Friday, December 07, 2012

Blank Pages

Day 7: What will you take with you?

I will take my bright red Moleskine journal with me into 2013. I bought it back in 2008 as a welcome-to-Singapore gift for myself; more than four years later, it's still not full and it's starting to get frustrating... and embarrassing. There's a lot that needs to be written, more stories waiting to be told in the new year.

Thursday, December 06, 2012


Day 6: What did you learn?

Random lessons learned this year...
  • how to make fresh pasta
  • loving a new CRM system at work
  • too much collaboration can be a bad thing
  • talking to my seatmates on the plane
  • procrastination can eat away pieces of you
  • I should have joined SCBWI much sooner

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Palawan Paradise

Day 5: What was your dream destination?

One of the places I had on my Travel Wish List is Palawan - and specifically to see the limestone cliffs of Coron that I kept seeing on postcards and Facebook posts. So I love that I got to take my own touristy shot of beautiful Kayangan Lake.

What I love more is the fact that I saw a lot more than what I was expecting. The entire length of Coron island is practically made up of limestone cliffs and a good half-hour of the 2-hour boat ride to Culion was sailing past the rocky facade. It was amazing!

As if that wasn't enough, I woke up every day of my week on Culion to the sunrise. My corner room had an awesome view: Coron island was standing guard over the horizon.

Pure bliss.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Reverberate and Celebrate

Day 4: How will you celebrate YOU?

I've often been accused of not thinking about myself enough... and now I need to celebrate myself? Hmmm. Before I can bring out the bubbly, I feel the need to resuscitate the writer in me first - and taking part in #reverb12 is a great way to start. I will definitely celebrate once I have 31 posts this December! (4 out of 4... Woohoo!)

Monday, December 03, 2012

My Heart's Desires

Day 3: What do you really wish for?

In 2008, I wrote an unedited wish list for my life as part of my silent retreat after reflecting on Psalm 37: 4. I was surprised that I only had 12 major life goals, ranging from living on my own, to traveling, to retiring on royalties. Some have big happy check marks next to them, some are still a work-in-progress, while some still feel quite out of reach. But as I re-read them (and this prompt led me to dig up my list), I am reminded of what I value most and what shapes who I am: deep relationships and meaningful experiences.

Four years later, the items on the list are still my heart's deepest desires. I will continue to allow my dreams and prayers (and hard work, of course) to pave the way to more check marks on my list. Five down, seven to go!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

When Spending is Gaining

Day 2: Your most significant spend?

When I first moved to Singapore more than four years ago, I tracked all of my expenses on an Excel spreadsheet. The days were on the rows and I had columns for different categories: rent, utilities, food, transportation, groceries, and a generic column for all other things like books, movies, tickets to plays and concerts, museum passes, trips to the spa, etc. It wasn't too long until I realized that the "others" column was the quickest to grow. I changed the label to "self-growth" to help justify the expenses. Soon, my friends and I were organizing regular Self-Growth Saturdays or Sundays, and it helped me feel much more settled in this home-away-from-home - while still keeping my expenses in check.

My Self-Growth column in 2012 is made up mostly of traveling expenses and the most significant (but not the most expensive!) was an eight-day Ignatian silent retreat to Isla Culion in Palawan, the westernmost part of the Philippines. It was a 3.5-hour flight from Singapore to Manila, a 45-minute domestic flight to Coron, a 30-minute drive to the ferry, a 2-hour scenic boat ride, and a 5-minute tricycle ride before I got to Culion's Hotel Maya. Perched on top of a hill and overlooking the ocean, the former dormitory now humble hostel is training ground to students of the Loyola College of Culion, the sister school of my Jesuit alma mater. The spartan accommodations combined with 5-star hospitality and the non-stop ocean breeze was all I needed to retreat and reflect.

The week I spent in silence, reflection, and prayer was the best way to prepare and celebrate Easter. I came with an open heart and a blank journal; I left with a happy heart and not enough pages or words to contain what happened there. It has been more than seven months since and I still can't seem to capture my experience on paper. I have hundreds of photos to help tell my stories, but I have not had time to organize all of my JPEGs. For now, here's a glimpse: a short post I shared with an Ignatian spirituality site called Picturing God.

Marami ang nagsabi sa akin: "Mabuti at napadaan kayo dito sa Culion." Ang aking sagot: "Napabuti ako sa pagdaan ko sa Culion." (Roughly translated from Filipino to: Many people there told me: "It's good you got to drop by Isla Culion." My response was: "I was made good, or a better person, because I did.") I believe God is in Isla Culion in the Philippines, a beautiful home-away-from-home where I spent an entire week on a silent retreat leading up to Easter. More than 100 years ago, Isla Culion was the world's largest leper colony. Today, it is a healed, historical, grace-filled island aspiring to be a top eco-tourism destination. It's a simple and laidback coastal town, with only 12 hours of electricity a day, but in close proximity to amazing coral reefs, dive spots, and white beaches, and blessed with the most amazing sunrises. I believe I caught but a glimpse of God in all of that--but most especially in the warm and gracious people who, with their bedimpled smiles, earnest eyes, and open hearts, welcomed me to their home and changed me for the better.

It may not have been my biggest expenditure in 2012 in terms of dollars spent, but it was a huge investment of time and spirit spent in one place - and I gained it all back a thousandfold. My Self-Growth column is full to the brim.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Starting with Goodbyes

Day 1: How are you starting?

I have three minutes left on this first day of December and I will try my best to complete #reverb12. So how am I starting?

I am starting with goodbyes. I had a farewell dinner with a dear friend who I have known since I first moved to this home-away-from-home. Though we only get to see each other twice or thrice a year, he is a dear friend and a fellow pilgrim, and we can spend hours talking about any and all things. Spending time with him always reminds me to hope and focus on the essential things in life. I'm sad to see him go back to Indonesia yet excited for this next chapter in his journey.

So with tonight's farewell, I also say goodbye to this year's feelings of BLAH. Goodbye to other people's expectations. Goodbye to thinking-too-much. Goodbye to procrastination. Goodbye to mindless online surfing. Goodbye to worrying what other people think. Goodbye to my sedentary lifestyle. Goodbye to what-if fears. Goodbye to writer's block. Goodbye to excuses.

All goodbyes lead to hellos. See you soon, 2013.