Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dear Santa

Dear Santa, 

'Tis the season of giving once again. I can imagine how tired you must be with all the traveling and gift-giving. And am sure it's exhausting to read all the wishes of the kids the world over and some adults, too. 

Because I'm still a believer of your generosity, not out of my childlike wonder, but because I need to hold on to something that symbolizes hope for me. And so this year, I made my Christmas Wishlist. 
Don't act so surprised. It's a very short list, you know :-))

It would be grand if you can tolerate all of my whims and decide to shut me up by dropping all of these items onto my front door. I wouldn't mind the hard work to sort everything out. 

But I know how swamped you are so am going to keep my list short. 

1. Food on the table for every household. 
2. All street children to spend noche buena at home and not on the streets. 
3. Good cheer for those who are confined in hospitals. 
4. A reason to smile for those who need to work on Christmas eve. 
5. A grateful heart by everyone who is blessed, small or big. 

And for myself, I want a few things too: 
6. Money to spend. 
7. Gifts to give. 
8. Gifts to receive. 
9. A nice pair of pumps. 
10. A nice pair of flats. And if you can throw in that watch I've been drooling about for a long time now, it shall be a bonus.

If you want me to be specific, I can email you the brands that am setting my sights on. Ha ha ha.

Santa, I shall await at the stroke of midnight on the 25th. Don't worry, I'll pretend to be asleep before then so you don't have to rush. You might forget something in your sack. 

Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

On Thursday, the US would celebrate its Thanksgiving Day. To the Americans, it's way bigger than Christmas Day. It's the only time of the year when everyone celebrates it regardless of race, religious affinity or social status. It's the time of the year that they publicly declare their gratitude. 

In the spirit of thanksgiving, I'd like to share my thoughts on what I am thankful for. 

My faithful God. Every christian friend of mine would say that your relationship with the Lord,  is between you and Him. No one can measure or weigh how deep it is for the both of you. But when I closely examine my life, I know how I short-change Him. Yet, despite my unfaithfulness, my God never forsake me. In his infinite wisdom and unconditional love. I am loved even as a wayward child. I am thankful that I have an awesome God. 

My family.  I grew up in a family that do not verbalize our affection for each other. There were years when I was a bratty, spoiled poor kid, that I resented them, especially my parents. Wisdom, age or time may have healed me because when I look back at those rebellious years, I feel shame. I cannot imagine what my family have to put up with. But I know that I was loved and I was just too much of a fool not to recognize it. My rebellious heart was more dangerous because it never manifested in my ways, in my speech and in my outward life. The unpleasant truth is they were all in my head, rotting my heart. For a time, the devil did make my idle mind its workshop. But my family's love saw me through that dark time, unwittingly. 

So, to my mom and dad, thank you. To my brothers, I love you all inasmuch as you love me. To my tito, grandpa and grandma, I pray that you are now with the Lord. I hope that at some point, I have made you feel loved and appreciated. To my Tita Gloria, thank you for taking care of me, as if I'm your daughter. Now that am grown up, you still fret over me. It embarrasses me that you make coffee for me in that special cup, you reserve just for me. I pray that very soon, I would be the one to take care of you. I am thankful for a loving family.

My fiance. Tyrone has to put up with me. In my twisted world, I don't recognize how my brattiness manifest in our interactions and conversations. Oftentimes, he would remind me that am not at home so I have to tone it down. Yet, at the end of the day, I know in my heart, that I am loved and accepted. I am thankful for a God-given partner.

My friends. I have lived away from home for so long that without friends the days and years may have been unbearable. But God saw me through the difficult times by sending me beautiful and fabulous friends. Am truly blessed. I am thankful for friends who rebuke but never judge.

My work. There's so much to be thankful for in spite of the pain, the challenges, the heartaches, and the sorrows. When some people barely find a job that they like, I have one that pays well. And where I am today, God allowed me to grow from where I was planted. I weathered several seasons, endured temperaments and nursed ill-feelings. But at the end of the day, it paved a way for a better person to emerge. I truly believe that. It's like turning a new leaf, each time a life-changing event happens. In the workplace, where we spend most of our waking hours, I believe that it's a good place to start growing. I am thankful that I have a workplace that values talent and opens opportunities. 

