Earlier this month, I started a YouTube weekly video blog where I record 5-minute videos talking about what I’m watching, what I’m listening to, and some tidbits of each passing week. I also warm up by answering questions from a “365 & Me” app. What’s new about this (for me) is that the videos are unedited. There’s no music bed. There’s no b-roll. It’s raw and unfiltered.
My goal is to improve my ad-libbing and my confidence to communicate ideas. I want to improve in pace and clarity. I also want to build up on substance. I want to be better at doing interviews for both my podcast and my work with journalists and media professionals.
I’m calling it “Saturday Uncut” since… well… the goal is to publish a recording every Saturday. My KPI (wow, KPI) is 50 of these “episodes”. I want to run this series until mid-2022.
Here’s the fourth episode I recorded earlier using Zoom:
If you’re able to watch, do let me know your thoughts where I can improve. ❤
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.
I’ve finally launched my podcast! I was afraid to hit publish back in late 2020 because of imposter syndrome. I needed to take a “time out” and wait until I was comfortable putting my voice out there. It’s not perfect but I learned not to fall into that perfectionist trap. So finally, here it is! (Open in Spotify here).
“Are You Local?” is a question I get asked by some taxi drivers when they hear I carry a different accent. It’s an innocent question I’m usually happy to answer. But to have to answer it every time, I pondered what does local really mean. Many of us move between cities and countries. Are there secrets to fully integrating or happily co-existing?
In this podcast series, we’ll hear from folks who have moved to different parts of the world. We’ll also hear from people who live in multicultural locations. These are conversations with people who are finding their new place away from home.
My friend Greg joins me in the first episode and we explore what local means to him as a Singaporean. The podcast is available on Spotify. Support my storytelling by tapping “Follow”! Thanks!
COVID-19 vaccine registration for non-citizen residents of Singapore (ages 12-39) started on June 30, 2021. The government gave citizens in this age group more than two weeks head start to register. As a non-citizen but long-time Singapore resident, it was anxiety-inducing to wait. But I’m glad we were finally included. We are fighting this pandemic together on this island.
My housemates and I registered as soon as we could. We managed to book our first jabs within the first week of July. You can choose where to get your vaccine. The scheduling service will recommend the closest vaccine centers to your address. My schedule was on July 4.
My schedule was at Pasir Ris Elias Community Club which is a 15-minute walk from the house. Wearing comfortable clothes (shorts, a loose shirt, running shoes) – I made my way to the CC.
It was on a Sunday afternoon so I was expecting a managed crowd. Seats were laid out nicely and with social distancing. Once you arrive, like many things in Singapore, it was clockwork.
The vaccine offered at this centre is Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 (Comirnaty) and it is offered as two jabs. They interview you twice before you get the jab. They ask if you have known allergies, if you’re on specific medicines, etc.
The jab itself was painless. It lasted only a few seconds. After getting the jab, you have to wait 30 minutes in an observation area.
I didn’t feel anything during that observation period. They call your name for one final interview before you are discharged. They check in with you, if you feel any immediate side effects that warrant attention or care. They also provide you with a printed sheet with your next vaccine appointment on it. The wait is 21-28 days until you can get the next jab.
Overall it was a seamless experience. (I wrote that like I’m reviewing a spa.)
My 2nd jab is scheduled at the end of July.
I hope you’re doing good in your part of the world. Please get vaccinated safely. 🙂
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”:
A subscription to Calm.
Tickets to the Singapore flyer.
MagSafe charger with a 20v brick.
Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan.
A self-curated whiskey trip.
A black or grey Apple watch strap.
A new pair of workout gloves.
Filipino recipes cookbook.
A romantic picnic by the beach.
Trying the city’s best sushi.
Midnight / disco bowling.
Visiting the cloud forest at Gardens by the Bay.
Dinner at my favorite izakaya.
Having a Filipino boodle fight, with a twist.
Mario Party with friends.
Hiking at Coney Island.
A subscription to Headspace.
A Wacom tablet.
Wooly mammoth stuffed toy I saw at Palais Renaissance.
Brunch at Merci Marcel or PS Cafe.
Stargazing from the best spot in the city.
Biking at East Coast Park.
Cupcakes. (But not the ones from Twelve Cupcakes which exploits foreign workers.)
A Peranakan cooking class. Or, any local cooking class.
Practicing yoga with me.
A Japanese flash card set.
The Singapore edition of Monopoly.
Back to the Future movie night.
Canoeing or kayaking. A new way to appreciate an old stomping ground.
Cocktails at Atlas.
A pack of ped socks.
A book about dealing with anxiety.
Tickets to Jurong Bird Park.
A revisit to the Southeast Asia Aquarium.
