Salud, 2017! A playlist.

These songs embraced me in the quiet moments, lifted my chin to face the trying times, compelled me to silly-dance around my apartment, coaxed a smile onto my face on my walks around my neighborhood and wandered around with me on my travels.

This year’s playlist feels a little all over the place – up and down, and random to everyone but me  – in the same manner that my 2017 was its own crazy maze. This was a year full of wonderful moments, some steep, uphill climbs, a good amount of searching, and a great deal of awe and wonder.

2017 was a year of seeking balance, testing my determination, realigning my lifestyle with my values, packing and unpacking, and practicing the joy (and challenge) of being fully present at every point of the journey.

Get a taste of the trek by listening in here:


Putting together my playlist is one of my favorite year-end traditions. Every song helps me relive special moments and seasons in the past year. It was extra hard to keep this playlist short – this one clocks up 2 hours and 41 minutes worth of music, the longest of my year-end playlists with 40 songs! If you do have a listen, I hope you will find at least one song that embraces you, gets you dancing or puts a smile on your face as we enter the new year.

What a special companion music is to life.

Happy listening, and of course – salud, 2017!

2018, I’m coming for ya!


Listen to previous playlists here: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.


2015, thank you for the surprises

The celebration of Chinese New Year is the perfect excuse to share my long overdue personal review of 2015. I scribbled this list in my sketchbook while on vacation last month and never got around to typing it up. But here it is finally:


2015 was a standout.

I put up my first solo art show at a local cafe, if the ground moves, a collection of poetry and paintings. I nicknamed it my exercise in vulnerability. On opening night, I held a reading and friends played music. At first I was frightened, then overwhelmed, then grateful – for all good reasons.
I traveled. For a wedding. For Buhay Makulay. For myself.
I paid more bills.
I wrote more checks.
I met a boy.
I taught a lot of fitness classes.
I lost my phone. And flipped my room over trying to look for it.
I got my first nephew.
I started a daily writing project as creative exercise and called it #StoriesOnSquares. I have yet to get back into it again.
I continued to cut my own hair, about once a month in my bathroom. Except once when I decided it might be good to clean up the cut professionally. The haircut I paid for ended up to be nothing special.
I had many sleepovers. And a couple picnics.
I worked on my artist website and shared my work online.
I made plans. Changed some.
I cooked a lot, but mostly for just me.
I ran my first “race.” 10k.
I began to read my Bible. Really read it.
I bought two pairs of shoes. (Only two!) One for work and one for the run.
I watched many sunsets.
I sat in countless meetings. I led many of them.
I went back to communities that Buhay Makulay had traveled to in 2014. Mom and I facilitated free training for teachers, community leaders, volunteers and even teenagers – a crash course child-centered and creative programming. These trips kept life in perspective.
I made time to read books. And finally finished my fasting challenge from the previous year – to abstain from any book purchases until I had read ten books already gathering dust on my own shelf.
I drew in my journal.
I painted by the mountains. I painted by the beach. I painted by my window.
I turned 26.
I led our operations team through some unforgettable challenges at the Paper Project. By the end of the year, I was keenly aware and grateful for the trust and respect given to me by the people I manage. Their openness to my leadership and mentoring despite being the (almost) youngest in the group humbled and inspired me.
I moved to a new apartment.
I sold a few paintings – my first sale of personal work since college.
I cried every now and then. At a few movies. In the middle of two different books.
After two and a half years of teaching fitness, I finished a contract and decided to take a break.
I relaunched Thread & Vine in partnership with my mom.
I started a Bible study group with women in my neighborhood.
I went out dancing.
I witnessed how much time it can take for an idea to sink in. After three years of working at The Paper Project, a few seeds planted when I started working there finally bore some fruit in others. It was wonderful to see.
I got very tense over travel visa applications.
I took a lot of Uber rides. I was stuck in a lot of traffic.
I walked a lot, but not enough.
I ate a lot of memorable meals.
I visited our fish farm and got to witness a harvest after many years.
I drank a lot of coffee.
I spoke at my church’s Youth lock-in about how our God does not change.
I didn’t dance enough.
I tried muay thai and loved it. Even the bruises.
I learned how to use a vintage letterpress machine.
I made the smoke alarm go off on my floor and panicked. It was just chicken in the toaster.
I traveled to Europe for the first time.
I went to Spain and got my luggage lost on the way. I fell in love with their ham and the tradition of the sobremesa.

