This is 2020.

First… take notice of my EPIC table setting skills! A FIRST. We bought the decorations at Robinson’s Place General Trias and Ayala Malls Manila Bay. Yeeeeaaaah, the green napkins with polka dots don’t match the floral plates. I also wanted the fairy lights to be in a single colour (like virginal white). But we can’t have everything.

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What we CAN have though are some happy memories.

Like welcoming 2020 and a new decade with the family. I laugh at those who are so righteous ‘it’s not a new decade yet!’ – shut up, it’s the 2020s – use your technicality on Yuzuru Hanyu.

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We had a spread that was catered by relatives. Mom ordered and added macaroni salad. Dad cooked some barbecue using the new grill that my brother and I got him. I enjoyed the lumpia of course. (Lightbulb moment: Barbecued lumpia. Has anyone heard or tried?)

Our backyard did not get renovated in time for the new decade. But after eight months, I finally replied to our architect and it looks like we’ll be getting a revised rendering and a quotation soon. I’m excited because we’re talking about transforming the back of our home into a comfortable space instead of something that looks like the demilitarized zone.

Oh, before I forget, the top nine from 2019 according to Instagram. Nevermind we grant access to our photos to a third party LOL. These are based on likes. They obviously don’t give justice to all the other good stuff that happened in 2019. But I’ll share anyway:

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There’s myself with PJ in about three of the top nine (Manila Pride and at two different Spartan races). The ‘Focus on what matters’ was taken from the office in San Francisco. The Pacman and pink shirts are events from the office. You’ll spot me cooking, with my mom beaming at me. That was taken in Bangkok when we learned how to cook Thai curry. The dragon boat photo is actually a flashback to an earlier time in a galaxy far, far away. The last photo was after I completed a half marathon.

One of my favorite memories from 2019 is introducing my family to PJ. It’s also documented (slightly) in the video episode below:

Other great memories from 2019? Visiting Europe and Australia for the first time. That’s Dublin, London, Frankfurt, Sydney…. also seeing the U.S. and Japan after decades. Visiting relatives there too. I enjoyed Taiwan Pride. Loved going to Thailand with the family. Attending a wedding in Ipoh and Alfonso. Celebrating my birthday in Malacca. A staycation at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport during an anniversary with PJ… a staycation in Tampines too… and other weekends in Bukit Merah.

You know what? I think I got back on track in 2019. I feel good. Look at me here in these short shorts:

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At Taiwan Pride in October 2019

HIGHLIGHT. I continue to TRY and improve each day. I’m in a job that is very challenging because it’s NEW territory for me. It’s easy to fall off balance. But I’m proud of myself for trying each time I get a chance. I am thankful for it. And thankful for all the rich experiences of the past year. ❤

***

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The family welcomes 2020. The tropical jungle is real.

Happy New Year, everyone!

My 2010s.

2010. Seeing the beauty of the Philippines.

I got to travel to various parts of the Philippines. It was filled with domestic travels. I was enchanted. The Philippines IS beautiful. I’m proud to call it my home.

2011. Making new friends from different countries.

I studied in Malaysia for a month. It was my first opportunity to meet people with different nationalities and backgrounds. It got me excited about moving to Singapore to try out a regional TV broadcast network.

2012. Moving to Singapore.

Fortune favours the bold. I left behind my permanent job at ABS-CBN to live in a hostel in Lavender for three months… in search of a job in the city-state. I had a diet of chicken rice and mixed veg rice (Singapore’s turo-turo). It pays off. I get a job at MediaCorp!

2013. Coming out to my parents.

Celebrating my employment in Singapore meant I could finally afford to take the family out to see some neighbouring countries. We meet up in Siem Reap, Cambodia. After a freak thunderstorm leaves us stranded at the Angkor Wat, I find an ‘ancient’ window and know it’s time to tell my parents that I’m gay and I’m partnered. Mom and dad hug me and say that they love me as long as I’m happy.

