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Dear Lisbon, Portugal

I had a lot of reservations before landing at your front doors as a solo traveller. English is not your mother tongue, and I knew very little about you. In fact, all I knew about you were: great sardines, coastal region and somewhere in Portugal. In some odd way, it felt liberating to know nothing yet nerve racking that I knew nothing. My expectations were nonexistent. With my bright green backpack, comfy running shoes and a heavy heart, there was no turning back.

Walking along your uneven mosaic tiled streets it felt like something was missing. I don’t know whether it was the abandoned buildings with new grass sprouting in between the concrete slabs or the empty Moorish castles once adorned with the finest of furnitures. It all felt sad. Fortunately, somehow I found solace amidst the melancholy floating like dense humid air on a summer’s day.  I was forced to sit in the sadness. An experience I never had before. It didn’t feel right at first. I was used to bucking up and not letting sadness phase me. Sadness used to be like an enemy I had to conquer. Not anymore. 

Going to Lisbon taught me that it’s okay to feel sad or angry. Lisbon, you taught me that feeling anything else that’s not happy or positive is as much part of our human experience as joy is. You taught me that just like those little broken tiles, everything comes together in the end somehow. All the cracks and distress between the edges are just earmarks for stories of people’s lives once lived. No tile is perfect. No life is perfect.

The culmination of our imperfect lives is what makes it real

Truth be told, going to Lisbon forced me to sit in the sadness I was feeling long before my trip began. The same sadness I carried across the North Atlantic Ocean with me. I thought that if I kept burying it with work it would eventually fritter away. Boy, was I wrong! It actually grew, and grew over time until everything just couldn’t be soaked in anymore. Sitting at the foot of my hotel bed, I started to weep. Lisbon, you taught me that it’s okay to feel sad for a moment or two or more. It’s okay to feel loss…to feel grief. 

They say that time heals all wounds, but what’s left unsaid is that wounds also leave scars. A tangible reminder of what was lost and what is missing. 

Always, 

K

P.S. This blog post is dedicated to a dear friend. Thank you for being a part of my life, then and for always. 

Though she be but little, she is fierce!” -William Shakespeare, Midsummer Night’s Dream

To my future children

I can’t wait to meet you. I can’t wait to watch you grow and see the people you’ll become. Most of all, I can’t wait to show you the world that God created for His children.

Year after year, your father and I will dread the moment you leave home in search of your independence and personhood. I hope to have instilled in you enough courage to take risks, with tremendous faith that God will be your guide, ally, and friend throughout your journey. I hope to teach you enough discipline to challenge yourself to do your best in everything you do. I hope to show you compassion and empathy to treat others with dignity and respect.

There may be times when you’d stumble. Or times when you may think that I would be mad enough to stop loving you or caring for you. Hear this now:

I will always support you. I will always forgive you. I will always love you.

That my darlings will never falter. Though, that also doesn’t mean that I won’t give you some tough love from time to time.

As I await the time you’d come into my life, please know that you are always in my thoughts and forever in my heart. I vow to slowly but surely blossom into the woman you would be proud to call your mother.

Always,

K (a.k.a your mom)

P.S. Don’t worry, I also vow to not be a helicopter parent. Mistakes and failures are pretty good teachers. Make them often.

Re: When you live life in gratitude

I was on the elevator on my way home from work when I felt a faint yet warm feeling of relief. Shoulders relaxed with a soft smile on my face, all I can think of was how thankful I am to be able to live the life that I do.

I’m not saying that to boast or to insinuate at all that I’m living life as comfortably as Nick Young’s family in Crazy Rich Asians. In fact, I’m far from that. Nonetheless, I still feel incredibly grateful to have a cozy home, food in the fridge, friends I can lean on and the spare change in my bank account after the rent money has been taken out.

You don’t have to live a perfect or lavish life to feel grateful.

Often we think of life as cruel because of the circumstances that life has dealt us. And absolutely, sometimes we go through a period of complete and utter despair. But the brilliant thing about being human is that even though life happens in all of its cruelties there will always be light when we choose to see it. Every hardship we go through comes with a lesson to learn, and more importantly, an element that makes us even more resilient.

When you live life in gratitude, it’s not about just looking at life through an optimistic lens. It’s seeing life for what it is – with all its messiness, stress, anger, uncertainty – and being okay with it. All of it. And doing so not because of complacency or passivity. But because you, as an individual part of a greater whole, are trying your best to be a better person, son/daughter, parent, friend, professional and so on anyway.

None of this is revolutionary. It’s just something that needs to be put out in the world more often.

Always have a grateful heart.

Always,

K

Re: Disappointing AncestryDNA results

If you remember my Balikbayan blog post from a few years ago, you may know that I am Filipino. Although my fellow countrymen may not think I am at first glance – they usually think Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Vietnamese – I’ve always wondered which part of our family folklores was legitimate. Growing up my parents shared stories of my family as being partial Hispanic, Japanese and Chinese so I decided it’s time to put that to the test – literally! A few weeks ago, I took an AncestryDNA kit with the hope that it would be able to shed some light on my heritage. But to my disappointment, the result I received was – 100% Filipino.

Historically speaking, this is highly inaccurate. The indigenous communities in the Philippines do not just vary in location of residence, but also their biological characteristics because they reflect the migration of people around the Asia Pacific who have settled at different parts of the Philippines. A brief article from Culture Trip describes the indigenous communities found in the North and South, with pictures of some of the tribes. Not only that, the country has been colonized by the Spaniards for many generations (+300 years), the Japanese during World War II and the Americans. Even more, voyagers from Portugal and France were also documented to have landed in the Philippines. Considering all of these factors, how can this DNA test tell me that I am 100% Filipino when that in itself is quite ambiguous?

Before taking the test I knew that others of Asian descent didn’t find the results as useful. Or perhaps, I simply made the wrong decision of buying the wrong DNA kit? With so many popping up nowadays, it makes me wonder how accurate this type of DNA testing actually is. In contrast, the results reflect the forced assimilation generations of Filipinos went through. Their names changed. Beliefs ridiculed and forced into gentrification. Histories erased.

Ultimately, I have to ask myself the question – What does it mean to be Filipino to me?

Always,

K

P.S. Have you taken a similar DNA test? What was your experience with it?