I closed off the year in Rome, of all unexpected cities. I bid 2015 goodbye in the middle of the street by the famous Coliseum. And in the warm embrace of friends I hadn’t seen in almost eight years (and cheap wine), I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for another year full of great stories.

Those final moments of 2015 are hard to forget because Rome and that whimsical reunion hadn’t even been part of the plan. In fact it was only made possible because other plans hadn’t worked out. (An emerging trend of that year.) That new year’s eve was a great reminder to allow life to happen without holding on too tightly for control. Despite anxiety and impatience, things turned out just as they should have, and beautifully.

From one year of surprises to the next, may I carry that patience and sense of adventure this year. 2016, I dare you to be incredible.




Thank you, 2012! You will be remembered.

2012 was an incredible year. It was a big year of  endings and new beginnings. Of fighting hard in order to finish strong, and working faithfully to begin things right. This was also the year I was blown away by God and His grace, over and over again.

I’m going to take some time to look back. I read 2011’s year in review according to me, and it made me even more excited to reflect on this year that has just passed. As I write, I am only left grateful. Here we go:

In January, I returned to Wheaton College in Massachusetts for my final semester of undergraduate career. I took only three classes for the semester- an art history class called Castles and Cathedrals, a Poetry class that opened up my writing again, and my senior seminar in Studio Art.

Just a few weeks after returning, in February, I performed in my final TRYBE gala,  aptly titled The End of the World. Couldn’t leave without a bang! [TRYBE is Wheaton’s hiphop and multicultural dance group.  I served two years on the Executive Board and had my choreography featured every year in each show – including variations to the Filipino tinikling and singkil. One of my pieces to Boom Boom Pow in my sophomore year, became a crowd favorite and our most performed dance that year.] Also in February, I agreed to helping my friend out with his short film (click to see it!), Floating in Space, for which I danced. It was later screened during our senior art show in April and won the department’s pick for best work in the show.


In March, I spent spring break with my good friend Kenya. We enjoyed two great weekends of partying in New York, but  traveled for the week to San Francisco  [Her first visit ever, and my first since my family visited in the Christmas of 1990! How proud we were to have survived the nine days without tiff or argument. She also got to meet my mom’s side of my family.] Later that month, Kenya and I collaborated on a line for the student fashion show. We named the collection Yana and had our friends model for us on the runway, aka the aisle of our famous chapel. In the same month, I performed at my only iSpeak show at Wheaton, a spoken word piece called “Sold.” Brought a bit of the grit from home into the comforts of a college campus.


In April, I became an aunt. My first niece, Hannah was born in Manila – earlier than expected, so Mom didn’t have to miss her birth to come visit me! I had my first appearance in an art gallery. Our senior art show of studio art majors opened on the 24th, entitled Ars Long Vita Brevis. It was the product of our class’ senior seminar that semester, but I had been working on drawing dancers since the spring of 2011. There were nineteen of us, each with our own medium and our own story. I was so grateful to have scored half of the front wall for the exhibition for my large drawings on canvas (each about 5×6′).


In May, I received a surprise award at Honors convocation, the Lillian Hellman Prize in Theater and Dance Studies. I performed at Weber Theater for the last time, in my final Dance Company show, called Sincerely. My senior solo involved a beautiful “homemade” swing, made just for me (Thank you Jeff Grapko for building it and Clinton O’Dell for all the scrap fabric you supplied me with!) and accompanied by some of my favorite cello music. (I danced my strongest in that show. I will never forget what it felt like to perform those last few nights and how during my senior solo, all I wanted to was pour all the gratitude I felt out of my heart. I wanted to stop the music, turn on the house lights and just shout thank you thank you thank you over and over again. In the audience each night were some of the most important people of my Wheaton life. Friends, professors and for the first time ever – my mom!) I was so privileged to have been co-captain of the Dance Company for two straight  years and to have had choreography in seven out of eight of my shows.


In May I also turned 23. Mom cooked a Filipino birthday dinner so I could celebrate with my friends. This is the first birthday I’ve celebrated with her since I turned 17. Mom also got to meet some of the most important people in my life at college. In May, the awful goodbyes also commenced. But on a sunny day in that same month, I also graduated magna cum laude from Wheaton College, and barefoot too!