2014. Joining a dragon boat team.

One of my favourites in the past decade. I found myself paddling as part of an AWESOME dragon boat team. They’re Filipino Dragons (Singapore)… one big competitive family. Dragon boating changes me physically. I slouch less. I now skew towards sports.

2015. Leaving a stale relationship.

I won’t sugarcoat it. Things weren’t working for a long time. It felt like the band-aids were falling off. The year ended on a very sad note with the passing of my partner’s mom. Absolutely heartbroken during those days. We tried to keep the relationship going into early 2016, but it fails. There was no fixing it.

2016. Becoming independent.

For the first time in over 12 years, I was now living independently without a partner. I moved to Geylang and continued my dragon boating. I also started dating again.

2017. Making mistakes.

I was in love with someone who didn’t feel the same way. I made the mistake of letting it go on, aimlessly. Until it blew up in my face. It affected me so hard that I had to quit my dragon boat team and, a year later, I quit my job too. This was the toughest year in the past decade because I had to deal with not very good thoughts, quitting my dragon boat team (it was on my own accord), paralysing anxiety, and heartbreak.

2018. Learning from them.

I started the year by putting myself out there again. I met quite a few interesting people. Until it reached a point that I was dating to learn more about myself. I was worried about becoming a 33-year-old jaded gay man. Until Tinder connected me to PJ who I would meet in front of a Tori-Q stall in Bugis. He’s a kind, genuine soul. I’m happy I’ve met him at a time that I now love myself more and more. ❤

2019. Seeing the beauty when you ‘press continue’.

I end the decade with a new job in an entirely new industry. The job has sent me to Dublin, San Francisco, and Sydney. With stopovers in cities like London and Tokyo. I thought it was over for me in the preceding years. But I started to see the beauty of putting one foot in front of the other. It’s changed my outlook. I can do anything as long as I pour my heart into it. It’s not a permanent role… but even a permanent role is not permanent. So make the most of what you get.

***

A new year, a new ‘decade’ 2020s… we are ALL getting older, YES. But I don’t want to count the years. I’d rather count the life we get to live in each year. That means doing less of the same things. Doing the same thing = not growing.

Sobrang thankful ako sa mga friends, colleagues, family… through the years. You know who you are. Thank you. I really appreciate all the goodness you bring. And to my partner PJ, who I am closing 2019 with… you add joy to my life.

My thing about theme parties.

What’s cool about PJ’s department is that they organise their own year-end parties. There’s a higher level of authenticity when a group of people pro-actively organise their own year-ender. It’s less corporate. Amirite?

The best part is I get to be his PLUS ONE.

It’s also a THEME PARTY. Woot!

In typical George fashion, I wouldn’t dare enter a theme party without thinking carefully about what I’ll wear. I once went as Marty McFly to a Christmas party ten years ago.

Did anyone understand which Hollywood character I was wearing? No.

Then, last year… Netflix was the theme. Low key I wanted to put meaning behind why I wore a Star Trek uniform. Star Trek TNG on Netflix helped me through many sleepless nights when I was going through a very difficult period in early 2018. Ending 2018 in a Star Trek uniform with PJ (who hadn’t seen a single episode of Star Trek) was full circle. ❤

partyHowever, people at the party thought we were from USS Callister on Black Mirror.

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***

Fast forward to last Saturday at PJ’s department year-ender. The theme? Netflix and chill! We cleaned up for this one.

The others came dressed as characters from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Pose, Money Heist, and Stranger Things.

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What a mix.
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Del and Gel
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Not to be taken seriously.
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Look at this fabulous set.

I had a super great time at this DIY year-end party. It was pretty spectacular. Decorations, food, music, performances, games… when it’s DIY like this = lots of heart. ❤ ❤ ❤

Learning Thai Cooking Basics in Bangkok

First of all, bummer that my brother couldn’t join us for this! He was in Bangkok for a work conference. The parents and I flew in on a Thursday evening. We were only in Bangkok for a total of three short days… and I wanted to get the most out of it.

