Am I relieved? Hell yes.

From the moment I dropped my absentee ballot into a SingPost mailbox to the moment the Capitol doors opened up with Joseph R. Biden, Jr. walking towards his inauguration.

I haven’t felt this elated about an inauguration since 2008 when Barack Obama took his first oath of office. I was clapping in a sleepy Saizeriya in White Sands as footage of the 45th president’s Marine One was departing the White House. I was amazed at how past presidents from both sides of the aisle, walked through the inauguration doors. Some would say, plastikan. I’d say it’s continuance, the ability to be respectful and decent… even if you disagree with someone.

The ceremony began and it was one “YAASSS” after another. Lady Gaga dressed for the Hunger Games – singing the national anthem. Fellow New Yorker Jennifer Lopez, incorporating a portion of the pledge of allegiance in Spanish, in her rendition of This Land is Your Land – before turning it up like a Super Bowl halftime show screaming ‘Let’s Get Loud’ in front of Bill Clinton. My favourite part of the inauguration was young poet Amanda Gorman. It’s like four years of a candle in the wind… all but extinguished… and then the sight of a young African American woman, wrapped in the most beautiful shade of yellow… using the power of words to uplift and move us forward. Turning a flicker of light into a flame.

I wanted to break into tears as Kamala Harris took her oath as our country’s first female vice president. Of course, her life is a buffet of firsts. She is one for all of us to watch.

And of course, the man of the hour, President Biden. Our best hope right now to deal with a pandemic which has killed over 400,000 Americans. I pray that the Biden administration be triumphant in putting a country back together.

The bubble I’m inside of

I’ve noticed a change in this pandemic. There’s a clear difference now between early stage pandemic and current stage pandemic (I don’t know what to call it). In the early stage, it was severe lockdowns (aka CIRCUIT BREAKER). Haircuts were once-every-two-months. Only one person could leave the house to do groceries. Cases in Singapore were in the hundreds. And while at home, the only exercise I had was mastering the Just Dance 2020 steps to Bassa Sababa. I was proud though. I was getting five blue stars each time.

But months later, the setting has changed. We live in a condo instead of an HDB. Instead of a void deck, there’s a swimming pool I haven’t swam in. We have a new housemate who taught himself how to make a pretty damn good bellychon. The way the sunlight hits our house isn’t harsh. So 10AM and 4PM look the same lah – does not help with our orientation of time these days. Instead of living room dancing, I have “WOD” which is like a mix of HIIT, gymnastics, and body weights. Plus, yoga.

This is life in the bubble I’m currently in. It sounds mundane. In no way is it a complaint. I love it. It’s different and something, hopefully, I can look back at in a few years and say “that’s how you were surviving this pandemic.”. But while I’m in this bubble, my parents have only left the house twice in 11 months back in the Philippines. My brother, well… he gets to work when his job has in-person events that need coverages. Doing that also means he has to brave the challenging, crippling conditions this pandemic has put the Philippines in. It is jarring to be “safe at home” here in “Singapore” where everything seems tame and traceable… while it’s a far larger mess everywhere else. Singapore remains at below 60,000 cases while the United States has 20 million. The Philippines has almost 500,000.

Wherever you are in this pandemic, be safe.

The rest here is one big rant 🙂

Cooking. Reluctantly, it’s taken a backseat in the past few months. This is entirely on me. PJ has been cooking the bulk. When the pandemic started, we had a white board with a menu written on it. Felt like we had to strategise or ration. I prided myself in cooking Kimchi Pork, Baked Salmon with Lemon and Thyme, and other simple but tasty recipes. But as we settled in Pasir Ris, the distance to the grocery store has enhanced my reliance on Grab deliveries.

Final Fantasy VII Remake. My console has been sitting in an upright position since we moved to Pasir Ris last year. With it, is Cloud frozen in time at the night market. Or, actually, I don’t know. I was playing FFVII-R religiously during circuit breaker. When work started last June, I moved onto the Switch (Just Dance 2020). A part of me wants to be a 13 year-old kid again. Final Fantasy nights, Mountain Dew, and Doritos.

Working from home. My first six months into this new job has been entirely at home. I’m not complaining. It’s just… fourteen years of working in the corporate world and you would understand how used one could be with that feeling of entering an office, heading out for lunch, grabbing tea, going home (making pitstops along the way). WFH just accelerates that feeling of days blending into each other. Luckily, I’ve structured it with yoga, WOD (workout of the day, as you’ll read next)… breaking the day into half (mornings are slow, answering emails… then there’s lunch which is delivery or PJ’s cooking… afternoons are slightly faster because of coffee… and then at 7:01pm I’m pushing the living room couch to the side to make room for my gym mat). I think WFH is fine. But I am conditioning myself to prepare for anything. If there’s a split-arrangement. Working in the office (as long as it’s Phase 3, safer) on alternate weeks or once a week. It’s not about the work that needs to get done. It’s about that human interaction. Seeing your manager’s smile (or frown, hopefully not a frown lol)… having lunch with colleagues… laughing, the body language of laughter… not in a tiny Zoom square.

