Depression has no face.

When I outed myself and admitted my depression, several friends and acquaintances reached out to me to disclose that they are going through the same thing.

Some people who are the same age as I am thought it’s the phase of us going through our big 4-0 that made us feel this way and that it’s just that – a phase that we have to go through.

You’ll be surprised to find out that those who have sent me private messages on my social media and in my messengers and some who even called me to admit that they have depression, ranged from ages 15 to 40.

I’m not a pro in this and like them, I’m still going through it. All I could offer is my time to listen (I may talk a lot but in moments like this, I’m helluva good sounding board), share what I’m going through or point them to the right direction of people and places who can help them.

I wanted to write about this and share what I’ve been through, what I’m going through and how I’m trying to deal with it, not because I wanted the attention or the sympathy of others. In fact, as much as my friends coaxed me to talk about it, I preferred not to. I gave the dossier to the closest circle of mine when we celebrated my birthday in Bali but I talked about it (at least those that I can share) only once and that’s it. That’s the first and last time that I wanted to talk about the deets.

I wanted to stop writing about it, but in the past few weeks that I was talking to a friend who is currently going through depression, I realized that outing myself paved the way for others to reach out to me, because they found someone who they can relate with, who will understand, who they can trust and who will not judge them. 

What we are going through ain’t pretty and it definitely ain’t a choice because if you ask me, I wouldn’t want to be in this rabbit hole over and over again.

These people I talked to, some of them were the paragon of happiness. At least on the outside. You’d see them laughing, engaged in conversations, sociable, participating and even spearheading social events. Some are even the life of the party, lighting the room by their mere presence. They’re your friend, your officemate, your kumare, your kapatid, your relative, probably even your partner. 

I remember one early Saturday morning, I woke up to an FB message from a friend in Manila asking me to pray for her. She said she was already having suicidal thoughts, plotting how she can kill herself without it looking like suicide so that her family won’t hate her for it. I ended up spending my entire Saturday morning just talking to her and sorting out her thoughts and why she feels like this.

Another friend said she found herself just frozen inside her bedroom, not wanting to move at all, as she stared at herself in the mirror for an hour because she didn’t know what to do with herself. She kept asking: “Why is my life just a repeat of everything? It’s the same thing everyday and I want it to stop.”

She told me that in the office, she found herself just frozen, unable to move and sweating furiously, thinking that if she got up from her desk, her knees will buckle and fall.

A fifteen year old girl who I didn’t personally know gave me access to her private blog to show me her writings and illustrations on how she sees her depression. She told me she stopped school for a while and is currently on medication. We don’t talk about what she’s going through. She just wanted me to critique her writing and her drawings.

Very recently, another friend of mine spoke to me that she had to confront the invisible elephant in her room and admit that she’s depressed. It took her almost a year to finally admit it to herself.

Another guy friend – and this one surprised the hell out of me – came out that he’s having panic and anxiety attacks, to the point that he’d bail on social obligations because he’d rather be alone. Most of our friends think he’s just a flaker who didn’t value his social commitments to our circle. He was recently diagnosed with clinical depression. I’m the only one who knows.

In conversations, we normally end up comparing notes.

“Ganito ba talaga? Minsan ayaw mo na lang magising. Paulit-ulit na lang. Nakakapagod na.” [Is it really like this? Sometimes, you don’t want to wake up anymore. Everything is just repeating and it’s exhausting.]

“Minsan, ayaw ko na bumangon. Iiyak na lang ako buong araw.” [Sometimes, I just don’t want to get out of bed. I’ll just cry it out the whole day.]

“Ayoko maligo. Ayoko kumain. Ayoko matulog.” [I don’t want to take a bath. I don’t want to eat. I don’t want to sleep.]

In trying to make light of the situation, sometimes we’d end up laughing at the silly things we go through.

Personally, I swung back and forth. There were times that I’d barely have 2 hours of sleep. At times, I slept my way through for 14-15 hours, which wasn’t normal for me because my average is 7.

That time when you didn’t want to do anything, not even take a bath? Yes. Gross but I went through it.

Until now, I catch myself (or my husband does) biting my fingernails when I’m feeling anxious, and the littlest and most mundane things can be a trigger.

There will be days, weeks and even months that things will be fine, until one day, I just wake up in the most miserable state of helplessness and hopelessness. 

Believe you me, I try. Except for medication, I tried everything to make things better. I got into yoga, I went back to weight and cross-fit training with a personal trainer, essential oils (helped me regulate my sleep) and I openly deal with my bouts of depression. I pause and try to declutter my cobwebs of thoughts whenever I go through it again.

