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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.

beach bali

ubud bali

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!

Becoming the monster I abhor

Plato quoteA friend introduced me to her colleagues who were visiting Bangkok over the weekend. One of my joys being away from home is to meet old and new friends visiting Bangkok. Touring them around is also my way of getting to know Thailand better.

All of them –my friend’s colleagues—were nice and fun to be with. But one of them is just extra warm, it’s like her heart is full of kindness which radiates from her sweet smile and soft voice. She’s the oldest among the group, much like our mother. But really, I felt so at ease around her that I couldn’t help but mention it to my friend. That’s when I heard an interesting story.

My friend said that she has never really spoken to that lady except for work-related matters. “People say her personality used to be like that, kind and loving. But she suddenly changed about two years ago. They say she suddenly became aloof. She doesn’t talk to people anymore except for work. Even after meetings, she doesn’t join her colleagues for a cup of coffee. She became strict and unfriendly, very opposite to what she used to be. Even people who have been so close to her, who have worked with her for over 10 years couldn’t understand what has gone wrong with her. She was like that for two years and now she is back to how she used to be, kind and friendly.

I got curious. I told my friend; maybe that lady has gone through very challenging trials in her life. And tough times always bring out the worst in us. And I smiled at the thought that I had my own share of unleashing the monster in me.

I hate confrontations. Whenever I encounter misunderstandings with people, I would opt to stay quiet and not defend myself even if that means I have to take the blame. I could not speak out for myself because sometimes it would mean revealing the other person’s mistake and I could not stand that a person is humiliated or hurt because of me.

My colleague once told me, “nobody can stand up for you except yourself. You can’t just let people abuse you.” I also read somewhere that staying silent and suppressing your emotions is not good. It will eventually take its toll on your health. But I was stubborn. Until one day, I just lose it.


I was overly stressed at work and was facing a lot of problems in my personal life too. I had been suffering from insomnia and I couldn’t eat well. I just don’t have the appetite for any food. I knew something was wrong with me. I was aware that I was not being myself. I just don’t know how to stop the negativities. I cannot decide whether I have obsessive-compulsive disorder or bipolar disorder (see, I have already made my own psychological diagnosis hahaha). Kidding aside, I knew now that I could have been better if I had enough sleep then.

But anyway, in that not-so-good episode of my life, I turned into the monster I abhor. I made this stupid argument with someone and ended up saying words I could not imagine coming out from me. Now that I’m over those dark hours of my life, whenever I think about it, I would regret why I had not dealt with the negative situation positively. But regrets don’t come first and feeling it would not help either.

I believe that the first step to move on is to forgive ourselves and accept that we are just humans; we are not perfect and we are bound to commit mistakes. Like what Rahim Khan said in the book The Kite Runner, “there’s a way to be good again”.

People who we see as bad, people who are cruel and unkind are people who are hurting inside. They need our understanding and love, not our hatred and scrutiny. And when this happens to us, let us not forget to appreciate those people who stayed by our side, the people who never gave up believing in us when the rest of the world slummed its doors.

People of my year 2012

It feels so surreal that a year had already passed since I wrote the ‘People of my year 2011’. Actually it’s still almost a year if I base it on the date the entry was published. Even so, it reminds me how fast time flies and before I knew it, here I am again going down memory lane; reminiscing what had transpired this year.

It had been a busy year for me with so much traveling and more responsibilities at work. The saddest part is having to bid farewell to friends I hold very dear as they embark on a new journey. But the best part is being home twice, seeing friends I have not seen for ages, and my –what they call Youtubic — engagement.

To continue the tradition I started last year (inspired by Bianca Gonzales’ blog), now is the time to pay tribute to the people who have made significant difference in my life in 2012.

Petiks
They are a group of different individuals bound by their love for mountain climbing. They showed me that true friendship can also develop in the workplace where office politics normally thrives. I have always admired their friendship even if I only hear their stories from Omar. I finally met them in June when they surprised me with a well-choreographed proposal. I was embarrassed at the thought that they all did it –spent their time practicing, preparing the props , making sure the event is well-documented, editing the video – but I was more in awe at how far they can go for a friend. It’s amazing how they organize activities not just recreational but also to help those in need such as cleaning and arranging the house of a friend who just moved in. I just love them all to bits.

