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Best moments of 2013

At the end of the year in the last 2 years I have written ‘people of my year’ articles to honor a few individuals who have inspired me. I learned this practice from one of the women I admire, Bianca Gonzalez.

This year I decided to write about my most memorable moments instead. A lot of people have made a difference in my life this year. Some of them sailed with me through turbulent seas; some matched my insanity and laughed with me like there is no tomorrow. But this year has been more about me confronting the different versions of myself. I have encountered my benevolent self, my rebellious self, my fragile self, my stubborn self, my feminist self, my empowered self. And imagine them fighting with each other making my head much like an alive volcano.

So I want to remember the moments which reconnected me to the depth of my soul; moments which made me appreciate the priceless joy of living amidst the chaos in my head.

Squatting at the top of Sarangkot hill in Pokhara, Nepal
It was the best start of my year. Pokhara is a city that exudes an air of rustic pleasure that penetrates a restless heart, easing the turmoil inside. Wherever I look was a splendor to behold. Below us was Phewa Lake while the fog covered Himalayas sat behind us. It was a very serene moment away from the hustles and bustles of Bangkok metropolis. And as I sat there I savored not only the beauty of nature but more of the joy sitting with someone you feel connected with brings. It is very seldom that we find people we can sit quietly with and still end up feeling we just had the best conversation. That rare moment brought me back to the essence of connection and companionship.

Sarangkot Nepal

Himalayas Nepal

Skygazing and wandering in Ubud, Bali
I went to Ubud for the sole reason of meeting Ketut Liyer in person. And nope, I did not go for palm reading but for the sheer thrill of meeting a character in one of my favorite books. But every part of the trip ended up as special. I met a coffeemaker who let me taste all his tea and coffee flavors and told me his inspiring life story in his garden. I’ve also seen an Asian palm civet for the first time. I enjoyed spending the night in Ketut’s garden, listening to the rustling of the water from the fountain and gazing at the sky. I wandered around Ubud and was always in awe of its richness in history and artworks. Ubud is indeed an enchanting place and heaven for artists; a place I can fall in love over again. There, I felt how it is like to be happy being just with myself. I appreciated being independent and in control of my life even more. I am reminded how priceless traveling is and the experiences of meeting different people and embracing their culture.

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Exploring the Secret Garden of Chang Deok Gung Palace in Seoul, Korea
There is this Korean song that I listen everyday. No, I’m not exaggerating, as in every single day. Some songs relive old feelings. Early in 2011, my cousins suggested I watch this Korean drama. I was hesitant at the beginning as I feel Korean dramas are for teenagers. But when you live alone 1,405 miles away from home, you will succumb to just about anything that saves you from eating yourself alive. Since it is a feel-good soap, I felt amused watching it. The song reminds of that feeling when I’m able to shut my mind out from the rest of the world and just enjoy a silly drama. I listened to the song over and over again while I walk around the Secret Garden. The thought of finally listening to it in Korea made my heart smile. It also brings that chill down my spine –in the most delightful way—reminding me that sometimes it’s better if we stop thinking about the complications of love and life but instead savor the feeling while it lasts.

secret garden korea

Reading a good book
I am so proud of myself for having read 8 books in 2 months. Like, seriously I have abandoned reading books for longer than I can remember. Having read that much is already a huge achievement for me (insert doing the cartwheel here… but only in my head haha). I mostly like reading on the train, a 30-minute ride to and from work. Reading doesn’t just make me feel extremely happy. It also brings me to the attention that there is so much I don’t know about the world. It puts me grounded that my knowledge doesn’t even amount to a pinch compared to how much there is to learn and discover in life.