So I booked a Thai cooking class as a surprise activity for the parents. It was a booking I made via Klook. I’ve been to Bangkok numerous times in the past few years, but I hadn’t experienced a Thai cooking class before. Seems like a great activity to do with the parents on our first day in Bangkok.

We took a Grab from our hotel to get to the Sompong Thai Cooking School. First, we gathered with other cooking students (mostly Korean, if I’m not mistaken). Then we were brought to a local market nearby to learn about popular ingredients used in Thai cuisine.

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Dad and mom at a Thai marketplace.
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Our guide teaching us about popular ingredients in Thai cuisine.
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Some of the ingredients.

After collecting the ingredients and learning about them, we made our way back to the cooking school nearby. It was about a ten minute walk (comfortable, slow speed).

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A legit food stall in Bangkok.
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Walking back to the cooking school.

When we entered the cooking school, we discovered we all had cooking stations and some items to keep.

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A cooking booklet, kitchen apron (lended), and wet towel.
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First time to do a cooking class with my parents.
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Refreshments are provided.
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Neatly arranged. We’re ready to cook!
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Wok stations.
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Plenty of room for students.
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Following Sompong Thai Cooking School.

The best part was learning how to cook four dishes! Yes, FOUR.

  • Thai chicken curry
  • Thai fried rice
  • Tom yum soup
  • Thai potato dessert
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So happy my parents get to try this!
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Some of the ingredients for the curry chicken recipe.
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Dad and mom cooking Thai food.
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Our instructor showing mom some techniques.
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Some of the ingredients for the Thai fried rice.
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Dad and mom listening intently.
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Some of the ingredients for the tom yum soup. Mmmm!
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I really enjoy cooking!
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Mom presents her tom yum soup and fried rice.
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My fried rice and tom yum! ❤
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Really great to learn Thai cooking with the parents.

It was a fantastic experience.

Definitely, I recommend the Sompong Thai Cooking Class as an activity to do while in Bangkok. It’s also an activity you can do with your senior citizen parents.

  • I booked via Klook (this isn’t an advertisement, this is an honest mention!).
  • Learn more about Sompong Thai Cooking Class on their Facebook here.

Sompong Thai Cooking School is located at 31/11 Silom, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand.

Noir.

I’m struggling through work. I’ll be candid about that. It’s ‘alarming’ and ‘deeply concerning’ that I haven’t ‘picked up’ the necessary skills needed to get the job I signed up for.

False.

I’m proud of myself for trying something new. I give myself credit for making a bold step to leave my comfort zone. I might not be as amazing as my peers but I’m something of my own. I am capable of being great at my own pace. I’ve launched projects and campaigns. I’ve made some good relations with stakeholders. Not all of them. But how could you when you have double the stakeholders. You’ll never be able to please every single one. Only manage. And, as my manager reminds me constantly, prioritise.

I think I’ve only recently gotten my bearings again after a rollercoaster 2017/2018. I struggle with mental health issues. I recognise the anxiety which drains me. I acknowledge I need help and I’ll be open about it. I know how it feels to stand twelve floors above and looking down into the abyss. I also know how it feels to stand 34 floors above the ground and looking out from the posh, well-stocked pantry of the tech company I work for. I feel fucking thankful. I’ve overcome challenges and doubt to get to where I stand.

If it’s a chemical imbalance, I’ll deal with it. I accept anxiety as a part of me that I need to manage. Like how I need to manage the next eBook I’m working on.

These are the times we live in. Filtered or unfiltered. Precious. Pretentious. Where we get older and age gracefully. Knocking down walls. Creating new ones. We respect the new paths created. Friends come and go. And they DO GO. Believe me.

But some stay.

I choose to stay. I know there’s still so much work to get done. It’ll be worth the struggle.

Two things:

  1. I love SUNMI. This is a great MV from her Noir single. I’m obsessed with LALALAY.
  2. I’ll be fine. I needed to blog this as an outlet.

