Authenticity, happiness, and the redefinition of “friends”

I’m nearing the end of my 11-day “mid year” holiday. This would typically center around my birthday and involve a vacation to the Philippines to visit family. But no. I’m in Singapore. I’ve spent the past 11 days doing a surprising number of things: a birthday staycation, a birthday gathering at home, getting another root canal, launching a podcast, watching a theatre play…

It’s a much-needed break from the routine of working from home. I thought I would squeeze in a few minutes of work emails or a few minutes of looking through Slack. But in fairness, none of that. I’ve spent almost eleven days in my own lane. Disconnected from work. Focused on me. (Woohoo.)

I turned 36 last week.

I’ve noticed hair growing in places they don’t normally grow (like a random strand of hair on my upper left arm – uhm, hello HU U?). I’ve noticed this odd feeling that I’m 5-10% less moisturised… how to describe, a youthful glow that is slowly starting to fade. I’ve noticed I’m no longer at the forefront of apps, tech… as I used to. It’s like everyone is listening to Olivia Rodrigo and even if I like her music, I feel like I could be Olivia Rodrigo’s dad.

I think I’m having a transformational moment.

I don’t know the exact trigger. It could be from a 10-minute Calm (app) meditation yesterday about embracing one’s vulnerability to be authentic. I think I’ve been obsessed with chasing happiness or living happy. I think that’s a mistake now. I should be chasing authenticity. How to live according to my choices, values, and identity. Choosing happiness or living happily isn’t fair to sadness or anger… which are valid emotions, right? Nobody is purely happy all the time. Sadness, anger, grief… these are all part of the equation.

I think I want to start living my life authentically as possible. I think that involves worrying less about what I can’t change. I think this means the real challenge is to just be me… without chasing what friends, people, and society “want” me to be.

The meaning of friends

This pandemic has isolated many of us from our loved ones. With reduced time spent with “regular friends” you see every other week, I’ve started to reflect on the type of friendships that matter to me.

A friend is someone you don’t have to check in with all the time. But the moment you connect, you just get each other. No formal niceties. No structured chatting.

If that were the criteria then… well, George, you can count your number of friends on one hand. Everyone else is most likely an acquaintance. These acquaintances are familiar people, but what do you really know about them?

And this is absolutely fine.

When I left my dragon boat team in 2019, it was like stepping out of a night club and into a parking lot. As the months passed and the pandemic took hold, it was like walking away from the parking lot and heading home where it’s warm and comfortable. I’m not saying the night club was a bad place. It was a fun place. But I grew exhausted. Plus, the night club had an unwanted patron.

I’ve spent years “cherishing” friendships. I’m the guy who “champions” get-togethers and annual reunions. I’m the guy who wants to “catch up soon”. But these days, no. I think it’s because I’m more comfortable with myself. I don’t see a need to fit myself in “for the sake of it”. I also don’t see myself bending to fit into schedules that don’t match. If I’m unavailable, we can find another time. If I’m late, you can go ahead and eat. I would have already apologised. But I’ll only apologise once. If you think I’m arrogant, I really don’t care.

I try to think if it would be the same if I were single. Yes, I think so. I’d most likely join a social club. Then I’d meet up with one or two friends (not acquaintances) and be fine with that. I think this is taking “I love me” to a new level. I attribute this learning to the pandemic.

All of this said, I am open for authentic connections. Not just happy ones.

“What do you want for your birthday?”

So we’re clear: RECEIVING GIFTS is not my love language. 😉

Of the five so-called love languages, mine is QUALITY TIME. I’m NOT talking about being 24/7 up in my face. Ew. I’m referring to the intimacy or spark of something along the lines of five hot minutes together. Each minute, each second, EACH glance is worthwhile and meaningful. Money for gifts can be earned. Time that’s poorly spent? Meh.

This translates to one thing: EXPERIENCES

Years and years of writing travel itineraries for family, friends, and loved ones. Countless times of booking tickets to new attractions and restaurants. Pop culture, movies, films, video games, learning new languages, finding the best version of my favourite food… I mean come on. I deflate quietly whenever I get asked: What do you want for your birthday?

The quick answer: I want anything or nothing. The cliché goes: It’s the thought that counts. If you know me, you wouldn’t need to ask.