Standing in Thailand and looking at Laos across the river
Day turned to dusk and the sky displayed a magnificent hue. It was cold and serene. I felt deep sense of connection across humanity. I am reassured that we are all but one. Geographical boundaries are just but lines that can easily be erased with just one stroke of love.

mary antonette abello

Photo by John Hyde

Receiving unconditional love

There is a saying that goes, “Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves”. True, forgiving frees us from the agony of grudge which silently wrecks havoc in every aspect of our life. But obtaining forgiveness is equally freeing. More than that, it teaches one to be more forgiving and compassionate; feel more valued and loved. I have never seen love in its purest, selfless countenance until I did wrong and that love held the broken parts of me through forgiveness. That forgiveness was materialized by a blue cross necklace. He said, “This necklace is from the most peaceful place in the world for me in Assisi. I hope when you are feeling down, this necklace will bring you the peacefulness of that place.” I have no words, just tears of profound gratitude.

Making peace with myself
For once I will let my ‘people (person) of my year’ to be my own self. This year had been the most emotionally bumpy one. I let my vulnerability be naked. I gave in to childishness. I rebel against my own good judgment. But amidst those delinquencies, I did not lose sight of my own goodness and value. Crying is not a sign of weakness; it is giving ourselves a chance to release negativities before we stand back up again. Giving in to childishness made me see what I didn’t want myself to be; it made me appreciate the mature me even more. Letting my guard down and my vulnerability seen is like opening a dam and letting the water with a very strong current pour upon, destroying whatever is on its way. But the process made me realize how strong I can be in going against the current, turning things around and making them better.

mary antonette abello

Thank you 2013. Let’s do it 2014!

Meeting Ketut Liyer of Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, LoveOne of my favorite books is Eat, Pray, Love written by Elizabeth Gilbert. Although I’m usually disappointed with movie renditions of books, the movie Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts was quite good, I even watched it twice. I didn’t know much about Bali aside from its beautiful beaches which did not entice me so much because we have beautiful beaches in the Philippines too, add Phuket and Krabi in Thailand where I’m currently based. But the glimpse of Bali I saw from the movie and the fact that Ketut Liyer is for real made me dream of stepping into that majestic island.

In March, my dream came true. I went to Bali for an official trip and extended my stay for 3 more days to visit Ubud. My Indonesian friend helped me find a car to rent. I was very lucky that the driver Danny speaks good English. He was kind enough to drop me to several tourist spots on the way to Ubud which I will write about in my next posts. I only paid about USD20 for the one way trip and a funny driver/tourist guide. I told Danny I want to see Ketut Liyer so he has to help me find his house. It was easy though because everyone in Ubud seems to know Ketut.

When we reached Ketut’s place, I was overwhelmed with thrill. I love books and seeing a character of one of my favorite books is like seeing a fairy from those childhood storybooks. I recognized the gate of his house right away and I was like oh my God this is it, the place where they shoot the movie!

Ketut Liyer house Bali

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Finally he was in front of me. I couldn’t contain the excitement. When it was my turn, I sat across him. He held my hand and read my palm. I did not come there for the palm reading, I was not interested in any way. I just want see him but well the experience would not be enough without the palm reading ‘ritual’ so there I was smiling while he read my palm.

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As I waited for Danny to get the car outside Ketut’s house, I saw two cute twins playing with their mom. I asked if I could take a photo of the kids and that was the start of my conversation with Pushpita, Ketut’s granddaughter. Pushpita was so warm and friendly my heart could just melt with her tenderness. She told me interesting stories when they shoot the movie at their house and seeing Julia Roberts in person. Then I remembered I don’t have a place to stay yet so I asked her to recommend me a hotel. Fortunately, they have a room available at their new bed and breakfast for USD20 per night so I stayed. Oh the thrill of staying at Ketut Liyer’s place! And my room was very pretty. I also liked the Balinese massage Pushpita had arranged in my room, how soothing made me sleep like a baby after.

where to stay in Ubud Bali

Ketut Liyer house Ubud

The compound of Ketut’s place has Pushpita’s house, Ketut’s house, a house which displays his paintings, a temple and near the temple is a gate leading to the B&B, out of sight from the area flocked by tourists. It was such a peaceful place with plants, birds, and a massage area where I used to hang out in the evening for stargazing.