San Francisco, California: Bay to Breakers 2019

I was out for almost two weeks for a business trip to San Francisco. I’ve loads of experiences I’m excited to write about here on my blog. For now I’ll start with the Bay to Breakers Run which is marketed as the oldest consecutively run footrace in the world (since 1912).

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My cousin booked us a one-night stay at Hilton (we haven’t seen each other in five years). He told me it’s a race where people dress up. Luckily I borrowed a Power Rangers-LOOKING suit from a colleague (thanks Shawn!).

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Several firsts:

  • First race in San Francisco (also: first in California, first in the USA)
  • First time to race while wearing a costume
  • First time to race in sub-18 degree C weather. All my races to date are in Southeast Asia with temps above 27-degrees C.

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I picked out Corral C which is a more conservative time. I was thinking I wouldn’t be finishing the race at a competitive pace since I wanted to take this opportunity to use the race as a way to experience San Francisco by foot.

 

The route

The route passes by the company’s San Francisco office. This was the first time I was seeing the office so YES… i did stop right in front of it.

 

True enough people were in costumes. There were all sorts of traditions like throwing tortillas. Some people were running naked. In this weather? The route took you through neighbourhoods where people were outside their homes having picnics and watching the racers pass by. I spotted people in windows looking out. It had a strong community vibe. Some racers were doing it backwards (it’s also a tradition, apparently).

 

Oh, and I added a few more dollars to race an additional stretch for an additional medal.

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It was a great first day in San Francisco. We were blessed (yes I’ll use that word) to have great weather that morning. Because the previous days were dark and stormy.

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Can’t thank my cousin enough for telling me about this race and for being such an amazing host during my first weekend in SF.

This Week in PJ and George’s Kitchen: Tuna Pesto Pasta

For our third week of cooking something every Wednesday Monday (because of Game of Thrones), we went with Tuna Pesto Pasta. This is not going to be some recipe post. You can find loads of tuna pasta recipes on the internet.

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A group picture of the ingredients

I’m going to describe to you my life-changing experience cooking it.

  1. Pour olive oil into a wok until satisfied.
  2. Add two tablespoons of ‘instant’ chopped garlic.
  3. Stir the chopped garlic before it gets burnt.
  4. Add in a slab of butter and watch it melt while thinking about our life choices.
  5. Pour in a cup of evaporated creamer (it’s supposed to be heavy cream). I google’d and it says it’s the same. But the evaporated creamer I got is used in ice kacang apparently so let’s see what happens.
  6. Once it’s all incorporated, add in a can of tuna chunks. It’s supposed to be tuna flakes LOL but PJ got the chunks instead because I forgot to tell him to look for the flakes one. I smashed the chunks into pieces using a wooden spoon.
  7. Add in the pasta. And then mix it all.
  8. While it would’ve been nice to smash basil and nut and create the pesto from scratch, I didn’t have time coming from work. Instead, add a jar of pesto sauce (which you can buy at the groceries) into the pasta and tuna. Mix everything.
  9. Add in parmesan, cheddar, and sprinkle with pepper and salt to taste.
  10.  Eat with your favourite protein. I picked roasted chicken. The store-bought one.

Made with ❤

Verdict: This pasta definitely tasted better than Game of Thrones S8 EP4.

PJ loved it but I think I could definitely put a little more love into making tuna pesto pasta. Investing in the ingredients would definitely pay off. Especially the part of getting the heavy cream done correctly and using a different type of pasta to scoop up the pesto sauce and tuna bits. I want to make pasta my go-to dish.

Here’s a photo:

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Tuna Pesto Pasta

Here’s a bonus video of me cooking it.

“Previously on PJ and George’s Kitchen”

This Week in PJ and George’s Kitchen: Butter Garlic Shrimps

I’m so proud of myself.

I’m starting to cook something other than pork adobo. Clap! I mentioned in a previous post that my boyfriend and I will cook ‘something new’ every Wednesday and feature it in my blog. Last week we had pork steak. This week we listed down butter garlic shrimps, Filipino-style. Like where I get most of my current instructions… I learned this recipe from the ever-reliable Panlasang Pinoy. ❤

Here’s the finished result:

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It’s a very easy dish to make. You buy shrimps and you soak them in lemon soda for about 10 minutes at least. I picked out 7-up.