The long answer AKA your 2021 “cheat sheet”:

  1. A subscription to Calm.
  2. Tickets to the Singapore flyer.
  3. MagSafe charger with a 20v brick.
  4. Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan.
  5. A self-curated whiskey trip.
  6. A black or grey Apple watch strap.
  7. A new pair of workout gloves.
  8. Filipino recipes cookbook.
  9. A romantic picnic by the beach.
  10. Trying the city’s best sushi.
  11. Midnight / disco bowling.
  12. Visiting the cloud forest at Gardens by the Bay.
  13. Dinner at my favorite izakaya.
  14. Having a Filipino boodle fight, with a twist.
  15. Mario Party with friends.
  16. Hiking at Coney Island.
  17. A subscription to Headspace.
  18. A Wacom tablet.
  19. New pillows.
  20. Wooly mammoth stuffed toy I saw at Palais Renaissance.
  21. Brunch at Merci Marcel or PS Cafe.
  22. Stargazing from the best spot in the city.
  23. Biking at East Coast Park.
  24. Cupcakes. (But not the ones from Twelve Cupcakes which exploits foreign workers.)
  25. A Peranakan cooking class. Or, any local cooking class.
  26. Practicing yoga with me.
  27. A Japanese flash card set.
  28. Scrabble.
  29. The Singapore edition of Monopoly.
  30. Back to the Future movie night.
  31. Home-cooked food.
  32. Wine-tasting class.
  33. Canoeing or kayaking. A new way to appreciate an old stomping ground.
  34. Coffee tasting.
  35. Cocktails at Atlas.
  36. A pack of ped socks.
  37. A book about dealing with anxiety.
  38. Tickets to Jurong Bird Park.
  39. A revisit to the Southeast Asia Aquarium.
  40. Picnic and cocktails at Sentosa – at a beach bar I haven’t been to before.
  41. Visiting Madam Tussauds Singapore.
  42. Riding the cable car in Sentosa.
  43. Lunch at El Mesa Moderne Filipino in Clarke Quay.
  44. Scened candles from Bath & Body.
  45. Crate & Barrel gift cards.
  46. Anything pretty from Kinokuniya Bookstore.
  47. Middle Eastern food. The best one in Singapore.
  48. An Apple pencil compatible with my iPad 7th gen.
  49. A Moleskine notebook. Annual but un-dated.
  50. Tickets to go see a play.
  51. Camping.
  52. A staycation at The Fullerton, Andaz, or JW Marriott.
  53. The best bak kut teh in Singapore.
  54. The best Malaysian-style bak kut teh in Singapore. The addictive herbal type.
  55. The best burger joint in Singapore.
  56. Brunch at Shake Farm Telok Ayer.
  57. Go-karting. Because, Mario Kart.
  58. Seeing any new exhibit at National Gallery Singapore or Asian Civilisations Museum.
  59. Play miniature golf.
  60. Offering to help me declutter my space and discard unwanted items.
  61. Bake brownies as an activity.
  62. A 90-minute massage. Head, shoulder, and/or foot.
  63. Cocktail making class.
  64. Beer flight / beer tasting at LeVeL 33.
  65. Dinner at a good steakhouse.
  66. Lunch at Hard Rock Cafe.

If you completed my crazy list, you’ll notice majority are experiences not material things.

This was a rant. ✌🏼

I turn 36 next Tuesday.

A few reminders to myself… whenever I feel stuck

The New York Times came out with an article in recent months about the feeling of languishing. I refused to believe it because I didn’t want to simply put a label on something I fear I’ve been feeling too. I feel like I’m floating through the days and weeks. I’m sad that it’s already June 2021. I feel like time is just speeding along and I’m wasting something. I don’t know what it is.