WOD. Workout of the day. This is probably what I’ve been most consistent with these past few months. I noticed that my right leg is stronger than my left leg. This might be related to the position of my legs when I used to paddle on a dragon boat. Our group is called IROK-ATLETICO and it was put together by R.O.X. PLAYGRND which was supposed to be a physical gym to open in 2020… but has been delayed obviously due to this pandemic.

Yoga. I try to sign up for the one with Ferdz but he is starting in-person classes again in… Paranaque? Quezon City? Gosh, I don’t know where his community fitness studio is. But when he has online classes… I like to dial in. I still like the human interaction part. He can correct your form. And you get to do yoga with other people too. If he’s not available, I’m fine with Yoga with Adriene on YouTube.

Podcasting. I started writing, recording, and editing content a few months ago. I’ve commissioned the cover art and it’s complete. What’s slowing me down? I have fallen into the trap of wanting to get it perfect before getting it out. Which falls opposite to what I read would be better: consistency. I have materials good for up to six episodes already. I have contacts that can interview with me… bringing my first set of episodes to a total of ten. I’m not worried about that. But I’m worried about it being less than the standard I expect it to be. I should be able to launch this by the end of January.

Documentary-style videos. Inspired by the journalists I’m in contact with these last few months, I’ve decided to rethink my approach to producing videos. All these years, I’ve used video blogging as a creative outlet. To tell my story in Singapore. But honestly, who TF cares right. I’ve outgrown my need to document life here. Instead, I can write about it in my blog. But the effort to produce videos which involves writing and editing? I can channel my energy to telling stories and doing features. I’ve always wanted to do this since college. Why don’t I use my talent to write and produce content about people, advocacy, and current events? I started off with an episode about how it’s like to travel during this pandemic. The value-add: finding four people to share their recent travel stories and what advice they have for travellers this year. I’ve also set a personal KPI (key performance indicator – picked up from my LinkedIn marketing days) of 8-12 thoughtful, meaningful episodes in 2021. Conservatively, I’m promoting it as bi-monthly (every two months). Let’s see where this goes.

Jogging. Also last year, I was jogging actively around Bedok Reservoir “to escape the house” during lockdown. I quite miss it! I’ve been focused on yoga and WOD the past several months. Jogging is also a bit of a hassle since our new house in Pasir Ris is further out from the park connectors and running paths. Don’t get me wrong, there are scenic running paths in Pasir Ris. We have a beach here. There’s a quaint “river” (more like a well-landscaped canal). The area also has wild boars.

Sleep. This is what I’m struggling with more lately. I don’t want to rely on melatonin. My thoughts, ideas, and creativity come alive in the evening hours. I didn’t set new year’s resolutions this year because… we should still be working on the ones from the past few years. But if I had something I’d like to focus on… it would be SLEEP. To get more sleep. To prioritise rest and recharging.

Shows I’m watching. Obsessed with the Joanna Lumley travel documentaries which sprouted up within Netflix’ January line-up. She is such a great narrator and storyteller. I’m sure it’s the producers and writers behind it. But she’s so good… natural talent. There’s a Sue Perkins series of travel episodes too. British talents while travelling. Only comment is that we see these countries (Japan, China, Vietnam) through the eyes of “westerners”. So there are some odd comments in there that I just have to let slide. These aren’t bad comments… I’m just tired of hearing “they say this is the Paris of the East” that kind of shhh. But both are wonderful and well-produced. You’ll know what I mean if you watch some of these shows. I’m also watching Star Trek: Discovery season 4… which sees us in the 33rd century with a Federation crippled by “the burn” or when every ship with a warp core, exploded. I finished Brigerton and can’t believe I almost recommended my parents watch it. One episode was all sex. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have that much castle sex with a duke as handsome as he is. PJ and I finished the K-drama Start-Up… it’s the only one I felt really involved with after Crash Landing on You. In the end, we both cheered for Mr. Han instead of Nam Do-San. The two gentlemen are liars though… but I guess Mr. Han has more likability. We have the Selena series running, but more as wallpaper while we’re having dinner. RuPaul’s Drag Race season 13 started last weekend… a pandemic season. The judges are really separated by acrylic glass. You can’t make this up.

Reading. I am behind on all the reading materials I’ve been gifted or sent. With exception to a friend from high school who sent me her transcript, I have to ask… why do people gift me books huhu. I mean… it’s lovely. My brother’s Becoming (Michele Obama) is still in its plastic wrapping. My friend J lended me two books about Danish secrets to happiness. My other friend J gave me a book about… it had a red cover. My friend E gave me one about poems. I appreciate it and it looks nice on my shelf. But I’m such a visual person. Subscriptions to Disney+ or HBO Go please… documentaries… I’ll read these books eventually. If I end up commuting to and from my workplace which is an hour each way.