My blessings. In the limited reach of my sane mind, I understand that man's need for material things can be insatiable. There's always something that we want to need. We live in a society that puts a premium to those with more. Some fall into the trap of keeping up with the Joneses. However, I take comfort that in moments of clarity, my upbringing reminds to be thankful for what I have. I cannot afford what most of my peers have but am glad that I have tamed my envious heart. I realized that there's more to life than an endless cycle of accumulation of material things.  Truly, I am thankful that I am blessed with so much.

What about you, what are you thankful for? 
Happy thanksgiving, everyone! (Photo Credit: Shutterstock)


Monday, November 21, 2011

Skipping Christmas? Think again.

Am still hungover from my weekend read that is, Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. A departure from his usual legal thriller fare. I must say, I was of two minds while reading it. 

At the onset I was rooting for the protagonists to really ditch Christmas but towards the end I had a change of heart, and so did they. In the story, the spirit of Christmas still demonstrated the universal truth about why celebrate it. Peace and Love. 

Many times, I, myself want to ditch Christmas. Oftentimes, I feel that it's true meaning has been overshadowed by consumerism... of material expectations. And even to the extent of absolute gluttony. The excuse being that it's the holiday season. So, yeah, I've been tempted many times over to skip Christmas. 

Yet, every time, I cave in. Not out of sheer cowardice. But for the biggest reason of the celebration. The life of the savior, Jesus and how He wants us to love our families and neighbors. And the season tries to remind us of this. 

The metro heralds the holidays by putting on the twinkling lights on every major streets. And the facade of offices are bedecked with ornaments. One of my favorite places to hang out during the season is at the Power Plant Mall in Rockwell Center. It's because it has one of the most awesome mall decor in town. 
Awesome outdoor Christmas Tree.

The devil is in the details.

As you enter Rockwell Drive, you'll be greeted by this sight.
Don't you just love lighted trees? 
Inside, the mall decor wouldn't disappoint, either. If only, I took better pictures. Alas, the ones I took aren't worthy of being placed here. Maybe next weekend. 

For a relaxing Christmas shopping, window or otherwise, head to this mall. I just love it. Impeccable taste, too.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Christmas is in the air... and on the trees!

November 16, 2011. My friends and I went to dinner at the Ayala Triangle Gardens. It's just a few minutes away from our office so, it's very convenient. And upon my prodding we were all set to eat at Kanin Club. 

The Ayala Triangle Gardens is always busy regardless of season. It's teeming with people who are out on a run to train or to lose some unwanted pounds. Also, of those who do not care about the pounds. Hey, am in the Philippines. Peso is the currency. Hehehe. 

Like them, I belong to the latter's category, if you need to put each one into a box. As we enter the gate, we saw that the ancient acacia trees at the far end, now christened as Christmas Trees for the season, especially looked festive. 

Am a sucker for Christmas carols, the kind that makes you a little weepy on the inside. But the gardens fitted with speakers at strategic areas were softly humming beautiful, happy carols. At first the music was just faint then, when we were really inside already, the music has established that it made for a wonderful background noise. 

My heart raced and I felt so giddy when I saw this. 
My iPhone's camera didn't do justice.

Especially that I took that photo from a hundred yards away. What was I thinking?! Well, you can't fault a girl for hoping. Fortunately or unfortunately, there's a long queue at the restaurant. We were #11 on the wait-list. Yet again, I persuaded my friends to go nearer the installation. So, I dragged Mars and Erica with me. Mei stayed with Armin (saving our wait-listed table). And of course, Armin couldn't be bothered. It was so hot! She can't stand the humidity hence the ever-reliable fan she carries around, everyday. Hehehe. Mara got derailed by her nightly (?) conference call :-) But she did make it. It took us an hour of patiently waiting -- for our table. Ha!
Dark, eh? Need a better camera. Must bring, next time.

