Please see below. Hahaha.

I sent these pictures to my very good friend Red (who also super loves BTS) and told her I just couldn’t resist it. Hehe. She said mine was just a low-budget version. Which of course it was. Haha.

I went to sleep past midnight feeling loved, happy, and eternally grateful to God for 25 years and counting.

The next day, the first order of business was the breakfast buffet. Hehe. Bacon 4lyf.

Day 2 of being 25. Day 5 of my pimple, though.

They took a nap after breakfast and I read my current novel, Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend by Robert James Waller, the same author of the classic The Bridges of Madison County.

We couldn’t leave the place without taking a dip in the pool so after their nap, we went down to the pool area.

Embarrassing fact: I don’t know how to swim. I know, poor me.

We obviously liked their cute towels. Hehe.

We ate cake and chips in the room for lunch and then it was time to pack up and check out. I love this chill birthday. When we got home, we all unpacked the  went to our own beds for some siesta time. Hehe. You know Sundays are not complete without naps!

When I woke up, I fixed my bed, read a little, and then went to church.

And now here I am smiling to myself and remembering the lovely weekend I had with the people I love most, and feeling optimtic about this new age of mine. It’s only been two days but so far, si good! ā¤

Dear Me

I just finished reading my 24th book for 2017. Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self was such a fun and bittersweet read. It made me realize that adolescence is such a universal phenomenon but also unique to each one.  

Here are some of the most common advice shared by writers to their teenage self:

  1. Trust your intuition.
  2. Dream hard, work hard.
  3. It doesn’t feel like it, but things will turn out okay.
  4. Stay away from sugar.

I’m turning a year older in four days and if I were to give an advice to my 16-year-old self, it would be:

Be bold. Don’t be afraid to take risks and put yourself out there. 

Adventures of a Loner: Escolta

It was a spontaneous Saturday when I suddenly decided to go to Escolta and visit the Saturday X Future Market at The Hub, which was making a comeback after almost a year of hiatus (I think). Mommy was trying to convince to just stay at home since I had no one to go with me. “Umuulan tuwing hapon sa Maynila, mabilis bumaha. Dito ka na lang sa bahay.” She was so cute, it almost worked. But I have made up my mind so I kissed her goodbye and went on my way.

The last time I was in Escolta was 2015, if I’m not mistaken. My brother, sister-in-law, and I had a bazaar called Mr. and Mrs. Sis (We still think it was a cute and clever name haha). Little did we know then that it would be the beginning of what would turn out to be FACE OFF KICKS. Anyway.

I was able to buy an otherworldly beautiful book that I only previously heard about. I was screaming deep inside when I saw it.

The whole Griffin and Sabine series just takes the epistolary genre a notch higher. It was such a precious and rewarding experience to open the envelopes and pull out the letters to advance the novel’s story. The ending just made me stay up way past midnight last night because it’s so frustrating not to know what happens next. I hope I can still come across these books in my next book shopping sprees.
After going around the Market, I decided to check out the Firsr United Bldg. beside and was giddily surprised to see a signage saying on the 5th floor was The Library of Unread Books. My heart did a somersault!

The Library was filled with donated books that, for some reason, have been left unread by their original owners. Readers can stay in the library for free and for as long as they like and they even offer free printing services and free coffee and snacks.

The books were deliberately arranged at random to keep the element of surprise. It was such a lovely place! I found the book I wanted to curl up with and chose a quiet little corner (it was a take-off-your-shoes, sit-on-the-floor setting), and spent half an hour soaking up the magic of Rilke. My heart was full.

I couldn’t stay too long because I still had some things to tick off my imaginary checklist. I went out of the building but not without taking a cliche shot of the staircase. I like it though!

Since I’m from the school of thought that all great days involve caffeine, I had an iced long black at The Den, the coffee shop inside The Hub. It brought back memories of my favorite coffee shop in Chiang Mai which was Akha Ama Coffee.

Fueled and awoken by caffeine, I set out on a walkathon from Escolta to Ongpin in my quest for authentic Chinese food. I did not have GPS or a concrete knowledge of the restaurant’s address. I just went where my feet would take me and eventually (and after asking for directions only once haha), I found myself among Chinoys inside Wai Ying. As usual, I ordered wanton mami, hakaw, and their delicious milk tea. 

Yum!! In my defense, I walked and walked so my hunger was justified. Haha.
To end the day, I decided to visit my beloved alma mater. It was another walkathon but I’m lucky it did not rain (contrary to what Mommy said haha) and it made my journey a lot easier and hassle-free.

Full disclosure: I’m always scared to walk alone in the streets of Manila because the people all look so tough and the threats of danger seem to be everywhere. I overcame this fear by acting all tough myself, walking briskly, and even frowning here and there just to channel my inner Tough Street Girl. And it worked! No one bothered me and I was safe and sound the whole time. Proud moment, ladies and gentlemen.

When I got there, La Salle still felt like home and brought back many warm and happy memories. If I could hug my college self, I would.

The Ampitheater! I used to pass by here everyday on my way to my classrooms. Lots of lively chatter and student vibes.

Still my favorite building in the campus. So serene and scenic.

The future indeed begins here.

My classmate once said, “You can take the boy out of Ateneo, but you can’t take Ateneo out of the boy.” I think it’s also true for La Salle and girls. šŸ˜Š

And that’s it for the 2017 pilot episode (?) of my Adventures of a Loner! Till the next one!

Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard Speech (or at least parts of it)

Mark ZuckerbergĀ was the principal speakerĀ at Harvard’s 366th Commencement last May 25 and, for me, his Commencement address was all kinds of inspiring, humble, and realistic.

You can read the whole speech here, but I’d also like to share my favorite parts a.k.a. the ones that moved me the most. You’re welcome! šŸ™‚

Commencement

On Purpose:

“I’m here to tell you finding your purpose isn’t enough. The challenge for our generation is creating a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.”

On working together for a bigger purpose:

“Today I want to talk about three ways to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose: by taking on big meaningful projects together, by redefining equality so everyone has the freedom to pursue purpose, and by building community across the world.”

On forming ideas:

“Ideas don’t come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get started.”

On the eureka moment of good ideas:

“Movies and pop culture get this all wrong. The idea of a single eureka moment is a dangerous lie. It makes us feel inadequate since we haven’t had ours. It prevents people with seeds of good ideas from getting started.”

On balancing idealism and reality:

“It’s good to be idealistic. But be prepared to be misunderstood. Anyone working on a big vision will get called crazy, even if you end up right. Anyone working on a complex problem will get blamed for not fully understanding the challenge, even though it’s impossible to know everything upfront. Anyone taking initiative will get criticized for moving too fast, because there’s always someone who wants to slow you down.”

On the inter-connectedness of progress and purpose:

“Let’s do big things, not only to create progress, but to create purpose.”

On success and failure:

“The great successes come from having the freedom to fail.”

On the reality of inequality:

“Let’s face it. There’s something wrong with our system when I can leave here and make billions of dollars in 10 years while millions of students can’t afford to pay off their loans, let alone start a business.”

And my favorite, MarkZuck’s recognition of the role thatĀ luckĀ played in his life:

“We all know we don’t succeed just by having a good idea or working hard. We succeed by being lucky too. If I had to support my family growing up instead of having time to code, if I didn’t know I’d be fine if Facebook didn’t work out, I wouldn’t be standing here today. If we’re honest, we all know how much luck we’ve had.”