So, I’ll try to list down some things I’ve already done (or currently working on). I hope this list helps remind me that I’m not languishing even if I feel like it. Let’s go:

  • I’m studying basic Japanese. I’m enrolled in a ten-week basic Japanese class and I’m on the third week. We have weekly assignments. We also get to practice writing, reading, and speaking with our sensei. RESULT: Learning a third language.
  • I’m exercising regularly through an online class back in the Philippines. On weeknights, I’m still consistent with my HIIT, body weights, and mobility exercises. I get to mingle and interact with people who are also working out while at home. RESULT: Staying fit.
  • I’m tax-compliant in the United States. This was a struggle to accomplish mainly because I was confused by the processes since I’ve never worked a day in my life in the United States. But it’s a massive personal achievement to get this done and dusted. RESULT: Peace of mind. And my stimulus cheques!
  • I’m investing in my dental care. I had a root canal in May and I got my crown last week. I also completed the first phase of my first dental implants – to help fill in two missing teeth at the back of my mouth. It’s shit expensive. But I have a good dentist and this is important. RESULT: Working towards a more confident smile.
  • I’m upgrading my WFH workstation. It became an accidental “thing” after I found myself shopping in Lazada in recent weeks. I’ve upgraded to a slightly larger table which I got from IKEA. I added a sit-stand tabletop which you can adjust manually. I’ve added a 2nd monitor so I now have a dual screen set-up. I’ve also purchased a hanging light for the monitor. I also have a mechanical keyboard with pretty lights. The total spent on these purchases is a one night stay at Marina Bay Sands. But it’s something I can use every working day. RESULT: Less of a backache. Aiming to improve productivity with two screens.

These are all accomplishments from recent weeks (May/June 2021).

Even with these, I’m frustrated that I haven’t been cooking for PJ in recent months. He’s doing all the cooking and I feel bad because… well… my focus is on other things. He doesn’t complain at all (he’s lovely like that). But sometimes I wish I had the patience and skills to cook. The only thing I can cook this year seems to be tuna pasta. Is this because I don’t want to cook dishes that require rice? I’d rather put together a salad, a sandwich, tacos, nachos, or a light snack. But cooking adobo isn’t something that I have the patience for right now, even if adobo is pretty simple!

Walking and jogging around the neighbourhood earlier – I needed some fresh air

I’m also experiencing cabin fever with Phase 2 Heightened Alert in the past few weeks. Or is it, Phase 3 already. With the rise of community cases since May, I feel safest at home. But staying at home all day has a mental effect. I know it’s much worse in the Philippines – but I’m not going to discredit my own experience. I’m tired of being at home all day. I wish there were 36 hours in one day. I’d like to spend it running by the beach, biking to a reservoir, or visiting a distant hawker centre.

Why is time moving so fast?

Making Personal Progress in 2021: Getting dental implants

I’m starting a new series on my blog about the things I’m doing to “keep moving” during this pandemic. I don’t believe in being stuck. That’s an error in mindset. I believe in leveraging the moment. Progress can still be made if you set out to it.

In this first post, I’ll share my experience earlier getting my first-ever dental implants.

Deciding to get dental implants only made sense while looking at an x-ray of my teeth. I went in for an urgent root canal recently and an x-ray was taken. I know I have two missing teeth towards the back of my mouth. These aren’t obvious even if I smile. But they’re there. Like a perpetual “note to self” that I badly want deleted. A reminder… hey George, you really can’t afford to fill in those missing teeth, issit? Come on, you can do better.

Being indecisive at first

In my nine years living in this pricey city, paying for dental care was sadly less of a priority. It’s HARD not to compare dental prices here with that in the Philippines. Most treatments can be a fraction of the price. Plus, there’s Filipino hospitality I’m biased to. A type of care you expect when you’re back home.

But after revisiting my dentist at Raffles Place… I made the decision. More years of neglect might lead to complications which cost more. If I have a clear shot at it now with a dentist I trust, it should be win-win.

Deciding to get dental implants was not easy. I’m conservative with expenses during this pandemic. But I didn’t want to wait any longer. I wanted to treat this as an investment in myself.

When I was sent the quotation, I couldn’t help but compare it to how many blue iMacs or PlayStation 5s I could buy with that price. But that wasn’t being fair to myself. iMacs are iMacs, these are my damn teeth. Investing in your teeth is never a waste. It can be costly, but that could be due to years of said neglect. And yes, of course it’s costly. You’re paying professionals to fix your smile and your bite. If your teeth look like shit, ewan ko na lang.