The people who came to me to talk about their situation are the toughest nails and most resilient that I know. You wouldn’t even know when you come across them that they’re going through it.

A girlfriend told me that her friends were surprised that she was depressed. “Hindi ka mukhang depressed,” [You don’t look depressed] they said.

Well, people, the thing is, depression has no face. If you see me and if you know me personally, you wouldn’t think that I went through it.

Would you think of this person as depressed? Yep, ‘didn’t think so.

Depression has no face and depression can hit anyone – even that someone who seems to be the happiest person on earth.

This blog post’s message is more for those who are going through it and those who reached out to me in confidence.

To you:

Thank you for trusting me. We may not be that close or I may not be your best friend, but you found comfort in reaching out to me.

What you’re going through is not easy and I know there are days, and there will be moments that you will feel you want to give up. 

Don’t. 

Tell yourself this, and believe me that it is true and it will be true: 

You will be alright.  

Even in the worst of worst days, tell yourself in the mirror: You will be alright. 

Make that choice everyday. Amidst the hopelessness, make that choice everyday. In moments that you think you can’t anymore, ask for help from someone you think you can trust. 

But it all starts in making that choice. Everyday. 

You will be alright. 

Bali, in 3 days

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Suluban (Blue Point) beach, Uluwatu, Bali

3 more days to go before I return to The Island of the Gods, to the Lembongan area this time around.

Bali. Oh hell yeah, I’m seeing you again. This time, I ain’t just surfer watching. I’m catching the waves myself.

Uluwatu Top 5: Why Uluwatu is my new place to be in Bali

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I visited the Uluwatu Temple in late October when my friends and I celebrated my birthday in Bali. Although it wasn’t my first time to visit the temple, it was my first time to do a side trip and hang out in one of the more popular restaurant-bars in the area.

IMG-20171111-WA0019_Bella Expatria_UluwatuNeedless to say, I was hooked immediately and I couldn’t wait to go back! I wasn’t exaggerating: we’ve barely left Bali but Arshad and I already booked our tickets slated on the second week of November, with the sole intent of staying in Uluwatu.

Uluwatu is located in the Bukit Peninsula, Bali’s southern limestone cliff-fringed area. It houses one of Bali’s iconic temples, the Uluwatu Temple and drop-dead gorgeous coastlines with strong waves conducive for surfing.

Aside from the popular Uluwatu Temple and the kecak fire dance that commences during sundown, here’s my compilation of the top 5 reasons why I don’t mind going back to Uluwatu (again and again, and again):

1.  Single Fin. If I’m being honest to myself, my first compelling IMG-20171111-WA0050_Bella_Expatria_Uluwatureason to go back to Uluwatu is because of Single Fin Bar and Cafe’.  Single Fin is overlooking the cliffs, the waves and the entire coast, which makes it the perfect spot for sightseeing. The view in Single Fin is simply amazing!  I could stay in Single Fin for hours and hours on end, just reading a book, sipping wine or cocktail or surfer watching (the last one being my favorite thing to do).

Single Fin view

The enthralling view when you’re hanging out at Single Fin

Aside from the view, Single Fin offers delectable cocktails and vegetarian dishes. I love their different versions of margaritas and have tried both their classic Single Fin and their rosella margarita.

For vegan or vegetarian food, I’m a fan of their vegetarian nasi goreng. For light bites, I always order their vegan chips and dips, with dips including green lentil hummus, charred eggplant babaganoush and tomato relish. Their chips are made from cassava and sweet potato, which makes them a lot healthier. I loved watching the sunset while stuffing myself silly of margaritas and vegetarian bites. Such is a happy life!

After sundown, Single Fin becomes a cool, chill party place that plays very good house and RnB music. The crowd is mostly filled with foreigners, although I saw a handful of local tourists sampling their delicious spirits.

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Us at Single Fin with margarita and mojito in hand: my definition of a perfect night in Uluwatu

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Single Fin at night: they have a good DJ playing good dance music and the latest hits

Define addicted to Single Fin: I went back not once, not twice…but over and over and over again during my stay in Uluwatu.

