Category Archives: universityoflife

Hello? Can you hear me now?

Sound-check-1…2…3, check! @The Fairmont York, Concert Hall. 2013 Nov 24

How about now? 

Now?  ^_^ Well hello there and welcome back!

Sweet Success.  We all want it: success in our family life and in our careers. We make goals: physical, mental, spiritual and everything in between. We may very well achieve every goal we set for ourselves. By the age of 28, I did.  Or so I thought.

The missing link is literally just that: The LINKs.  I was missing the connection. 

You see, embarrassing as it is to admit, I understood success all wrong.   I’ve learned the solo style, lone ranger version.  Long story short, it’s shitty and sad and downright dark and depressing because it’s so damn hollow, like the inside of a rusty old drum.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I was blinded by the bling-y version life.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with going for the bling. You want bling? You go get it, darling! Except that you cannot be happy and I mean truly happy when you succeed and play with all this bling alone.

Sweet Connection.  Do you like sweets?  Me, too.  Here, I’ll give you life’s desserts with a cherry on top:  There are people who are willing, able and actually want to support and help passionate and committed you.  I’ve learned, later than sooner, that we must receive this help graciously because in bringing others in, we are helping them too!

To be clear, I am not talking about paid help. Not hired assistants, employees nor managers. I am referring to folk who will sit with you when you’re feeling drained and overwhelmed and confused.  (Read: dramatic and suicidal.)  Friends who will hold your hand and hug you and sometimes give you the much-needed batok when you’re in your level 7.2 bitch-mode.  Folks who will continue to love you even if you’re crying and whining like a fx#8ing baby because you had to bite off more than you can chew.

“You’re so afraid to take a bite off more than you can chew. Don’t be afraid, you won’t have teeth, when you reach ninety two.” – Doris Day, ENJOY YOURSELF (It’s Later Than You Think)

The Other Side of The Sweet.  I belong to the Just Smile Sweetly generation.  You know, the one where when things are bad, your folks tell you to just ‘grin and bear it’.  When things get worse, well, Just Add Syrup.  This made for a lot of very confusing and painful emotions growing up.  I’ve learned that we need to take the bitter with the sweet by not denying that it exists.  Too much candy’s not good for you anyway.  We take the good with the bad.  Hiding the bad behind a goody-two-shoe persona and a perfectly painted, albeit fake, scenario never works.  Not in the long term, anyway.  (See Brené Brown’s TEDTalk on Vulnerabilty)

What works for me is this thing called allowing for more openness.  Quite hard for one hardwired to keep it all in, lock it all up and throw away the key.  But I’ve proven, time and again, that keeping it all in makes for some very ugly implosions.

Word of caution though: Be discerning about whom to open up to.  It takes smarts – both from the head and heart – to choose whom to share life’s ups and downs with.  It’s not that hard to find them.  The right people, your peeps, are all around you. If you look with your heart.  For those of us who were trained in the more left-brain leaning, logic-filled reasoning, this isn’t more challenging.  I had to go through so much reprogramming in this regard. Here’s my solemn promise though: Trust your heart and the right people will show themselves to you.  If not right away, sooner than later.  Trust in that.

At this point in my blessed life, with all its ups and downs, I can honestly say I’ve found my peeps.  Funny thing is that they’ve been there all along!  Friends from way back nursery who I can count on any time, any season, I know they’ll be there for me and I for them.  Family, oh blessed family, most who I took forgranted during the bling-y years – sorry for my momentary blindness and thank you for your patience with me!

It’s been almost two decades of pig-headedness slowly unlearning the bad habits: holding back/off/away.   I’m just back from a full month and a half of playing the diva dervish, and yes, enjoying some of the bling that life brings, and here I am sharing my adventures with family and friends.  Some days were divinely delightful.  Other days completely damned and drama-ridden. Overall, a flipping WIN-filled last quarter of 2013!  Being able to share it with my most trusted and beloved connections is the best feeling ever!
Courage in Connected Creativity,


Project Bayanihan at Max’s for the ABS – CBN foundation international’s Sagip Bayan fund. Nov 22.



(l-r) up: Joy, CP, Chriss, Bing, down: Oying, Maro

The Pleasure Revolution

Pleasure (Photo credit: velo_city)

There was the Feminists’ Revolution in the 60’s.

Then came the Fitness Revolution in the 70’s.

Here we are in the midst of…wait for it…*drum roll*…The Pleasure Revolution.

Pero teka, teka…

Important Note: Pleasure is not Sex.  Sex is sex.  Pleasure can be sex but it’s NOT just sex.

Continue reading The Pleasure Revolution

Day 20 | revived. renewed. restored.

Main Street, Milton, ON
©KatShots | May 18, 2013

Hello po! 