Days ahead of my appointment I was starting to feel anxious. Would the procedure hurt – because this involves drilling and installing something foreign into my body? Is this the right thing to do, should I be considering other options?

After an urgent root canal recently… I decided to proceed with two dental implants.

I arrived at the dentist 15 minutes ahead of schedule so I could collect my thoughts in the lobby. After doing SafeEntry and filling out a consent form, I was led to the surgery room (instead of the normal room). The usual: gargle mouthwash for one minute, wear the blue bib, wait for the dentist to enter.

The procedure

My dentist entered the room and answered all of my questions before proceeding to inject local anaesthesia on two sides of my mouth. I requested for Vaseline on my lips since they tend to get dry when I’m nervous. My dentist was assisted by two other staff. One worked on water suction and the other was a friendly assist I could hear in the background.

Dental implants, from my understanding, are done in two parts. Installing the implant (screw) into the gums and letting that heal first. Then the second part, after a few months, is installing the actual teeth. Here’s a quick video of it:

Here are my observations:

  • It was painless. Once the anaesthesia took effect, the sensation was more on feeling some pressure in the gums. AND, controlling the flow of water in your mouth which was being sprayed and suctioned. That was it. My dentist was asking me how I was doing while he operated. Like in my root canal experience, if there’s pain… you just mention it and he’ll stop immediately and adjust. There was no pain during this procedure. The only discomfort was the anaesthesia being injected by a needle.
  • It was quick. The entire procedure for each tooth implant probably took only 10-15 minutes (maybe less!). I remember a sense of child-like wonder and relief as the dentist moved from right side to left side. I was thinking “wait, the right side is done already?”.

When I open my mouth wide, I can see metal jutting out on both sides, but quite hidden since these two teeth are towards the back of my mouth. I understand that these two implants are to integrate into the surrounding tissue. Everything must heal before the aesthetic / actual tooth is installed. I’m due back after a week for a 15-minute review.

I wasn’t expecting I’ll be wearing some of the garb.

After the procedure, I was prescribed antibiotics, a stronger type of painkillers, two square of gauze, and this pink mouthwash similar from my recent root canal episode. The staff at this dentist have always been friendly. It almost feels like the reception at a hotel. The experience is calm. I guess I’m getting what I’m paying for… because all of these expenses are from my own pockets. Not from a company or MediSave which many Singaporeans may enjoy. Every dollar spent on these teeth comes from my savings.

Soreness afterwards?

My gums (the affected areas) started to feel tender and sore as the anaesthesia wore off. After eating Sushiro sushi (take away), I took the antibiotic as prescribed and I decided to take the painkiller anyway… since it’s the first night after the surgery. There’s a slight bit of soreness but that’s all. The painkillers must be doing the rest.

On a mental relaxation note, I watched about six episodes of Descendants of the Sun on Netflix. I think it’s good to distract yourself with entertainment as part of post-surgery!

Will forever associate K-dramas with my dental implant journey

As for food intake after getting dental implants, I managed to enjoy my housemate’s pasta with shrimp as well as some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the “Netflix and Chill” flavour which is “pretzel, peanut butter, and salted caramel” combined I think. It’s freaking divine. I am able to eat soft foods well. I’ll be eating soft food for the next 2-3 days just to help hasten the healing.

Oh, and it isn’t as dramatic as I thought it’d be: bedridden, ice packs, small towels in case of blood, a spit bucket… LOL none of these things so far

Making personal progress in 2021

I’m proud I’ve recently taken steps for a fuller and more radiant smile. (Uhm, Colgate commercial?) I mean, they’re dental implants. Costly dental implants… something I’m not used to paying for from the get go. But I think they’re a necessary investment to avoid future complications with missing teeth. Even if they’re only two slots that people don’t even see. There’s something remarkable about being able to fill in the blanks.

I’ll write about this again once I have updates in a few months.

The sooner, the better

That’s the easiest way to describe how I now feel about vaccines at this point.

Since vaccines started rolling out worldwide in recent months, I was hoping my family in the Philippines could get access to a particular vaccine that both science and the world media say has “higher efficacy” (quotes intended). But that particular vaccine isn’t available in most developing countries.

The question becomes this: Can we afford to sit and wait for a particular brand of vaccine while the pandemic infects more friends, colleagues, and people we know?

