Categories
Pandemic

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.

Categories
Yoga

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. ❤

Categories
Year 2020

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
Categories
Feature Story by George Putong

How It’s Like to Travel During This Pandemic

Sharing my new video project about people, advocacy, and current events. In this first monthly episode, I speak with four people who recently travelled overseas during this pandemic. Each person narrates their experiences at the airport, on the plane, and in quarantine at their destination. Plus, we hear how it’s like to get tested and what their travel tips are during this time.

Wherever you are in the world, be safe. 🙂

Categories
Singapore

Christmas, 2020

This year’s Christmas celebration was a simple but meaningful gathering here at our home in Pasir Ris.

Our housemates prepared a noche buena spread of some classic Filipino dishes like lumpia, extra tender Bistek Tagalog, slices of Christmas ham, menudo, and juicy Bellychon (with lemongrass filling). PJ has a video demonstration of how housemate D prepared the bellychon.

There was also Biko and homemade chocolate ice cream.

Plus, the table setting was done by housemate W.

PJ and I were in-charge of the evening program. We had a traditional gift exchange (value today: SGD 50.00 minimum) as well as party games like Pinoy Henyo and Kahoot!. Like last year, we also played a little bit of 1-2 Switch.

What we’re grateful for this Christmas

On Christmas eve of 2020, you can only invite a maximum of five visitors. We celebrated noche buena with some of our friends.

Spending Christmas 2020 with my housemates in Pasir Ris

Happy holidays from all of us. ❤

Categories
Music I Listen To Year 2020

Songs of this year: Baby – Madison Beer

Author’s note: This post is part of a mini-series about songs I enjoyed listening to this year. Music has played a very special part in keeping sane during this pandemic. Let me know in the comments what music helped you get through.

Would you believe this was part of my running playlist?

Here’s the slowed down version:

Categories
Music I Listen To Year 2020

Songs of this year: No Time To Die – Billie Eilish

Author’s note: This post is part of a mini-series about songs I enjoyed listening to this year. Music has played a very special part in keeping sane during this pandemic. Let me know in the comments what music helped you get through.

I remember exactly where I was when I first listened to the newest Bond theme. I was on a small boat that was speeding back to Bali island from Nusa Penida. It was in February. It was the only “holiday trip” I managed to squeeze in before the world went on lockdown.

On this boat I was wearing a surgical mask. Beneath my mask, I remember it smelled like ocean breeze and diesel. The skies were sunny that early afternoon. But the mood felt cautious. The pandemic hadn’t “struck” Bali yet. Or, it wasn’t being detected at the time. It’s likely it was already silently spreading – as Bali was a top tourist destination for many of our friends from China. At the time, the virus was still hyped as from Wuhan.

Back to Billie. I think only a few people appreciate music from the Bond films. The lyrics can come off as overdramatic if not cheesy. But I enjoy the Bond themes because it’s become a sort of cinematic tradition. As a visual content creator, music has been an inspiration when I wrote and edited promos for television.

With Adele and Sam Smith being awarded for their Bond themes in Skyfall and Spectre (“The Writing’s On The Wall”), I guess it made sense to give this opportunity to one of the youngest, most multi-awarded artists of today… Billie Eilish.

NO TIME TO DIE is the 25th film in the Bond film franchise. Aptly titled, the movie couldn’t have come at a better time: a volcano erupts near Manila, a basketball legend dies in tragic helicopter crash, a pandemic sweeps the world… one for our generation. The movie itself was to premiere in 2020 (months after the release of the song in February). But like the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, it gets pushed to next year.

But we get performances from Billie through the year. I’ll share her performance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

I couldn’t help but think that there are similarities in it with Adele’s Skyfall. I also think Sam Smith could give No Time To Die a good version. But Eilish owns this song, not because of her signature hums, but her vulnerability.

You’ll never see me cry, there’s just no time to die.

I can’t wait for the theatrical Bond 25 opening credits when the movie premieres in 2021. And if you think these opening credits are still like the hyper-sexualised ones of the past, try watching some of the recent ones. You’ll be surprised that Bond can evolve with the times.

Categories
Personal

Mornings, scents

It’s 8:29 am on a Monday.