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Then you melt half a cup of butter and heat that up. Pouring in minced garlic (the fresh ones are probably way better, but this one in PJ’s kitchen wasn’t too bad). You wait for the bits to turn golden brown before you pour in the shrimp.

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This is one of the fun ones to cook. Waiting for the shrimps to turn orange. Watching them soak up the butter and garlic. Then you sprinkle in two tablespoons of parsley. I’m not going to get the credit for this recipe so I’ll point you again to Panlasang Pinoy this time. What would I do as an OFW without Panlasang Pinoy. ❤

Click here to see Mr. Vanjo’s recipe for Butter Garlic Shrimp.

And voila… you’re set! Delicious butter garlic shrimps ready within 30 minutes basically. I blanched some broccoli to serve as sides.

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My boyfriend PJ loved it! Can’t wait to cook again next Wednesday. 😀

Couldn’t help ourselves to some cups of rice.

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4 Tips for Beginners: Spartan Race Yio Chu Kang Sprint

AROO! Experienced Spartan for a 2nd time earlier. Different venue, different feel! It was in Yio Chu Kang (Ang Mo Kio). Imagine running through a muddy obstacle course with HDBs in the background. Very Singapore! I loved it!

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Muddy. I should’ve worn an older pair of shoes and compression.
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Love this shot of PJ!

Three tips for beginners based on my experience (because there are elite + experienced Spartans I’ve to learn from too)

  1. Don’t wear new shoes when going to a muddy Spartan. Wear your trusty old pair which you wouldn’t mind getting dirty. This also means choosing appropriate race attire. Wear something comfortable. I wore my 2XU compression shorts and a singlet.
  2. Consider wearing gloves. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But gloves helped me with the climbing and grip of things (like the bucket obstacle).
  3. Beginners, perhaps take your time through the course. It’s a SPRINT. But for beginners, I say don’t feel pressured to finish the course as fast as the more experienced athletes on the course. This also means giving way and moving to the side to let others pass you. I think that’s important for sportsmanship.
  4. Smile and help others out. I wouldn’t be able to finish this 20+ obstacle course without the help and encouragement of the people around me. Some challenges require climbing up walls and it was great to hear tips from the people who were good at it. These people have trained and for sharing their knowledge, thank you! I also got to pay it forward and help out the person behind me by suggesting where to grip.

The Spartan Race is a test of strength and endurance. It’s also a test of physical and mental. After two Spartans to date (in the discovery phase), I’ve learned that it demands you train your whole body. Upper and lower body muscle groups. All of it. I can probably see why it’s so addictive for the elite Spartans (in red headbands).

Favourite obstacles (define favourite – lol)

  • Wall climb – all types
  • Sand bag on a muddy hill
  • That wall that’s tilted backward

Areas that I really need to train harder for

  • Atlas
  • Rope climbing
  • Obstacles that rely on upper body strength

I hope before I turn 40 I can accomplish a Spartan Race as an elite racer. Shirtless. 😛

This is not a sponsored post. But I’ll point you to the Spartan SG website to learn more.

Thank you Team UFIT and LinkedIn Wellness. ❤

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Smile. :)

The previous post was both difficult and empowering to write. I wanted to make sure I jump onto a sunny entry immediately. Here’s a photo with PJ taken in Bangkok last week. We were lounging by the rooftop swimming pool the whole afternoon. I finished reading ‘China Rich Girlfriend’.

We were making fun of the calamari we ordered. Because it looked like 7 or 8 pieces.

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Love this photo of PJ. ❤

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We spent the whole afternoon at the hotel rooftop. We didn’t want to get wet from Songkran (lol, I grew a phobia of water guns on the 2nd day). We didn’t even want to leave the hotel for fear of getting drenched. So we had room service.

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Probably one of the best holidays in recent memory. ❤