We don’t have the luxury of waiting. We know some people and some countries are able to quietly enjoy that luxury. But not in the Philippines. Many Filipinos, including many of my family and loved ones, don’t have the luxury of choosing which vaccine.

The best vaccine is the first one offered to you by your country’s health ministry. If it can prevent severe illness, it is already miles ahead of having no protection at all.

I’m happy my mom got her first jab on May 6 at the Tanza Specialists Medical Center in Cavite. She is scheduled to get her second jab in a few weeks.

Our family has agreed that all of us will aim to get fully vaccinated as soon as we can.

Preparing for this marathon

Taking a selfie at the Promontory. It’s a beautiful spot for a reprieve when you’re in the downtown area.

I think we are going to live with this virus for the next few years.

Businesses and travel might resume in the next few months. More people might get vaccinated. But I think it makes sense to start planning for the long term. It’s going to be like this for the immediate future. We will be wearing masks and undergoing tests. We will start reading more about hospital capacity in our locale as well as news about outbreaks. Some of us might even catch the virus eventually. I don’t want to be fatalistic in thinking. It only makes sense to prepare for every outcome.

In the past two months I’ve seen friends and contacts become infected. Today, a death in one of my circles. Two of my three immediate family members have received their first vaccine jab. I’m currently in queue for my own shot in a few weeks.

Last week, I went to work in my office for the first time since I started in the job last June. It still wasn’t the same as walking into an office filled with people. The nine of us in the office last week were social distancing from each other and we were all wearing masks.

Though Singapore’s Covid-19 cases in recent months have plummeted, there was a sudden spike with 16 community cases last week. A fully vaccinated Filipino nurse at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) tested positive for the virus. A cluster has formed at TTSH which has claimed the life of one patient. It is the 31st death in Singapore since the pandemic began. The total cases in Singapore is over 61,000. That’s compared to over 1 million cases in the Philippines to date.

The MOH website says that about 849,764 people in Singapore have received the full dosage of a vaccine. They are currently offering it to those 45 and above, as well as front-liners. They say that people below 45 will be allowed to register from June.

I have not been home in the Philippines since Christmas of 2019. While this is the longest time I have been physically away from family, our chats have increased. I Facetime with my mom regularly. We talk about what they had as a family for lunch and dinner. Sometimes I video call from places in Singapore like the ArtScience Museum or the rain vortex at Jewel Changi Airport. They tell me about their isolation at home. My brother and my dad converted a bodega into a home gym. My mom enjoys connecting with relatives via Facebook. They tell me that our driver, Kuya Boyet, helps do grocery runs. Except for my brother, the family stays at home 100% of the time. The only two instances they left the house was to attend two funerals.

It’s reached a point that we’ve discussed the idea of my parents moving to the United States in the immediate future. We’re thinking that once everyone is fully vaccinated, if it would be wiser for our parents to stay in California where there are hospital beds if needed. The idea of an emergency and no hospital able to admit you is horrifying. I can’t believe it’s gotten that bad in the Philippines. I am stressed over the thought of my parents getting on an airplane to take a 15-hour flight to San Francisco. My brother says he will travel with them. I’m thinking if I can meet them in California. Perhaps travel between Singapore and the United States would be safer. That’s why I monitor the news about Covid-19 in the United States.

The idea is that all of this is feasible only after we all complete our vaccination.

***

I am doing fine in Singapore. There are a few upcoming things that might be stressful. PJ’s pass is for renewal in a few months and I’m encouraging him to aggressively pursue the option that secures a work pass for him that’s good for 24 months or valid until 2023 at least. By then, at least one of his siblings would’ve graduated from university already and would be working. He gives so much for his family and I only want to see him thrive.

As for me, my work pass is valid until the middle of 2022. There is much uncertainty over work passes these days. My role is based in Manila but it does not make sense to put myself in a cage in Manila – isolated from my circles during this pandemic – in a job that can be done 100% online. Only if the veil of this pandemic is fully lifted will I consider relocating to Manila for the job. I think I can accomplish everything needed for the role while being safe in Singapore.