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Single Fin frontage at sundown

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Single Fin frontage during day time

Single Fin’s contact details:
Address: Pantai Suluban, Jl. Labuan Sait, Pecatu, Uluwatu, Kuta Selatan, Pecatu, Kuta Sel., Kabupaten Badung, Bali

Hours: 

Open ⋅ Closes 12AM
Phone: (0361) 769941

 

2. Coco and Poke’.  True to its name, this quaint, whitewashed shop that sits quietly beside Single Fin serves sumptuous Hawaiian poke’ bowls and Cocowhip, the world’s first vegan and bio-fermented coconut soft serve ice cream.

Coco and Poke' menu

Coco and Poke’s menu: you can either create your own or choose from their wide array of selection of house bowls

We were looking for a place where we can order and eat quickly, without going to a fastfood restaurant when we found Coco and Poke’. You can create your own bowl or defer to their house bowls. We ordered the Aloha and Ohana Bowls, both of which did not disappoint. Packed with brown rice, tuna, salmon, fish roe and avocado, the bowls were refreshing and filling at the same time.

Too bad we didn’t have space for their coco soft serve, but it’s another reason that I can chalk up to justify another trip. =)

Coco and Poke’s details: 

Address: Jl. Labuan Sait, Pecatu, Kuta Sel., Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361
Phone: 0878-6061-2896

3. The amazing beach and the view. These are both more-than-good-enough reasons to stay in Uluwatu. I woke up to this view on a daily basis and thought to myself: “I can stay here forever.”

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Uluwatu’s limestone cliff and pristine coastline

This gorgeous coastline is a world-class surfing playground, with its wide coastal length opening to the Indian Ocean.

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My view every morning

In our first morning back in Uluwatu, I immediately checked out the beachfront. To reach it, we had to go down to Blue Point (Suluban) Beach, which is located closely to both the Uluwatu Temple and Padang Padang beach.

The word “Suluban” came from the Balinese word that means “walking or passing under something,” since we had to pass through a coral reef cave before  we reached the white sandy beach of Blue Point.

It’s a long way down the cliffs and an effort to pass through the coral reef cave below but once you reach the beach, everything is totally worth it! Suluban beach offers a jaw-dropping view of the Indian Ocean and the waves are perfect for surfers and surfing enthusiasts.

4. The resort: Blue Point Bay Villas and Spa – Strategically situated beside Single Fin and just right above the cliffs en route to the Blue Point (Suluban) beach is Blue Point Bay Villas and Spa.

We had 3 days and 2 nights to spend in Uluwatu and given that limited time, we had to be strategic in our choices in terms of location. Blue Point Bay is the perfect resort for us.

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Blue Point Bay Villas  Blue Point Bay Villas and Spa.

It had an amazing view of the Suluban beach, a pool, lounge chairs with parasols and an exhaustive cocktails and wine menu. A plus for me is their massive spa where you can get reflexology, hair treatment and full body massage.

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Lounging: the best thing to do beside the pool with a glass of wine

The resort offers packages with free breakfast and the restaurant has an amazing view of Suluban, with it’s floor to ceiling windows.

5. The forest monkeys frolicking in the area. Outside the Uluwatu Monkey Forest, you can still find these gray long-tailed monkeys climbing rooftops of restaurants, window sills of hotels and resorts or even walking with the tourists!

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Check out my early morning visitor: this furry little creature was making funny faces in front of my window sill

Although some of the tourists find them annoying, I actually find them cute! These little furry creatures add an exotic flair to Uluwatu, making the place more interesting and enigmatic.

A word of caution though: some visitors had mishaps and encounters with the monkeys, as they know how to seize and steal mobile phones, sunglasses, wallets, etc. Even in our resort, we were briefed not to leave our things unguarded as there are monkeys wandering around the area. I even saw one early in the morning snatching fruit offerings at the hotel front desk!

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One of the monkeys just casually frolicking around Blue Point Villa like it’s nothing =)

The entire Bukit area, surrounded by frangipani trees can actually be considered the entire money forest, so when you’re staying in Uluwatu, expect to come across these furry creatures along the way.

These are but a few of the reasons why Uluwatu is a great place to stay in when you’re in Bali. Overall, I love this area for its relaxing ambiance, clean and plant-based food and its waves. A repeat of this adventure is definitely in the offing.

My 2018 Travel List

2018 Travel List

What I love about being an expat: Travel becomes an integral part of your life. 

The challenge about being an expat in my industry: I’m not a travel blogger, nor do I make a living out of blogging. Ergo, I have limited vacation days and I maximize my travel by taking advantage of long weekends.

There is always a way to travel, limited vacation days notwithstanding, if you love traveling!

