A few days ago, I was chatting with my aquarium maintenance guy about something really interesting. He witnessed me take a video of a mediocre painting job, send it to my contractor, voice my disapproval, and get him to come back to fix the work. He told me that his wife would never even conceive of doing something like that. He said that whenever his wife wants to get something redone or has a complaint about something, she always delegates it to him because she is unable to voice her opinion or disapproval.
2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. But despite the chaos, uncertainty, and anxiety brought about by 2020, I see myself looking back at the past year and I realize that I truly have a lot to be grateful for.
I AM THANKFUL FOR...
MY HEALTH. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I often take it for granted. However, now more than ever, I wake up thankful that my body is healthy and it allows me to do the things I love and be able to expand on them. I have been better at self care and making more effort to nourish both my body and my soul. This year, I fell in love with paddleboarding, climbed Half Dome, ventured out on my bike again after my accident, went snowboarding after more than 10 years, and I jumped off an airplane. I am so excited to see what is next in store for me!
Driving out West is so much different from driving out here on the East Coast. Man, the rugged beauty of the Sierra Nevadas really just takes your breath away and there's no feeling like it when you're driving through these mountains and seeing the beautiful vista. In fact, I don't think there's any place on the East Coast that I can properly use the term "vista", IMHO.
So I turned 41 a little bit over a week ago. Apart from my Hawaii trip last year, I usually spend my birthday overseas, usually in a country I have never been before. With COVID putting a damper on international travel, I decided to go on a camping and hiking trip to the West Coast.
I went with a good friend, Aileen, who usually spends her birthday overseas as well. We decided to go to Yosemite National Park as both of us have never been and planned to summit Half Dome on my birthday.
When I was 16 years old, I achieved my dream of becoming a published author when I wrote an Op-Ed for the national paper in the Philippines. At that time, I was reading, "Mga Ibong Mandaragit" (Birds of Prey), the Philippine literary classic about neocolonialism by social activist, Amado V. Hernandez, and had just come back from a trip to the United States. My article was about the destructive effects of colonial mentality that was still so pervasive in Philippine society over a century after Spanish colonial rule officially ended.
Growing up with dark brown skin in the Philippines, I never considered myself beautiful or attractive in any way, shape, or form. The ideal beauty at the time was a demure Filipina with pale skin and westernized features. I was even once passed down for a modeling job because I would not capitulate and say that I was not pure Filipino. The casting director wanted me to say that I was part-Filipino and part-something else. I just couldn't do it. It was just something that I accepted as a teen. I thought to myself, "Ok. You have to accept this. You are not physically the ideal concept of beauty here, so you are just going to have to compensate by being intelligent, charismatic, athletic, and fun to be around". So I grew up not putting value on looks and placing my worth on my achievements and accomplishments instead.
I was born and raised in the Philippines, a country of 134 ethnic groups, 120 different languages, and 7,107 islands. Growing up close to the capital, Manila, I was most enamored by the southernmost portion of the country, called Mindanao. Though most of the country is Christian, that part of the country is predominantly Muslim.
There are 18 different ethnic groups that live in Mindanao. One of them are the Badjao/Bajau, also known as Sea Gypsies, as they move with the wind and tide in their small houseboats called Vintas. These seafaring people have the most fascinating rituals that illustrate their concept of life and their relationship to the sea. For example, it is said that immediately after birth, a newly born infant is thrown into the seas and the rest of the family save the newborn.