Our living arrangement is safe. I share the house with other overseas Filipino workers who are breadwinners in their own right. We have a happy atmosphere of occasional movie nights, birthday parties, and barbecues. It’s rare that I host my own friends these days but I’ve invited some for Nintendo Switch or a chat over beer.

On most weeknights I’m part of an online HIIT and body weights class. It’s something I make a point to participate in as much as possible. The interactions are healthy for the brain. Exercising releases endorphins. It also helps provide structure to my day. I’ve also resumed intermittent fasting. I had to pause in April because of a root canal.

***

We are going to have to live with this virus for the next few years. I suggest we start planning for it instead of waiting for it to magically disappear. It’s so bad in India, in the Philippines, and in countries that are lifting restrictions prematurely. Wherever you are reading this, be safe.

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.

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.

###

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.

surprises, relevations, gratitudes

Four months later.

This quote was mentioned in a video blog I was watching earlier. It resonated with me because I don’t think I was quite done mourning the end of what I was doing previously. A life I was living right before we were all told to go home and stay home back in March.

Yes, surviving in a pandemic overshadowed everything else.

Now that four months have passed, I’ve had some time and distance to gain some clarity. I’ve also grown to accept some truths.

I won’t tell myself that I failed, when I know I gave it my best. I won’t tell myself I should’ve done it differently, when I know I did what I could… quietly, and without compromise… that I was kind and curious, bravely marching in unknown territory. I won’t tell myself I’m perfect, when I know I never was.

There are questions that had lingered in my head about how things transpired. But I’ve decided to let it go. It’s September. I would like to think I’d made many friends from that place. But the key takeaway is knowing that I made it, I somehow did it, didn’t last as long as I would’ve wanted… but somehow, for cinematic purposes… from the ashes of where my life was in early 2018, I somehow became a flame.

***

AIM FOR THE MOON.

IF YOU MISS, YOU MAY HIT A STAR.

W. Clement Stone (American Businessman)

July 2020 Unpacked

LIFE started to resume in Singapore in July.

Businesses are slowing re-opening. People are heading back into the cinemas. The government held its 2020 elections. Millions of good mosquitoes are being set free in Tampines to fight dengue. I saw my own office for the first time. I got my work pass issued. I jogged several times. I danced several times.

Here are some of my favorite highlights from July 2020.


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CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF THIS. Probably one reason I’ve been very active in jogging the past two months. This is the view at Bedok Reservoir at sunset.

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BUILDING MY OWN CITY. My credit card points were about to expire in bulk. I used it to give me a good discount on a 7th generation iPad. I thought I’d use it to look at newspapers and magazines using Magzter. Instead, I’m using it more for building a city.

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CHEESY BIRTHDAY PIZZA. Look at that cheese! Celebrated my birthday this month at Wawawa in Bedok Reservoir. I had a date with my partner. This pizza = everything.

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AWFULLY CHOCOLATE CAKE. My partner knows me too well… one of my favorite Singapore brands is Awfully Chocolate. This cake was decadent!

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MORE BEDOK RESERVOIR. What do we have here? Another vantage point.

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MASKS AS THE NEW CURRENCY. Our housemates invited friends over. And we all got these cloth masks as gifts. Cute right!

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E-NUMANS. This was with two friends from my ABS-CBN days. The world is in lockdown. ABS-CBN has been shut down by the government. Let’s just drink.

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WAFFLES IN BEDOK. A friend from NBCUniversal asked me out for waffles on the day of Singapore’s 2020 elections. He had just voted that day. This was my first dine-in at a restaurant since the circuit breaker ended. The waffles were damn good.

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HELLO 35. What do I gift myself? A backjoy!

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TREND ALERT: DINING IN. After my first visit to the CBD in months… I wanted to have some alone time to enjoy a glass of wine and a plate… of… fries… and a CHEESEBURGER. SOOOOO GOOD.

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BEDOK RESERVOIR WITH J. Technically we’re in neighboring towns (Bedok and Tampines). Jogging around the reservoir with my ex-colleague from LinkedIn. J is quite a passionate storyteller. So much chika.

