Resurfacing T

I think you may have guessed from the silence emanating from my blog, that either (1) life has been very busy and exciting for me or (2) life has been desperately boring, locking me up in a state too horribly embarrassing to even write about, that my shame has caused me to hide out in internet anonymity until further notice, or at least until something remotely entertaining in my life arrives to push me out of the depths of dilly dallying doom that suffocates me like a tie tied too tight.

Well…you will be glad to know that it is the former. This year could not have gotten off to a better start. And all of it in unplanned ways. Ah, it’s always in unplanned ways! I can’t even begin to share about how my life’s plot continues to thicken (in promising, not questionable ways), but I will write a bit about a few things I have learned about myself in these first weeks of the year:

1. Entrepre-WHAT?!

Yes, it seems I have been making the crossover. Well, maybe less of a crossover into someone different and more of an expanding of self. It’s been some months in the discovery, and more than a handful of people have given me similar feedback,… but I am finally coming to terms with this: that I may have more than just two and a half threads of business-minded muscle in this dancer’s body, woven in bright stitches in all my artsy-fartsyness! It was a speaking engagement with a partner foundation just two weeks ago that really opened my eyes to how I was breaking out into a new discipline. (More on that in future writing!)

We shall see where this goes! But for now, I am beyond excited to be able to make this discovery as the company I represent helps build livelihood programs for Filipinos with very limited professional prospects at the moment. It is an amazing feeling to be able to help provide jobs for people that so desperately need it, when I myself have just recently began my life in the “professional” world.

2. I’m a dancer, and there’s just no way to shake it out of my body. Or out of my soul for that matter.

In the latter half of 2012, after moving back to the Philippines I hadn’t been training or taking many dance classes. After having a very dance-intensive life in college, this was a bit of a letdown – for body, mind and heart. I appeased myself by teaching Zumba classes, running (not a favorite past time, but it will do, if only to push my body toward some sort of limit), and dancing alone in my little home studio. Right before the close of 2012, thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I discovered a place to dance, take classes, and push my body toward a whole new limit. It came at just the right time! This year my opportunities in that place have grown even more.

Not only that, but in just the second day of this year, I was reunited with two good friends who took me to a freestyle dance workshop on a whim. No doubt, I felt a little out of my element, but it was the needed push to open my year up to dancing again.I was challenged, inspired and more importantly, reconnected with a community of dancers.

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Reunited on stage after eight years!

Just a few weeks ago, I got another random call from one of those friends on a Thursday– telling me, not asking me, about our plans for performing over that weekend. Together we did the doxology for a college dance concert, barely practicing before the show! They needed someone who was comfortable with improvising, and there we were, freestyling a somewhat structured prayer, through dance.

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Then again, randomly, last Monday, I got a text from the other of the two friends asking for a favor, that I might dance with him at church on Sunday. It seems I rarely turn down an opportunity to perform because I said yes, even when he told me we’d have to dance seven times throughout the day. The creative process leading up to Sunday consisted of just two practices, but we were certainly amazed at how God used even those short moments together to help us choreograph a story of love between two characters. I got proposed to seven times in one day! (That Sunday’s theme was “Marry Me!”)

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We survived sixteen hours, seven services and proposals! I wouldn’t mind not hearing Train’s “Marry Me” for another sixteen months…

3. The calendar fills up without even trying.

Barely a few weeks into the year, 2013 was already shaping itself up. Dates were getting blocked out for events, like weddings or trips. We were setting quarterly targets at work. With my Buhay Makulay team we were setting program dates and casting visions. So on and so forth. But the spaces underneath dates are now tied down in scribbles. First in vague ideas, but more and more concrete as the weeks go by.

I’ve noticed how nice it is to be able to think of a year in calendar quarters, rather than school semesters. My calendar no longer revolves around an academic schedule (with the sad loss of casualties like summer break and winter break), but I can now look at a year in full and wide perspective, not broken up and spilling into another year. I like this view a lot better. It makes more sense to me, a steady ebb and flow of months and seasons. Although I panicked a little when I realized how far ahead things could be arranged! I already have an idea of what my December looks like, even from this end of the calendar year.

Now wasn’t that a mouthful of a post?! Bottom line? 2013, what an adventure it will be to slowly unwrap you!  I just hope I find time to write about it.

Speak soon,

T.

The Weekend, Only Busier Than The Week That Precedes It

Despite the recent extra long weekends thanks to official holidays, the tail ends of my work weeks have remained packed with excitement. They’ve somewhat embodied some of the things I would really like to stay busy with (apart from my lovely day job) for a really long time: fitness, advocacy, spoken word performance, dance and non-profit work.

1. I had my biggest Zumba gig so far.

I arrived at the location, expecting at the very least, a hundred attendees at the sports fest I was opening. However, the lines of people spilling out of cars, jeepneys, and even a bus, took me by surprise. When I walked into Cuneta Astrodome, I realized that my humble estimate was clearly mistaken. Music was blasting, energy was high, and there were already at least five hundred people there. There must’ve been at least 800 by the time I finished my set. We kicked some serious Zumba butt at seven in the morning!