I’m writing as naturally as I know how. Non-stop.  Keeping my hands moving across the keyboard.  I only have my photos, images I took this weekend, to guide me.  I trust that what I write and share will suffice.  I remember the practice and remind myself that this is enough.

This is a photo taken outside the Thai House Cuisine.  The A family just had the best thai food in Milton for lunch last Sunday.  As of this photo, we’re all walking from Froyo, the self-serve yogurt joint that was all abuzz the last time I visited Manila.  It was all over! Malls, grocery stores and street corners!  Just how much yogurt does one Filipino community need?  I wonder if it’s still the craze there now.

Continue reading Day 20 | revived. renewed. restored.

eat, pray, blog

I was in the bathroom doing my hair in curls around five this afternoon.  J was taking us out for Saturday night family dinner.  The last time we had a night out was before Ms O and I left for the Phoenix last April.  That was Nandos.  Barbeque was the craving then.  Tonight, the craving was for sushi and suku yaki.  So we decided to go to Koganei, one of the best Japanese restaurants in Toronto in my humble opinion.
But this blog isn’t about food.  Nor is it about family dinners out.  It’s about this talk that I caught by Elizabeth Gilbert of the Eat, Pray, Love fame on nurturing creativity.  Which is why I began with the hair in the bathroom activity.  I always watch something interesting when doing my hair and I find TEDTalks very engaging and always interesting.
Here, watch Ms. Gilbert being her brilliant self and if you’re as touched as I am, do return for more from me.  I’ll share about the things that piqued my interest and do let me know what did it for you too.

So how’d you like it?  Next to Dr. Brene Brown’s TedTalks, I love Ms. Gilbert’s for her inspiration and willingness to be vulnerable about her fear of “this being the last and only great thing I’ll ever write in this lifetime…”  I’m really interested in what she shares about That Thing In The Corner and how she’s managed to create a some sort of a compromise with it:  Let the records show…I’ll show up and do my part, now you do yours.   

I can relate to the following seven accounts:

1)  I know what it is, what it’s like, what it takes to show up.  And the painful flip-side: to not show up.  Some days, this can be the damnest and hardest thing to do.
2)  I, too, grappled (and continue to) with this feeling of emptiness after a big song-and-dance number.  As with the African transcendence story, I know how the Allah/Ole factor fades and indeed, what’s left is a bereft being, ordinary and feeling the emptiness even more deeply.
3)  I, too, have brushed up with this genius/divine creative entity/Socrates’ daimon many times – in the shower, while washing dishes, on a relaxed walk outdoors, while biking, while cooking, while doing the most mundane tasks imaginable.
4)  I, too, have ran to pen and paper and sometimes to the voice recorder app on the phone and noted the project down.  Some came to pass, some didn’t.  But from my personal experience, when I listened and obeyed, it almost always brought so much joy, not necessarily success and money, but sheer joy and a feeling of being propelled forward and if not to realizing a dream, moving closer to it.
5)  I, too, remember conversations with That Thing (I call mine The Voice that sometimes sounds like Morgan Freeman but most of the time sounds just like a wiser, more benevolent version of me) where I bargain, beg, whine for reassurance, another chance or plead for thanks-but-no-thank-you-ma’am-sir.
6)  The times that I chanced and trusted and showed up were the best times.
7)  The times I didn’t listen, ignored, rebelled against the Work, I got hurt, more confused and feeling like square one do-over round the mountain we go again.
Which is A-ok.  If one likes doing it the loooong way.
So with that, I wish you short-cuts and showing up in a most Olé kind of way!

‘Ole!’ to you, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up.”(Elizabeth Gilbert)


@ The Elmwood Spa, Toronto
April, 2012

Blogging.  You are an enigma to me.  
I find myself deserting you and then I feel…this…lack of oxygen and I know.  I know it’s from lack of writing.  And not just empty writing but engaging writing.  Writing that digs down deep.  Writing that begins with one, one that needs to breath.
I did just that today.  Began again.  Deep in the pages of my personal and intimate journal.  One day at a time.  Inhale, exhale…breathe.

It has been a challenging week.  One where one, then two, and then three kids get sick.  And as most bouts with the bug go, after the tiring run, I start feeling that all-too-familiar itch in my throat too.  
One oxygenated day at a time.  Inhale, exhale…breathe.  
The most valuable lessons I learned (and relearned) this week come from some truly amazing teachers. I’m going to sum it all up below:
1)  Minimum Daily Requirement 
Your secret and most potent weapon is to always go back to the tried-and-tested-and-true: write some, walk some, sit a while some…and do something towards the good daily, even if it’s “minimal daily requirement”. ~ Julie Fleming, author of The Reluctant Rainmaker
This came after a coaching call with Julie, an almost hour long discussion on how to get back on track when feeling like crap for a long stretch of time.
2)  I am 100% responsible for my own happiness.
“I know now that I am 100% responsible for my own happiness.  It is a state of mind that is cultivated by my own choices and habits, not things or people.  Yes, my children make me happy.  Yes, sitting at the beach and watching a sunset makes me happy.  But I cannot rely on other people and my environment to make me happy.  I don’t ever want to make the mistake of thinking my happiness is dependent on something–a different job, more money, another child, wood floors, a remodeled bathroom, etc.” Kelle Hampton, author of Bloom, Finding Beauty In The Unexpected via Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Blog
I love her book, The Happiness Project.  I love her blog, too.  Such great pick-me-ups and reminders on how to focus where we truly need to focus in this ADHD world.