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REVISITING MARINA BAY. In an earlier blog post, I shared a video from this exact spot where I was reflecting by the bay. Yes, reflecting. REFLECTING. I had a view of my old building (Marina Bay Financial Centre) and I was a little emotional. The pandemic forced many of us to work from home. With my previous job ending right in the middle of it… I never got to see my old office. My belongings are still at my table. Running shoes, jackets, even a picture frame of me and my partner. The LinkedIn office is like a time capsule. I’m asking my ex-colleagues to help me pack my things when they’re able to return one day. Also: so many people were IMPACTED by the pandemic and are leaving LinkedIn. 😦

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RELOCATING AGAIN, SOON. Yes, I’m jogging a lot at Bedok Reservoir. Because we’ll be moving soon. At the end of July, my housemates and I have been looking for a new house to stay. There’s a 90% chance we’ll still be in Tampines. But there’s a less chance we’ll find a place along Tampines Avenue 1 which is lucrative because of its proximity to this beautiful reservoir and one of Singapore’s top schools.

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ADOBONG PUTI. My first take on adobong puti because of SIMPOL with Chef Tatung. All these years I’ve been describing that my favorite type of adobo is the oily type… I had no idea I was describing adobong puti. My first batch was AMAZING. My second batch was… I couldn’t repeat my first batch.

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DELIVERIES ARE BACK TO NORMAL. When the pandemic started and Singapore started to buckle down for circuit breaker… getting a delivery slot only happened if you prayed to at least three gods. But happily, Lazada-RedMart and the other grocery delivery services have returned to normal.

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OH I DISCOVERED THE NORMAL PATH AT BEDOK RESERVOIR. It’s not all gravel apparently. There’s this and it reminds me of Hyde Park. Except with humidity.

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BAKING IS A THING NOW. My partner and I have discovered the wonders of easy-cooking through baking. Baked salmon. Baked chicken. Baked potatoes. Baked carrots.

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THAT SAID, THERE’S MCDONALDS. I have cut down on carbs significantly this past month. I feel great and energetic. I feel my tummy is smaller and I’m on the path to a slimmer body. Yadda yada yada. We still order in McDonalds from time to time.

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THE EMPHASIS IS CLEAR. I love this neighborhood. More jogging while holding onto my mask.

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DONKEY KONG: TROPICAL FREEZE. While assembling these 40 images for July unpacked, I realised not a single one captures my Just Dance 2020 obsession. I’ll share another game I’m playing which is Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze. Yes, I am allowed to play games. I am allowed to save on “partying outside” and “drinking at bars” by staying at home and playing this stressful game.

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MY NEW OFFICE. Omg, an address I never imagined I would ever have for an office. This 1930s building in the CBD really stands out next to the tall buildings that surround it. I’ve been intrigued all these years by the Quadrant. And now… it’s where my office is. When I visited in July… I couldn’t help but feel emotional. YAS. When your previous work contract ends in the middle of a pandemic… when you’re living in a country that can eject you if you don’t have a valid work pass… seeing any semblance of normal… like an office building = gratitude. Like in most roles that we start in… I’m on new joiners probation. But still, I had my moment. Thank you. 🙂

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VISITING THE CBD = EATING CBD FOOD. What can be more CBD than a bowl of poke. For months… eating home-cooked food… this $12.50 bowl of raw fish was an experience.

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DENGUE IN THE HOOD. Dengue doesn’t give a shit about a pandemic. The country is seeing record levels of dengue fever. Like seriously. I’ve befriended a couple of Wolbachia mosquitos… since there are millions being set free here in Tampines to fight the bad mosquitos. I can’t pronounce wolbachia. It’s like worcestershire. Wol-ba-chia. Wol-BA-chia. “Hi everyone, my name is Wolba Chia, I’m 35… and I’m the first to enter the work room.”

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IMMORTALIZING THIS VIEW. This is what you see if you look out the window from our room or our living room. It’s a view of Temasek Poly and in the distance… Singapore’s CBD. Why is it significant? Because this was my view during Singapore’s circuit breaker and lockdown. Even if I’m at home… I can still see the city. We’ll be leaving from this house soon.

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DIMBULAH COFFEE. It so happens that my new officemate’s favorite coffee place is Dimbulah. Highlighting this because Dimbulah Coffee at Marina Bay Financial Centre was our go-to for coffee outside the LinkedIn office. I mean at 35 I should cut the sentimentality. But I welcome the transition between two roles, same coffee shop.