As I gently open my eyes, I hear the door close. Tired, I rest my eyelids by shutting them and then I flip the position of my head so the other side of my face is resting on the pillow. It’s warm. I shift my head to rest on PJ’s pillow. It’s higher, cooler, crisp. It makes me smile.

A few minutes more of this shouldn’t hurt.

I try to block out thoughts about emails and Slack. I have some time before 9:00 am. There’s no commute to worry about. Only getting a few more minutes. As these minutes roll on, it’s a routine of hitting snooze on that irritating iPhone alarm. I start to hear the voices of my housemates. Doors opening, closing. The doors are heavy in our apartment.

It’s 9:05 am. I sit up in bed and lift my laptop off the office table that sits right next to the bed. I flip open my seven year-old laptop which still works pleasantly fast. Pop in a few passwords and I’m in.

My work day has begun.

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It was only yesterday when I came to terms with wearing a surgical mask in public. I remember two things. Where will I get my supply of masks? Is the N95 mask overkill? I only have one N95 in my cabinet. (In 2020, #SGHaze now looks like a drop in the ocean.)

I didn’t have a supply of masks in the first few weeks of the pandemic. They were flying off the shelves at the time. It got so bad that I accepted an offer from a nurse I had dated… who had access to masks. He offered me a box. How bizarre it was to walk into a Starbucks in Sengkang so he could pass to me surgical masks. I didn’t know how to feel. Grateful? Guilty?

###

Going back to the scene at home. PJ normally starts his work day before working hours. He likes to get a head start. On Friday evenings and during all of his Saturdays, he’s parked in front of his laptop screen listening to lectures in the living room. PJ started his MBA a few months ago.

I know how busy he can get. When he told me he’s working on his new passion project which is to launch his own YouTube channel, I was excited. And guess what? He made it happen.

Congrats love for launching your first video. ❤

Show him some love by subscribing to his channel!

On scents

Personally, my favourite scents are more subtle in the form of scented candles. I used to buy those from Yankee Candle. But I stopped after the air-condition cleaner said that my a/c filters had turned black (or something) probably because the smoke of the candles added more pollutants into the air. I could be wrong.

I do enjoy good scents.

Categories
Music I Listen To

Songs That Made 2020 Better: Play – CHUNG HA

I’m kicking off a short series of blog posts about music I enjoyed listening to in 2020. The year is one of the toughest and most traumatising on record for billions of people. At the surface, we’re looking at almost 70 million people having been infected by the virus with over 1.5 million deaths as of this date. Diving deeper, industries are shattered and economies will be changed. From unprecedented disruption to global travel to the vulnerable people stuck in quarantine in unsafe homes facing abuse.

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Pop music has always been my antidote through the years. K-pop uplifted my spirits when I was at my lowest in recent years. I’ve come to love BTS, SUNMI, HWA SA… and they’re the ones in the front right now. Behind them is a massive K-pop industry with “generations” of artists and fans. While I may not always agree with the ultra-glossy “perfect image” used to market the stars, I turn to the overall production. K-pop pushes that bar higher and higher.

Several of my favourite K-pop songs this year came from CHUNG HA. As you go through her playlist of releases in 2020, it’s like she had a song for each season of the year. MV after MV of lights and fairy dust, her signature hand choreography (HAND CHOREO?!?)… the dancers, men in heels. Her angle and spins like Kylie Minogue. Is she one of the best solo K-pop performers of the year?

What happens before a release are comeback teasers. Then there’s a full-blown MV. Then there’ll be a “Dance Performance” version of the MV. This means less vanity shots and more choreography. The performer then does the whole circuit of promotions: tv shows, events, awards specials. In cases like BTS, the Japanese version of their songs. It’s one well-orchestrated extravaganza.

Today, I’ll share with you the dance performance video to CHUNG HA’s “Play”. 🙂

What’s a song that made 2020 better for you?

Update: As of this writing, CHUNG HA is down with COVID-19. This is insane. Please get well!

Categories
Advocacy

December 1 is World AIDS Day

Stigma and discrimination are still the biggest barriers to an AIDS-free world. In the next ten years, we will advocate for anti-discrimination laws at the national and local levels to make sure that everyone gets access to lifesaving services regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. #SOGIEEqualityNow #PassADBNow #EndAIDS2030 #HeadshotClinic @TheRedWhistle @PremiereCondoms