Picnic and cocktails at Sentosa – at a beach bar I haven’t been to before.
Visiting Madam Tussauds Singapore.
Riding the cable car in Sentosa.
Lunch at El Mesa Moderne Filipino in Clarke Quay.
Scened candles from Bath & Body.
Crate & Barrel gift cards.
Anything pretty from Kinokuniya Bookstore.
Middle Eastern food. The best one in Singapore.
An Apple pencil compatible with my iPad 7th gen.
A Moleskine notebook. Annual but un-dated.
Tickets to go see a play.
A staycation at The Fullerton, Andaz, or JW Marriott.
The best bak kut teh in Singapore.
The best Malaysian-style bak kut teh in Singapore. The addictive herbal type.
The best burger joint in Singapore.
Brunch at Shake Farm Telok Ayer.
Go-karting. Because, Mario Kart.
Seeing any new exhibit at National Gallery Singapore or Asian Civilisations Museum.
Play miniature golf.
Offering to help me declutter my space and discard unwanted items.
Bake brownies as an activity.
A 90-minute massage. Head, shoulder, and/or foot.
Cocktail making class.
Beer flight / beer tasting at LeVeL 33.
Dinner at a good steakhouse.
Lunch at Hard Rock Cafe.
If you completed my crazy list, you’ll notice majority are experiences not material things.
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!
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.
A friend posted an Instagram story recently and it featured a box of pandesal. My friend is also in Singapore and it caught my attention. “Where did you order that?!”
A few days later I’m happily welcoming a box of pandesal and cheese bread at my doorstep. I also ordered a set of ensaymadas. It’s from Panrizal “Tinapay Therapy” which is a home-based bakery run from a house in Punggol. They bake Filipino classics like pandesal, cheese bread, ensaymada, and Spanish bread. The delivery fee from Punggol to Pasir Ris was $5 (yikes) but it was worth it. My housemates and I described it in one word: “legit”
I was quite pleased with the purchase. It did set me back $29 if you count the delivery fee. But it’s not everyday I get to enjoy “legit” Filipino-style bread. The pandesal was soft and fluffy. I asked my housemates (who are great at cooking) if they’ve tried making pandesal at home. Housemate D says it’s difficult and it ends up like monay bread (which is dense!). The cheese bread was also “legit” – soft and fluffy inside with a crunchy outer layer. I don’t know what makes it different from the cheese bread you can buy at a local Singaporean bakery lol – is it the extra appeal of being baked by our kababayan? The ensaymada was also good. Great for breakfast. I also miss the sugary-coated ensaymadas from Cavite.
You can visit Panrizal’s Facebook page here. Orders have to be placed via Facebook.
I took a refresher course on digital journalism. It’s available from Reuters as part of something called the Facebook Journalism Project.
Normally these free courses come with some type of product sell. But in all fairness, this course has good content. The product mention from Facebook was refreshingly minimal. I remember last year, I took a free marketing course from Google Digital Garage and it had plenty of Google built into it.
What I liked about this course:
They have a section on verification in reporting. It covers how you can dig into photos and videos for metadata and how you can use different tools to verify your sources.
One part of the course talks about ensuring the safety of your sources.
Tips are shared about video recording tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts.
How journalists can safeguard their mental wellness.
Here’s my e-certificate! *wink
The course also stresses the power of this one question: “Is there anything else you would like to add?” — that question, at the end of your interview, gives the interviewee an opportunity to add thoughts and insights that you may have missed in your earlier questions.
If you’re interested to take the course, it’s available here. I think it takes less than two hours to complete. It obviously isn’t in-depth (Uhm, hello! I studied journalism for four years!). But it does cover useful tips and it is quite succinct at presenting them. I’m unsure until when the course will be available.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Of course, iPad not included! That’s just me showing off my [Kana Drill] app which I’ve been using the past two weeks to learn Hiragana and Katakana. I’m also using [Duolingo] to get me into the flow of Japanese basic phrases and greetings.
Our classes were supposed to be physical and in-person at the school. But with Phase 2 Heightened Alert, we’ve reverted to online classes. I’m still looking forward to this. I’m excited to meet Sensei and to have real classmates that I can learn and practice with.
What are my goals?
Move to Japan in the future. Putting it out there that I am considering moving to Japan in the near future. How near is that future? I’m thinking in a couple of years. Some context: I grew up in Okinawa, Japan when I was a kid. Since then I’ve remained fascinated by Japanese culture, food, technology, gaming, and geography.
Learn a third language. I can speak English as it’s my native language. I learned how to speak Tagalog during my university years. Now, I want to be able to write and converse in Japanese. I’d like to be confident at writing, reading, and speaking. I understand it can take a few years. But I’d like to be invested in it.