Continuing my yoga journey in 2021

I suppose one of the takeaways from 2020 is that I started to practice yoga (like many other people who have been stuck at home during this pandemic). I started with weekly sessions led by my former dragon boat team captain. When she got busy with work, I signed up for weekly sessions by Ferdz (who runs Ironwulf En Route). He teaches and leads yoga classes in the Philippines. But luckily he’s streaming to people online as well.

When I can’t dial in to classes, I discovered “Yoga with Adriene” on YouTube. And Adriene has launched a “Breath – 30 Day Yoga Journey” this January. It’s perfect. Keeps me active! Learn more here.

I agree when she says that the hardest part in the 30-day journey is to get yourself onto the mat. So here’s to the next 30 days. ❤

Song of the year (2020)

Since I started this blog, I’ve always had my personal “song of the year”. For some reason I couldn’t find last year’s (probably it was sitting in drafts and got purged). For the record, my favourite song from 2019 was “LALALAY” by South Korean pop star, SUNMI. Why? In previous years, the songs were usually moody. LALALAY is a dance song. With a traditional Korean horn instrument as a signature sound in the background. Plus, as SUNMI frolics across the video, punching the air, thrusting her thighs… I thought that’s a fair representation of my 2019 (sans the thighs). It was a year about trying to do my best and having fun.

Of course 2020 was geared to be the opposite. One of collective trauma… shared by billions of people due to the pandemic. And guess what, if it isn’t obvious yet with some recent posts. I have not one, but THREE songs I’d like to remember 2020 by. And… all three are K-pop. With such depressing news of volcanoes, basketball stars, royal families, elections, typhoons, pandemic, government response to the pandemic… I stayed afloat and upbeat with these three songs. This is the first time I’m assigning more than one song to a year.

No. 3 – Play – by CHUNG HA

The official MV is fabulous… but here’s a “one take” version recorded in a gym. You can see the different types of dance that are in the song.

There are so many types of dance in the MV. There are numerous layers that this song is so enjoyable to listen to and watch. Yes, upbeat. Tropical. Feminine. Drops of masculinity. It’s a fun mix. I’ve seen countless versions of the MV. The official MV, the performance or dance version, numerous versions for TV/streaming programmes, and of course dance covers as far away as Vietnam. I’ve also studied the steps to the pre-chorus and chorus via Steezy. For making me dance, Play is one of my three title songs for 2020.

No. 2 – Stay Tonight – also, by CHUNG HA

This one is the official MV for the song.

I was wrestling with my thoughts if I’d give a spot to Hwa Sa’s “Maria” or songs from Mamamoo (“Aya” and “Dingga” rounding up one of my most-played in December 2020). I was also thinking if a non-Kpop song would be worth adding. Think Lady Gaga or Dua Lipa. But no, there was one other CHUNG HA song I was obsessed with right in those first four months of the pandemic. It’s what elevated CHUNG HA from “just another solo female artist” (I only knew her song “Snapping” from 2019). Stay Tonight was like a Kylie Minogue MV. With Madonna’s dancers. It had voguing and waacking. Prior to this song and MV, I hadn’t seen such a blast of gay energy (the song isn’t a gay anthem, but… it’s fun). Like “Play”, this song will always remind me of those stay-at-home sunsets in Tampines East. I had just moved in with PJ and our living room window had a view of Singapore’s skyline at sunset. Deliveries of Arnold’s Fried Chicken or Amigo’s (a hawker stall).

No. 1 – “On” by BTS

This is the “Kinetic Manifesto” version of the MV, featuring The Lab Dance Crew and choreographer Sienna Lalau (that first zoom-in). I spot so many Asian Americans in it.

It was in 2020 that I started to understand why millions of people worldwide love BTS. In 2020, they released music with that sounded like an anthem of inspiration or motivation. Like this song, they sing about their journeys and hardships through the years… and how to rise above and continue “on and on”. Accompanied by dancers from The Lab (Southern California), a lot of this song has some American influences. You should see the making of the album and the production put behind the music. The song has had numerous versions. Official MV. A short film (shared above). Performances from NY’s Grand Central Station for Jimmy Fallon to one at an Olympic Stadium in Seoul.

“On” will remind me of sunny afternoons in Tampines East during Singapore’s circuit breaker. It’ll remind me that I had BTS playing while jogging around Bedok Reservoir… the only type of “outdoors” one would get at the time. “On” is a great song for 2020. And it’s where I fell in love with BTS. They dance so good.

Three songs to remember the year vs the pandemic.

George’s (Pop) Song of the Year – 2020 (3-way tie)

  • Play – CHUNG HA
  • Stay Tonight – CHUNG HA
  • On – BTS

George’s (Pop) Song of the Year – Previous years

  • 2019 – LALALAY – SUNMI
  • 2018 – All the Stars – Kendrick Lamar ft. SZA
  • 2017 – Flame – Tinashe
  • 2016 – The Life – Fifth Harmony
  • 2015 – Talking Body – Tove Lo