This year, I’ve made my list already:

1 .  Southern SpainI. love. Spain. This year, I want to explore Southern Spain more: Valencia, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga, Ronda, Cadiz, Jerez, Seville and the island of Mallorca. Arshad has pretty much outlined the itinerary for us (thank God for an equally-wanderlustful partner!).

2 .  Donsol, Sorsogon – because it was very rainy in Bicol last December, our Legazpi-Sorsogon tandem trip was cut short. We didn’t make it to Donsol, Sorsogon for the whale sharks, but we intend to come back in the summer!

3 . Bali, Indonesia –  does not even need an explanation. Before January ends, I’ll be coming back to the Island of the Gods and I’ll be exploring the Lembongan area to surf, do my yoga and just frolic in the beach.

4 . Penang, Malaysia – is always in my wishlist, but I never get to go. Perhaps because it’s near and accessible to me, so I take it for granted. A culinary paradise, I’d like 2018 to be the year the I finally go and stuff myself silly with char koay teow, Penang rojak and my classic favorite: cendol!

5 . Colombo, Sri Lanka – I’ve been to Colombo a few years ago for work. Regrettably, I didn’t get the chance to go around and visit the temples, eat more local food and visit the beaches. Wishful thinking that I can dedicate one long weekend for this, finally.

6.  Kathmandu, Nepal – is very picturesque. I’d like to be able to say one day that I’ve been to ALL Southeast Asian countries. Nepal is good way to start.

These are the cities, countries and places that I’d love to visit outside of work. Some of them, I’ve been to before, like Bali and Colombo, but I’d want to go back and revisit them again, because these places always light my fire and they always make me happy. The reason is that simple.

To my traveling and expatriate tribe and comrades, may 2018 be adventure and travel-filled for you. May it bring us more excitement and more places to discover. Happy New Year!

New Year 2018: Of Living and Loving Well

Happy New Year! Live well, love well, love life.

It has become a tradition: I welcomed the New Year in KL in the company of our extended family. We prepared our dinner feast and Media Noche of salad, seafood and steak (for the boys), played games until we toasted champagne to welcome 2018 and hugged each other good night.

I opened 2018 in a simple way: with my partner, our family and friends and good sleep. It’s a simple but perfect way to usher in the New Year. 

The night before New Year’s Eve, I was with Arshad in Private Room, a wine and whiskey bar that has become our default place here in KL. We had a long day of traveling and running errands and we wanted to just hang back a little bit and chill.

As we sat at the bar, we bantered the night away by looking back and reflecting on what we learned in the year that just passed.

2017 was not a smooth year for me, but it wasn’t terrible either. It had its share of rough and tumble, but I would still count it as a milestone year wherein I achieved a lot of things and scored high in terms of accomplishing goals.

But that’s the thing that 2017 taught me: Life is not just about scoring high. Living life to the fullest doesn’t just mean ticking off checkboxes of things to do, milestones to meet, successes to accomplish. 

I ticked off a generous amount of targets in 2017 when I went through my list, but I also realized that although this made me successful in the way that I defined success in 2017, the whole journey also weighed me down.

I went through depression in the latter part of the year. I went through this despite my accomplishments and the good life that I have been living. Looking back now, I realized that I went through it because I pushed myself too hard, much to my own detriment.

Year in, year out, I always set the bar higher. I did well in 2015, I should do better in 2016, 2017…and on and on and on.

But until how much can I take? A new year will not add more hours in a day. It will not extend my energy, my time and my attention.

I became more cognizant of my finite resources, so to speak, and I learned that it’s not a bad thing.

Adding to my bucket list will make the bucket full to the brim, until it just couldn’t take anymore. The bucket needs to be emptied out again at some point.

Achieving, making goals, listing down targets: they’re not a bad thing. However, there are also certain things that need to be done:

Spend some time to rest and recharge. Slow down. Reflect. Sleep. Breathe. Find the little joys of everyday living. 

With all the goals we list down, it helps to ask ourselves: in the end, after checking all the boxes, are we a better person? Are we a better person to ourselves and to others?

This 2018, I still have my bucket list and my goals, but it’s no longer about exceeding and over-achieving. It’s about valuing what’s important and nurturing them. It’s about being a better person by being kinder to myself and to others.

To all of us,  may we usher the New Year with renewed hope and with fire in our hearts. May we be kinder to each other. May we be more generous. May we live more by loving more and judging less. 

Less hatred, more love. I fervently hope we see this happen this 2018.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Live well, love well, love life.

Merry Christmas!

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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

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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.