In spite of, despite the bad lighting, you can tell these two are sassy pretty ladies.

Armed with minimal interviewing skills, we asked the guard why no one's allowed yet to roam within the circle of trees and lights. Mr. Cute Guard said, the program isn't done yet". Oh, it's the opening night! 

I must say, we are so lucky. It's like a windfall. 
Let the symphony of lights begin.

Yes, you read it right. The lights dance to the tune as it plays in the background. Pretty hi-tech stuff -- to a barrio girl.
Beautiful, isn't it?

Here's another one.

Can't get enough.

The stars have come down from the heavens.

The kids were very ecstatic seeing these.

If you're not feeling the holiday spirit yet, do watch the light show and it will lift you up. It starts twinkling and dancing at 7pm and ends at 10pm. Everyday. Come, it'd be awesome. 

Once again, the small town girl in me is floored. Nothing like this in my home town. Without a doubt, my little niece and nephews would be floored, too, if only they're here. Aw.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Drum roll: Starbucks 2012 Planner #1

Fifteen days after I started collecting stickers, I happily gushed to my Barista "today, am claiming my planner. Bamboo, please."
2012 Starbucks Planner #1 (Bamboo)

I can't believe I trekked to Starbucks Chinabank in Villar Street, Salcedo Village, every single day. Drizzling, sweltering heat, tight deadlines and all obstacles thrown our way were hurdled just to ensure the daily pilgrimage is followed through.

And I can't believe the amount of calories I've been stuffing myself just from coffee alone. Eighteen cups and counting! Good thing, good friend Mean shielded herself from the madness. Her stickers were pressed onto my pad. Thanks, Mean!

Ah, that indescribable experience when you get a hold of something you worked so hard and spent for with hard-earned money. It's just awesome. 

Ten minutes later, your plotting your next steps to get your hands to your second planner. Madness. Hahaha. Crazy/Beautiful.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hello, Vacation Leave Credits!

Dear universe, please remind me how did I get through until the fourth quarter of this year without taking any vacation, at all? Alas, I remembered that last summer I frolicked in La Union and got transported to the Spanish era in Bataan. Then, I recall that those were trips taken during legal holidays. Technically, no difference taken from my credits. Zilch.

Today, I received a dreaded report. I only consumed 23% of my planned vacation leaves. What on earth happened? One word. Work. And my boss wants me to present action steps to ensure that before we say goodbye to 2011, I'll wake up on a clean slate. Vacationed and rejuvenated. But that is only on my mind. Just a fantasy. I don't know how to translate it to the real world. 

If money and time were no object, I would be here today for the next three weeks. 
Maldives, my dream destination. (Photo: Thanks, Google)

As a kid, the highlight of my school life is the promise of summer holidays. I couldn't wait for summer to roll by and see the beautiful blooms in our garden and the school's boxed plants. Hello, Flores de Mayo?! Back then, vacation meant you will have longer hours to play, read more books and just be carefree. 

Now that am an adult, vacation is determined by leave credits. It is measured by your length of association. The longer you have worked in the organization, the more days you're paid to do nothing, aka vacation. But your vacation should never derail, hamper, or supersede your deliverables. In simple terms, it's spelled as work responsibility. 

As it happens, all my planned days off which should have not interfered with work schedule had gone out the window. Instead, work interfered with my plans!

Going back to my question, how then am I supposed to take a vacation? Share me your thoughts, if you care. 

Monday, November 7, 2011


I wish I've traveled so I can say that my long weekend was well spent. But I didn't; I stayed home. I tried to catch up on sleep and reading. 
I read some books. And I wrote a few entries into my blog. Alternating between naps (long ones) and social networking is finding time to write down my thoughts, observations and reflections. 

Thanks to Facebook, I was able to browse through some old pictures that made me smile and ponder. Where does the time go? Long before social networking, my best friend and I, would write letters each week without fail. I was in Cebu and she was based in our home town, Davao back then. 