 

2. I performed a spoken word piece for the first time in Manila.

The International Justice Mission, an international human rights organization that, held it’s annual Manila Prayer Gathering. My brother gave the main message, after which I had the privilege of sharing a poem I performed and dedicated to my brother months ago while I was still in college. It’s a poem called Sold, written from the perspective of a victim of human trafficking and sexual slavery. What an honor to perform it for people who advocate for the very individuals that inspired my words. I was so happy when they asked me to perform – I had been secretly hoping they would!

 

3. I co-hosted the 50th anniversary of the Precious Jewels Ministry. And with my brother too!

PJM is an NGO, near and dear to my heart. They are my family, my mentors and my friends. They have reached out to so many of the broken in the Philippines and Uganda – serving families and loving children from the poorest and most high-risk communities. Another honor.

4. Played tour guide for a visiting friend, AND filmed a mini-dance video with him!

TRYBE, my amazing multicultural and hiphop dance group at Wheaton, was finally represented in the Philippines by someone other than me! Shannon came to visit and we couldn’t pass up the chance to dance. Unfortunately, both YouTube and Facebook have been taking down the video every time I try to post it, even after I slaved for hours trying to get the large file uploaded. I’ve sent it over to Shannon to deal with.

 

5. Had Buhay Makulay’s first major strategic planning session with my newly formed executive team.

AKA a couple of my childhood friends – all creative, intelligent and big-hearted. It was an inspiring couple of hours of brainstorming and vision-casting. The next few years look very promising with them on my team!

 

6. Spoke about the grace of giving through dance.

Pastor Scott had approached me months ago with the idea of using dance as part of a Sunday morning message at church in November. He and I worked together over the past couple of weeks, the product of which was a great experimental episode in interweaving live art into the Sunday morning church service. It was an amazing experience (of course it involved chairs – I have an unexplainable long standing delight in chairs) and although I had a bit of prepared choreography, I ended up improvising much of my movement, directly responding to Pastor Scott’s words. If you’re interested, check out the full message video here, to see the first out of three services.

 

Now this weekend, compared to the last few, is a little tame. I made sure not to plan anything for the day and I even got to read a whole book this afternoon. Just enjoying a bit of the calm before another whirlwind week and another big Buhay Makulay activity on Saturday – our first young women’s fair at local girls’ shelter!

So Thankful This September

Now whoever thought I would be writing up business plans in the shadow of my recent painting experiments, pinned up on the glass windows of our living room? Whoever thought I would be eagerly discussing supply, demand, finance plans and marketing plans by choice, on evening drives with my older brother? Or trying to convince community leaders, with decades and decades of experience over me, over coffee in teeny tiny mugs, sweetened with Bailey’s, in the shelter of a in a nipa hut, that they should engage in business with the social enterprise I represent? Or that a 62 year old priest named Father Boy would teach me how to shoot guns and nickname me Lady Bond after a long day of discussing livelihood initiatives for thousands of families?

Whoever thought?

Well I definitely did not see this coming, and I’m not just talking about this new experience with firearms. I will not write too much yet of specifics about my work, but it is hand down the best job I could’ve been offered straight out of graduation. And just in case your wondering or worrying, this new job does not involve any guns.

My actual Bachelors Degree as a Major in Studio Art (Surprise! Not many people at home have discovered that I love to draw and paint) and a Minor in Dance, does not yet directly connect to my work. But certainly all the experience I have had in the past six years of living, studying and leading away from home, has allowed me not to begin this new journey completely blind and unequipped. Even the experiences I took as on complementary to my education and experience have now become my primary to my performance and involvement today. There is so much room to learn and so much room to grow, and I look ahead with such anticipation! Not to mention, I am surrounded by people that are anxious to support me, cheer me on, mentor me and work alongside me.

(More about this photo here.)

Before I returned to the Philippines, all I had hoped for this soon after arriving (roughly seven weeks now)  was to be slowly plugging myself back into community and investing in new and renewed connections with others. But life is in full swing now and I can barely believe it. As usual, I have to work hard on slowing down. Just as some younger friends back at school begin a new school year, I’ve got a job I love, wonderful people to work with, a weekly Zumba class to teach and the non-profit organization I founded and continually direct is set to jump into a wonderful new phase of service and community engagement.

Whoever thought?

Dress to De-Stress

Looking at my closet (now pretty downsized thanks to the trans-Pacific move and summer-long purge of my belongings) I don’t think you can tell that I’m now a “working girl.” I can report for work at an office, have working lunch meetings and engage in other adult-like shenanigans. The social encounters of the past week or so have got me thinking about revamping my closet to better suit the world of desk jobs, conferences and other professional events.

BAH!! Who am I kidding?!

I am happily and pretty recently employed, yes, but currently boast of a flexible schedule,  more task oriented than clocking in hours at a desk. Thank goodness! Can anyone seriously picture me working out of a desk all day? My great schedule allows me to carve time for work with my non-profit organization, the Buhay Makulay Children’s Project Inc. (We’ve got a big annual event coming up soon!), for teaching Zumba classes, and hopefully soon to do some art and dance programming. It also allows me to be very involved with people and engage our workers, partners and potentially some new communities as well!