Olesya Kochkina
She is my Russian colleague who joined our organization in July. The silly bit is that she’s the only one who had me eat a bowl of vegetable salad which I liked. I hardly eat vegetables but the one she made was really delicious I keep craving for it everytime I want to eat something healthy. What I admire about her is her strong fighting spirit and optimism in overcoming challenges. She taught me not to dwell too much on a certain situation but rather look at the bigger picture and see what really matters in the grand scheme of things.


Clara Capala and Jonah Lyn Soliva
They are among my best college buddies. I have many close friends but the three of us developed this special bond that stayed strong through the years. We had our petty quarrels but at the end of the day our love for each other prevailed. They taught me how to be a true friend; through forgiveness and acceptance of each other’s weaknesses. No matter what happens and where life takes us, we will always be a part of each one’s life. Early this year I had a heart to heart talk with Jytjyt where I saw the beauty of her heart and the inner strength she possesses in facing life’s trials. I was able to see Clara after 3 years when she came to visit me in Bohol. Clara is the one who taught me how to be a friend not just in words but more in action. One of the best part of my vacation was being with her. And these cute little pugs represent the happy trio who endured the test of friendship 🙂

Cute pugs

Charivic Abello
She is my younger sister. I remember she once told me she got too much pressure from being compared to us, her elder siblings in terms of academic achievements. She got it from either family members telling her to do well in school like us or my former professors telling her “ask your sister how she did it”. I worried that she would carry this pressure with her and negatively affect her studies and morale. She wanted to become a policewoman but we did not allow her. Instead, we asked her to take Agribusiness. She did not want to let go of her passion so she took the ROTC training to become an officer and went up to convincing us to let her join the firing camp where she was able to use an M16 rifle and hit the target. Now she ranked third in command of the Corp group. This little sissy taught me not to lose sight of my passion and to never let other people’s expectations hinder me from doing what I really love to do. Proud of you always CLTC Charivic H. Abello 1CL.

Chamika Angeles
She is the daughter of a very dear friend Ate Weng. Mika had been bedridden even before I knew them. She left us this month to be with our Creator in heaven. Her death is our biggest lose this year. We’ve lost the angel who had been a great part of our journey because despite being ill most of her life, we can still feel that she’s there praying for us. May you rest in peace in heaven little angel. We love you very much.

My former boss
I have worked with him for 2 years and in those years he has molded me to become a strong woman. He may not be that famous among his staff as evinced by the high turnover rate but I did not give up on him. Many staff didn’t like him because he was tough but I tried to show him compassion because I didn’t know what he has gone through in life and what painful experiences he has to endure in his past. I do not have the right to judge him of what he has become. I cannot do anything about his past but I believe that simple acts of kindness would remind him of the goodness in his heart. Through him, I was able to test myself on how far I can show love to the most unlovable person. Through him I learned how not to dwell on the bad side of a person but rather see the wounded heart inside. Through him I learned not to give up on love and believe that love and compassion can change even the stone hearted.

Avash K.C.
As early as the start of the year, I already knew Avash will make it to this list. But little did I know he will take up this place; the one who has made the most impact in me this year. It is rather strange because our only verbal conversation was when he asked me for a copy of the audio file I was recording. He added me on Facebook so we got to talk once in a while. This year had been challenging for me because work was very hectic and there were many changes in both my work and personal life I had to cope up with. But his mails to me, although seldom but long, sustained me with inspiration to get going. While many youth parrot about how they want to make a difference, Avash was out there making the real difference that others can only utter in the wind. He is a very smart and talented young man and has all the chances to go abroad. But he chose to stay and serve his country, worked with the youth sector and reached out to the poor children and marginalized groups. While other youth brag about the little things they did, Avash remained silent and humble in his accomplishments. Instead of lurking online or resorting to vices, he spends his time and energy in far-flung communities –talking to deviant youth who had been rebels but are in the process of starting a new life, celebrating his birthday with poor children – or in school doing his MBA or producing TV shows that discuss various societal issues particularly those affecting the youth. He showed me that making a difference just takes a spark that will be illuminated by our actions. But above all, he taught me that genuine service must come from the heart.