Eagerly, we would send each other letters through a courier service so we won't have to wait too long. Snail mail was too painfully slow. As soon as we've posted our mails, we would then inform each other through email that the missives are now on their way. 

We were at it for quite a while. As fate would have it, she would work as well in Cebu. Then, we shared a small but cozy studio for more than two years. We partied together, we dated together. 

And then life happened. We shared our own moments of disconnect but we still managed to be the friends that we were. Somewhere along the way, Jinggay decided to go back home and pursue her post graduate studies. When it was time for her to leave, I cried buckets. 

But true friendships transcend time and distance. We've managed to stay in touch despite the crazy schedule and our priorities. I've moved to different cities several times. But what remained constant was our friendship. I've met and broke up with a guy whom I thought I was destined to be and yet, Jinggay and I were still as solid as ever. 

I went home for her wedding. I was her maid of honor. 
Few pounds ago :-) xoxo
The letters are now few and far between but when you have a strong foundation, you can always manage to pick up where you've left off whenever you see each other. Christmas is a tradition that we have kept through the years. It's a visit and a reconnection.

So, while I didn't go to any exotic place this long weekend, I had the privilege of traveling back in time. Am in bed surrounded by those letters we've exchanged through the years. I've moved countless times, zip code and all but one item that is non-negotiable is my treasure box where all my mementos are stored. Those short and long letters that never fail to remind me why I took the journey. 

It's a happy staycation, after all!

Sunday, November 6, 2011


 (Re-post from my old live journal account.)

"If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all." - Oscar Wilde

For as long as I can remember, I had always been fascinated by the written word. As a young girl, I am enthralled and amazed at the world beyond my reality. Early on, my parents had encouraged me to read. Not much prodding, just letting me be. To me, the freedom meant more books to devour. My playground was the library.

I learned to read at a very young age. Probably not as young compared to kids today. (They're way too advanced these days. I wonder, if it's the formula.) One summer, we vacationed in our grandparent's farm. At that time, there was no electricity yet. But that did not deter me. I used a kerosene lamp (gasera) to illuminate the pages, night after night.

My faithful reading companion. (Photo taken from Google Images)

Needless to say, I love books. My love affair with book paper, ink, paperback tickle my imagination. So much that I can scrimp on other things; never on books. And I've learned to never shy from networking with other bookworms. Sayang naman the opportunity to barter :-)

The digital age has not diminished man's insatiable want for written word. In fact, technology merely digitized the books we love. Today, there is more reason to read; it's available anywhere, everywhere.

My all-time favorite book. (Photo taken from Google Images)

However, am still drawn to the romance of reading the printed copies. Mind you, lugging books around when you're out in the mall, parks or vacation spots, is very taxing. Still, I like the texture of dog-eared books. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. And it never fail to bring a smile to my face whenever I looked at those worn and marked books. When I look at my bookshelf, boy, I feel giddy.

Some of the titles I have.

Right now, am very tempted to say goodbye to prints. I'm trying to do my bit for the environment. But the more attractive reason is I want to get an iPad. However, am still too attached with my cute bookmarks. Though, I don't use it so well. Somewhere after the first chapter, am back to folding the edges to mark it. Dog-ears.

Some cute bookmarks I found on the net. Can't find my own "collection".

More and more research have concluded that literacy rate has gone down. Kids, nowadays are too pre-occuppied with video games and the internet.

My wish is for the next generation to discover the joys of reading. I am still as in love with books as I was at the age of five. Anytime, I'd trade my day job if I am offered to get paid reading. If it meant being a couch potato, I won't mind, at all.

I'd love to own this couch. Pottery Barn, I love thee!

Enjoy reading!