In June, I enjoyed a slow summer. I traveled around the east coast, taking my time to say goodbye but also meeting my friend’s families. I slept in a new bed every couple of days, none of them my very own. When I wasn’t traveling, I sat a house with my good friend Erin, who was to be married just days before I flew out of the country. I ran regularly, in short spurts, and did yoga in the living room. I also sold my art for the first time, to a man who bought one of my senior pieces for his young daughter, also a dancer. I wrote lots of letters and mailed them, thank-you’s and goodbyes.


In July, I became a licensed Zumba instructor. I finished up my great summer of traveling that took me  across the states of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania  Rhode Island, Maine, New York and New Jersey. Specifically Providence, Swarthmore, Brunswick, Bath, Woolwich, Cumberland, New Brunswick, Wildswood, Revere, Carver, Newport, Naragansett, Harlem, Manhattan, Plymouth, Harvard Square, Cranes Beach, Brookline, Martha’s Vineyard, Sagamore Beach, and yes, good ol’ Norton, among other places. [Again, a HUGE thank you to everyone who opened their home to me, who drove me from here to there, who joined me for a meal, or shared a story with me. How rich you made my summer!] My dad got really sick while I was traveling, roughly a week before I left for home. A very very close call. Also that month, my student visa in the US officially expired and I moved back to the Philippines for the foreseeable future.


In August, I got hired at the Paper Project Inc. My brother got married and I gained a new sister! I also left  behind my old loved and treasured blog, and began this new one. This month too, I felt the weight of transitioning to a familiar but changed place, as an older and also changed me.

In September, we organized Buhay Makulay’s 6th annual children’s fair at San Lazaro Hospital Manila. It was a beautiful day with the children! I also began writing again, and took time to send poems to friends for critique. I revamped the room in the house that I’ve been using as a makeshift dance studio. I repainted the walls, moved all my art materials in there, but kept the floor for dancing too. I also began teaching 4th grade Sunday School!


In October, I missed autumn. Dad had a BIG NUMBER birthday and the big sister came for a visit. I choreographed and performed at UCM’s Got Talent. I taught Zumba at my biggest event yet – over 300 people!


In November, I performed spoken word at the International Justice Mission’s annual prayer gathering. I collaborated on a sermon on the grace of giving and got to dance during all three services at church. I began playing piano again and discovered that I could compose music, a little bit. Buhay Makulay hosted its first Young Women’s Fair at a local government shelter for girls. We collaborated with a corporate group for the first time too. This month I also took running more seriously.


In December, I ran a special two week advent program for our ladies at work. I felt in my element.  I also made my way back into the dance studio by way of the dance classes at PlanaForma! I put up the Christmas tree, almost completely on my own and for the first time ever, I did all the lights too (used to be the brother’s job!) It was our first Christmas without the older sister, but our first Christmas with baby Hannah. Our house finally got a new tree, and also new Christmas stockings! For everyone including baby Ellie, whom we still patiently await to be born.


Thank you, 2012 for teaching me many, many lessons. You challenged me, in more ways than expected – in my integrity, my loyalty, my faith, my leadership, my perseverance and the quality of my work. You have also challenged my artistry, my creativity, my writing, my dancing, my athleticism, my confidence.  This year, though at times I have felt sad, lost, weak or simply like I was floating along, I choose  to give greater value to the many times in which I felt loved, respected, cared for, acknowledged, rewarded, encouraged, honored and remembered. Thankfully, many were those moments. I’ve also had my share of mistakes and setbacks, but  I know I have learned from each one. And I am learning still.

2012 has brought into my heart so many lovely people – too many that I have had to leave, but so many whom I continue to cherish in my heart. 2012 has also brought me home to my family. Quite significantly this year, God has showed me how He is so graciously and lovingly writing my story. In the past twelve months, I have been overwhelmed by the abundance of opportunity that has come my way – despite my stubbornness and despite my weaknesses. I have been carried through another great year. Couldn’t have done it without You, God!  Thank you 2012, you will most certainly be remembered. You’re going to be a tough one to beat, but 2013 sure is going to try!