Beautiful evening in Ubud Bali

In the evening, Pushpita invited me for dinner. She was so accommodating that even if I’m just a guest at their B&B, she asked me to have dinner with her like a friend. While eating, Pushpita had to rush inside the house to check on the twins so I was left by myself. Suddenly Ketut came and seemed like he was looking for something. He could not tell me in English and I could not make what his gestures were saying until I saw that he was wearing only one slippers. I helped him look for it and we found it below the dining table. The thought of looking for a slipper with Ketut kinda amuses me.


In the evening, the family gathered near the temple to just talk and savor the calmness of the evening so I joined them. Then Ketut led me to his house and showed me his treasured possessions from his old wooden box. Some were Elizabeth Gilbert’s letters and a copy of Eat, Pray, Love with her message. I’m not sure if Ketut can still properly see at the age of almost a hundred years old. He pointed to me where his name appeared in several pages in the book like a child, it really made me smile.

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Staying at the garden in his house while listening to the chirping birds and flowing water from the small grotto as the wind kissed my cheeks was very comforting. I had been very busy that a break like that reinvigorated my soul. My visit to Ubud was one of my most memorable experiences not only because I met Ketut Liyer but because Ubud is one of the most magnificent places on earth!

P.S. Anyone interested in going to Ubud, drop me a word and I can connect you to Danny and Pushpita 🙂

Change your life: five principles of Reiki

Photo from bubblews.com

Photo from bubblews.com

A colleague told me they were going for a Reiki healing. The unfamiliar, foreign sound of the name got me curious. I then learned that Reiki originated in Japan. It came from two Japanese words “rei” and “ki” which means universal life energy. A reiki healer or master whose energy is attuned to the universal life energy could heal mental, emotional and physical imbalances through laying their hands on the person’s body.

Last weekend, I accompanied someone who suffers from claustrophobia. He also finds it hard to breathe sometimes. His spirit is so low and he had been unhappy for quite some time now.  After an hour session, he noticed that his breathing became even and smooth. He also noticed that he no longer struggles inside a train. He became happier and more relaxed.

I got very fascinated with Reiki that the following day I went to the bookstore to learn more about it. I read about the five principles of Reiki and realized that we don’t really have to go for a Reiki healing often to change our lives. We could make a significant positive change in our life if we live each day with these five principles.

1. Just for today, I will not be angry

Anger is not just a waste of time but energy. Harboring anger will eventually take its toll on our health and wellbeing. It will destroy relationships and only worsen an unfavorable situation. Like the cliché, “holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else but you are the one who gets burned instead.” Let go of that coal. Hold a rose instead and let its fragrance reach other’s soul.

2.  Just for today, I will not worry

Worry is just like anger. It can affect our health and makes us unhappy. Worrying doesn’t change anything. It will only prolong our agony. Instead of worrying, it’s better to follow principle 3 and trust that everything happens for a good reason. Eventually, negative circumstances no matter how painful or hard, will makes sense someday.


3.  Just for today, I will be grateful

Instead of being negative, learn to be grateful. If we start to appreciate the little things – the aroma of coffee, the cool breeze, the smile of a stranger, the assistance from a classmate or co-worker, anything that we don’t normally notice – we will know how many good things life has gifted us. Instead of complaining about a slow internet connection when all you do online is waste your time with superficial conversation on social network, be grateful of the time you were given to have a good quality conversation with someone over the phone or all the better, face to face.

4. Just for today, I will do my work honestly

And if I may add, industriously. We spend a considerable amount of our time at work. I believe that our work must be in line with our passion and advocacy. When it’s not, we cannot find meaning and sense of fulfillment from it. If it does, then we should give our all to deliver for and make the most from it. Being honest must also manifest in everything that we do, not just in our work.

5.  Just for today, I will be kind to every living thing

Being kind doesn’t have to be giving a million dollar donation to a cause. It can be as simple as giving your seat in a train to an elderly or a pregnant woman, or feeding a stray cat. Simple act of kindness creates a ripple effect. The little things we do can go a long way in helping others. Here’s a video that could hopefully inspire your day 🙂