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STEAK AND FRIES FOR $13.50. We’ve discovered a Grab food delivery gem here in Tampines West called “Amigo’s”. They serve pretty decent pastas for a good price. Plus, they serve decent steak and fries as well. Delivery is life… on a busy “working from home” day.

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MOBILITY. I’ve been trying yoga in the past few weeks. As usual, my mobility is a problem. I can’t seem to stretch or bend far enough. I got this on Lazada for a few dollars.

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WINGS. This was part of my birthday lunch. My birthday was on a weekday this year. This delivery came from the Wingstop in Bedok.

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CRAVE NASI LEMAK PACKAGING. This is cute. I wish Singapore had binalot.

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RAWR. Rion Ishida is my favorite YouTuber right now. He has been a companion during this pandemic. He releases videos weekly… sometimes twice a week. Here’s us enjoying his video while we have lunch by the window.

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OUR 2ND FAVORITE FRIED CHICKEN. Arnold’s. It’s a staple in these times.

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PICNIC AT EAST COAST. Our buddy C is leaving Singapore for Canada. We wanted to have a picnic at the park recently. The park was crowded. We wore masks… but we can remove them while we’re munching down cupcakes and chicarons.

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MERE MORTALS IN MARINE PARADE. I had to send this to my partner.

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CATCH-UP WITH EX-COLLEAGUES. Thanks for inviting me out for sushi!

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SUSHI ROLL. For evidence. This was in Tampines. 🙂

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CATCH-UP WITH COLLEGE FRIENDS IN SG. It had been about four months since. We had dinner in an empty Chinatown and drinks at a half-empty Maxwell hawker.

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WEEKEND VIRTUAL BRUNCH WITH FAMILY. This is a new tradition we’ve started. Thanks to my brother for organising these. We should have more.

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YOGA WITH THESE PADDLERS. Led by our former women’s captain (or wait, is she women’s captain again this year?) — yoga on Tuesdays! I need to work on my chaturanga.

And we’ve reached the last two out of 40 images for my July unpacked…

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FAMILY. I am grateful they are safe and healthy at home in Cavite. They are quarantined safely and avoid going out even with numerous types of community quarantines being imposed in the Philippines due to the pandemic. They appear lively and happy… even 3 or 4 months into this pandemic. I am a man who doesn’t go to church… but I do pray. And I pray for strong health for my brother, my parents, my partner, and all my loved ones.

TURNING 35. This month I turned a year older. I’m halfway to 40. My greatest lesson in recent weeks is the ability to edit out what’s unnecessary. Why? Read on.

Just because we’re surrounded by friends, family, and people… does not mean we have to keep people around “for the sake of it”. Evaluate your surroundings. Evaluate the people you converse with. I wouldn’t suggest surrounding yourself only with people that you agree with. I suggest you give yourself the power to choose who or what you want in your circle. There’s no need to force things or force situations. You have the power to do what you want. You can be an asshole. You can be someone’s blessing. Don’t be afraid to edit things in your surroundings. Don’t keep things around “just for the sake of it”.

Ending the month with one of my most played songs on Spotify. Take care.

Other matters (very important matters, putting it here for documentation)

  • SINGAPORE COVID-19 CASES: 52,205 cases, 27 deaths (businesses have reopened, Singapore held elections, malls and businesses require SafeEntry, active contact tracing)
  • PHILIPPINES COVID-19 CASES: 85,486 cases, 1,962 deaths (Philippines overtook Singapore in July, and is now 2nd in SE Asia for total cases. Indonesia is on top.)
  • UNITED STATES COVID-19 CASES: 4.59 million cases, 155,000 deaths (the United States is world no. 1 in Covid-19 cases)
  • PHILIPPINE CONGRESS DENIES ABS-CBN FRANCHISE TO OPERATE (affecting 11,000 workers including many of my friends)
  • LINKEDIN LAYS OFF 950 EMPLOYEES (mostly in sales and talent acquisition)
  • NUMEROUS COUNTRIES ARE SEEING 2ND AND 3RD WAVE OF INFECTIONS