But yes, I’m feeling a little pressure to tone down my outfits. Just a little! I may slowly (with respect to my meager fresh-college-grad budget) acquire more “professional” articles of clothing. I figure I need a pair of pants that aren’t bright red, jaguar print, bright blue or severely distressed. Or shoes that aren’t bright yellow and tops that don’t have large, intentional tears straight down their backs.

Last week I went to a lunch meeting, (not directly for work, but for networking), and had no idea that I’d be at a place with a dress code. I maybe should’ve gotten a hint when I was told we were meeting at the “Executive Lounge,” but I guess I was in denial because I showed up in a pair of decent plaid shorts, but still shorts, and my trusty pair of barely-there, but very cute, turquoise sandals. When I arrived at the place I purposefully ignored what I think know was a large note about the dress code written in fluorescent pen. I think it may have said something about no shorts and no sandals… but I wouldn’t know, of course. I was ignoring it.

The beautiful and wonderfully accomplished women I had lunch with temporarily appeased my under-dressed woes by saying, “Enjoy the tropical weather!” knowing that I had sort of just returned from a country with four seasons, or “It’s okay, you just graduated!” But it certainly got me thinking about better dressing “the part” (whatever part that may be)– at least on the days when I am having important meetings! I should maybe stop showing up to things in sneakers, shorts, or happily faded and oversized tees.

I did ask one my bosses, who also happens to be someone I am related to – Do you care what I wear to work? No, he said, with an expression that seemed to think I was asking an odd question. This also happens to be the brother that both semi-scrutinizes and  semi-enjoys (I think) my outfits, articles of clothing and accessories by commenting that they are “interesting” or “strange.” Tee hee!

I’m an artist! It’s fine!” is what I’ve always reasoned for my choices of mismatching but matching ensembles. And I insist they always work. Often there is something colorful or loud about what I’m wearing, even if it’s just a pair of slender earrings that fall longer than my hair, or the vintage fork that is wrapped gracefully around my middle finger as a weapon ring.

I work with communities, non-profit organizations, foundations and communities that serve the less fortunate and people at risk. So it’s less about dressing professionally, but more about dressing appropriately and comfortably.

After moving back to Metro Manila, I was a little taken aback to rediscover that  life is a little more… conservative over here. My short jean shorts and torn up shirts have their place and I can’t just walk around the city, especial Makati, in whatever I please. College was such a tease! I felt like I could get away with wearing whatever I wanted! I’m now trying to discover ways to still use the clothes I have (since I don’t have the means or the desire to just shop shop shop for more), but show less skin, and at the same time not completely melt in the Filipino heat.

Yesterday I invested in two new pairs of pants, of the more basic persuasion. I found a simple pair of black skinny pants, but with super awesome but subdued leatherette detail running down the outer legs, and patched into the inside of the knees, like riding pants. Yup, pretty basic. I also love the men’s section and found a comfy pair of dark jeans, 50% off! (These purchases mean no more shopping till November, at least!) And here’s a new pair of boots I scored with a pair of gift certificates that I was given. (Couldn’t resist wearing my funky and bright flowery tights today! My idea of toning down my outfits??)  Glad to have another pair of shoes that allows for hours of painless walking, and even dancing too, if necessary! 😉

I think every morning my mom enjoys and possibly partially worries about what I might walk out of the house in. She lets me be since she knows that with the loss of many hours that I used to spend in the dance studio and the art studio,  the way I dress is one of the primary ways I am currently able to express myself.

The new year begins at Wheaton this week. For the first time this fall, I don’t have to think about new classes, I’m not thumbing through a syllabus or getting my work shifts sorted around my class schedule and dance rehearsals. I’m no longer a student for the first time since I was two and a half years old!

However, this is a great time to be home and a great time to be working- I’m busy, I’m doing things I enjoy and I’m beginning to get plugged into community. Not to mention, the Philippines is finally getting some positive reviews in the news! Despite another devastating season of rain and flood, the forecast for our economy is bright and flourishing. Read more about it here. Below is my favorite chunk of good news:

“Times are pretty good in the Philippines if you are young, skilled and live in the city. Young urban workers are helping to give the country its brightest prospects in decades, economists say.

With $70 billion in reserves and lower interest payments on its debt after recent credit rating upgrades, the Philippines pledged $1 billion to the International Monetary Fund to help shore up the struggling economies of Europe.

“This is the same rescue fund that saved the Philippines when our country was in deep financial trouble in the early ’80s,” said Representative Mel Senen Sarmiento, a congressman from Western Samar.

The Philippines has certainly had a steady flow of positive economic news recently. On July 4, Standard & Poor’s raised the country’s debt rating to just below investment grade, the highest rating for the country since 2003 and equivalent to that of Indonesia.

The Philippines is the 44th-largest economy in the world today,according to HSBC estimates. But if current trends hold, it can leap to the No. 16 spot by 2050. The Philippine stock market, one of the best performers in the region, closed at a record high after the recent S.& P. rating upgrade, and the country’s currency, the peso, reached a four-year high against the dollar at about the same time.”