Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas_Bella Expatria

My Christmases are always spent in Manila. I will not have it any other way or anywhere else. It’s just different when it’s spent here.

For Filipinos, Christmas is a big deal. It’s well-celebrated and there’s just really this Christmas spirit that you feel everywhere. You literally feel it in the air. People are nicer, more generous, kinder. This is what I always want to feel every Christmas season.

I’m a Christmas late-bloomer. I really didn’t get to appreciate Christmas since a few years ago, not because I’m a Grinch, but because I always get into weird and sad predicaments during Christmas season when I was younger.

Barely 10 years old, I spent Christmas with my then neighbor-childhood best friend and it was just the two of us. I remember vividly that we were sad because both our families were too tired to wait for midnight to strike and celebrate. This is also one of the reasons why no matter how sleepy and tired I get, I wait for twelve midnight for Noche Buena because I didn’t want my daughter to feel what I felt (yes, it’s a personal baggage).

In my teens and my early twenties, I found myself either breaking up or being broken up with by a partner. There was even a time that I found out a boyfriend was cheating on me three-friggin-days before Christmas!

In my late twenties, there was a time that I didn’t come home and decided to stay in my Makati apartment to spend Christmas quietly…alone.

A recent ex-beau also walked out on me and packed his bags before New Year’s, leaving our plans and me – high and dry.

In no way am I implying that I have zero faults in the situation, but these are just illustrations of how my Christmases of years’ past sucked. That is, until things turned around 5 years ago.

Since then, I always made it a point to celebrate. I come home to Manila for a weekend on the first week of December to put the Christmas tree up and hang our Christmas lantern outside the house. By 21st of December, I make sure I come home for the holidays and celebrate with family and friends.

This Christmas is no different, and I’m sure glad I broke the pattern of having a sucky Christmas, when everyone else is into the holiday season and I’m just feeling depressed.

This Christmas season, I hope you’re having a wonderful celebration. May the holidays treat you well, may you treat others kindly and may you open yourselves and your homes to others to bring them joy, hope and possibly love.

Merry Christmas, everyone! 

Monday musings: Of Contemplation and Mindfulness

Monday musings_Contemplation_Bella Expatria

The consequence of a well-traveled life (not that I’m complaining) is very limited time for contemplation and mindfulness.

This entire month of December, I will be spending the weekend traveling. My weekdays, too, have been spent flying in and out for work. Just last week, I had to fly out twice in a span of 5 days for work.

Amidst the frenzy, everything needs to be deliberate. Planning, organizing, even moments to just sit down and think.

I like ending every year in moments of contemplation: to stop and think about how my year has gone and what I should be doing and preparing for in the year to come. Much as I would like to have peaceful moments when I can just sit down in solitude on my window sill, armed with a hot mug of brew, this scenario will remain a fantasy.

Seven days before Christmas, two weeks before the new year. Despite the craziness at work, I intend to stick to the plan. Some moments spent in silence to look back and reflect. Some moments of solitude to draw the game plan for next year.

I urge you to do the same, as it worked wonders for me for the past years. Right smack in the midst of our busy lives, there is always value in reflection.

Uluwatu and the Sacred Monkey


Monkey in Uluwatu, Bali

One of the forest monkeys who decided to hang out in front of my window in Uluwatu, Bali

As of this writing, I’m still editing massive amounts of photographs that I’ve taken during my recent trip to Uluwatu, Bali. MASSIVE.

While I’m still not done, I wanted to share this photo that I took of a monkey who decided to perch on our windowsill at breakfast. He was just there, hanging around early in the morning. At one point, he even stuck his face on the window, to seemingly say hello.

This is the lovely sight in one of the mornings I spent in Uluwatu: monkeys running around or just chilling, with the lullaby of the gentle waves and the bright blue sky. These are good enough reasons for me to want to go back.

Uluwatu, hold on tight. We have more adventures to come.

It’s always hard to leave you, Manila

“Ang hirap mong iwanan, Manila.”

When I’m in Manila, I always have a ritual a few hours before I leave for the airport: I lock myself in the masters bedroom to have a moment with myself to push the melancholy that I feel deep down into the recesses of my emotional pit.

An ultra emotional statement – but that is what I feel when I need to leave again.

Pack and go. Pack and go. Repeat. I do this all the time.

But it never gets easier.

The thing is, wherever I go, my roots will always be in Manila. The meaningful relationships and friendships that I’ve nurtured through the years are mostly in Manila.

Sure, I’ve made a lot of friends in cities I’ve lived in. Being naturally gifted for making friends and socializing easily, it’s not difficult for me to build social cliques from ground up.

It’s just that the friendships that I’ve cultivated through the years are mostly in my home city.

I hate Manila’s traffic. I hate it that it takes me an hour and a half, or worse, two, to get from the south to BGC. Traffic has become so much worse. I absolutely abhor the political divide that’s been happening in my country. I hate fake news and all the political leeches taking advantage of the current political milieu. I hate taxi drivers who always try to rip passengers off.

But here I am, sat in my favorite Terminal 3 cafe, listening to Christmas carols, feeling nostalgic that once again, I have to fly out and leave.

There’s just something about you that sticks, Manila. My friendships. People who always smile and who are ever resilient despite whatever shit they go through. Your Christmas feels in the beginning of September. Your food. Your way of making people feel they belong.

Manila. You are nowhere near perfect and you will always be rough on the edges. But you are my city and I will always come back to you.

See you in a couple of weeks for Christmas, Manila.

Let’s do this Christmas together.