Rainy Weekend

Today, it rained incessantly. All throughout the day, I catch myself peering in the rain. My impulse is to try to catch some by cupping my hands. But I didn't. Instead, I cupped my face while gazing at the raining sky.
Rains trigger memories such as this. Marina Bay, Singapore.
I grew up in this town, my poetry was born between the hill and the river, it took its voice from the rain, and like the timber, it steeped itself in the forests. - Pablo Neruda

Growing up in a small rural town kept me attuned with nature. On rainy weekends, my siblings and I would make paper boats. We were good at folding papers, usually from pages of old notebooks and newspapers. Once done, we would put them on a puddle near our windows. Then, we would gently rock them and hope for a nice breeze to keep them moving. 

In our uncomplicated lives, we were quite content to sit by the bay window while watching our little boats sail. Back then, we would collect rainwater on big water containers. Sometimes, our parents would make us bathe in rainwater. Oftentimes, though it's used for watering the flowers in our garden. 

Oh, how the years have gone by. Now, alone in the big city, I watch the rain from the comfort of my bedroom window. When it's closed, the rain drops would pitter-patter on my window pane. Very romantic, isn't it? Somehow, it reminds me of a scene in the movie, Lost in Translation

Time has a way of blurring the moments in our lives. At times, I tend to forget what it was like being young, carefree and secure in the home of my childhood. But life has a way of reminding you that moving on doesn't really mean you have to forget. Especially those photographs of a life in yesteryears dreaming, wishing and living for today.

Oh rain, you make me nostalgic. Once again, am transported back in time. But the most amazing thing is, the rain reminds me that indeed, some good things last -- family, friendships and love.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Red Cups are Here!

Taken from the Starbucks site.

I think I should change this entry's title to confessions of a Starbucks Planner addict. My name is Sheng. And I haven't been sober since 2006 :-))

Yesterday, November 3 saw the madness of collecting stickers. Never mind the drizzle, no the rain, actually. Year after year, Day 1 of the Starbucks sticker is a much anticipated event. It is no surprise then that when I entered the Starbucks store in my neighborhood (workplace, that is) that the excitement is palpable. You can almost taste it. And it's more evident in the long queue; I've never witnessed in the past save for a day like this. Upping the ante, is the chirpy Christmas carols played in the store's piped-in music. Subliminal. Everyone who enters get psyched up and poised to get started to the race on who can complete the required number of stickers the fastest.

Crazy, eh? Not really. No one will ever say out loud that she'll take the time. The moment the first sticker is attached to its slot, the pulse begins to quicken. It is now a question of how fast can you drink your cuppa. And how deep is your wallet. A cup doesn't come cheap.

When the red cups replace the white ones, we coffee addicts are in for another addicting phenomenon -- the scramble to complete the required stickers to own that coveted planner. For 2012, there are five designs to choose from. Apparently, the theme is all about wood. You choose from poplar, oak, cherry, spruce and bamboo.

Over the years, I've already collected six planners. You may be amused to know though that all were hardly used. I still like to doodle on a regular notebook with more white space.

2008. My favorite.



2011. Very mint condition. LOL!

Yet, here I am still as mad as ever. I don't think I have the will to turn my back on this costly tradition. The 2011 planner increased my blood sugar and burned a hole in my pocket. I completed six sticker pads. I've given at least four copies to friends as Christmas gifts and the remaining two planners are still in mint condition. They're inside the box that they were originally packed with. And all of these proudly occupy a section of my bookshelf.

Unlike books, there's no sense leafing through its pages for there are no entries. But who cares? I sure don't. People are into the different hobbies. Some like to collect stamps, miniature cars, action figures, etc. I, on the other hand like to collect planners because I like to plan. Ha ha ha. Don't forget my penchant for Starbucks tumblers. I bring home one as a souvenir whenever I go outside of the country or visit another city that has a Starbucks shop.

So, say hello to 2012 with a daily pilgrimage to your favorite Starbucks branch. This year, am making rounds to different branches in the metro just to put a spin to my sticker treat. 
Drink your way to the 2012 Starbucks Planner. 18 cups.
 What holiday drink will you choose? Peppermint mocha or Toffee Nut Latte?