3)  Big or Small

One of the things that I’ve learned, that I didn’t know before that [TEDxHouston] talk exploded, is how hard I’d been working to keep my career small. And that was a little bit heartbreaking for me, because I usually thought of myself as being pissed off because I couldn’t get my work out there enough. But really I think I was engineering that, because I was afraid of these things that actually happened, like the personal attacks. ~ Dr. Brene Brown, On Being Vulnerable

The third one hits hard and deep.  I, too, have been working very hard at keeping small.  The reasons are too many and way complicated (read: boring) to write about here.  So I won’t.  

Just thought I’d share these with you today.  

One oxygenated learning/thought/day at a time.

Inhale, exhale…breathe.

Today’s sharing-is-caring question: What keeps your levels of oxygen in your soul system up?


Around the Block
Canon 40D

What bright light.  

The sunlight reflecting on the broken street lamp harasses me with its attacking shimmer as I sit and write at our kitchen table.  I squint at its sharpness.  It’s like the emergency beacon of a lighthouse signaling for help, I imagine.  It’s been broken, half-open for some time now, this glass casing dangling from it’s black foundation roofing.  High up there it threatens day and night to fall down on pedestrians.  But not just yet.  Maybe never.  For now it reflects the sunbeams.  

Oh, how I’ve missed you.  I’ve missed you so much that I’ve gone momentarily insane.  Crazy with very real fears that I called 911 at midnight two nights ago.  I described the pain to the operator and said it started as a strange stomach pain and I felt it slowly rising in my belly towards my chest.  The website didn’t help as there were too many “signs” to look out for in case of the dreaded heart…I don’t even want to say it.  The calm yet urgent voice of the dispatcher and the many questions he asked made the thumping in my chest go faster.  In less than fifteen minutes – but felt longer in my worried state – the ambulance arrived.  

Recall: My DH is ushering the paramedics in but not before tidying up a little bit.  Discarded toys on the floor, too many glasses of water and candy wrappers on the living room table.  He looks relaxed in his just awakened state.  My DS who stayed up with me, isn’t as calm.  The paramedics, a man and a woman, both white, find me seated on the leather couch.  I am weak from worry.  It is the holidays after all, says Allen who is clearly gay and the lead guy in this quick check.  Final diagnosis:  Indigestion at best, anxiety attack at worse.   Allen is now inquiring about the decor and the mirrors by the entrance.  He is also clearly interested in my DH more than his patient.  The lady who didn’t introduce herself, is taking off the wires from the sticky thingies on my ankles and wrists after monitoring me for a few minutes.  “Your heart and blood pressure are looking beautiful.”  I wonder about her choice of words.  Beautiful blood pressure.  Hmmm…odd.  I beam a little just the same.  “It may even be better than mine!” she says smiling.  She did look overweight, and Allen was too, but much slimmer than her.  DH and Allen are chatting about feng shui now.  He lives in a condo and didn’t have to worry about that, he intimates to DH.  TMI, Allen.  TMI, I thought.

I am much calmer now having been told my vital signs are “beautiful” and listening both amused and annoyed at Allen.  He gives me the option to go with them to the hospital for a fuller check or to see my doctor the soonest possible.  I choose the latter and sign the pink release forms that he hands over to me on a brown clipboard.  He gives me the standard words of advice: relax, observe, etcetera then goes on to lecture me about my tight pants.  I just changed from my frumpy jammies to decent blue jeans just in case I needed to be whisked away.  “Wear something more comfortable, Cathreen.  Sweat pants or pajamas.  Your jeans are way too tight.”  I think he just told me I was way too fat in so many words.  He goes back to chatting up my DH about the wooden horse by the door now.  We say our thanks and goodbyes.  I walk up the stairs, one slow step in front of the other with my DH and DS behind me.

Single Leaf
Canon 40D
Winter 2009

This is me.  
The nine-out-of-ten on the Worry Wart Scale me.  I dared my DH to be honest during our after-dinner couple time on the couch last night.  “So you think I’m a worrier?  On a scale of 1 to 10, where am I?”  He didn’t even skip a beat.  “Nine.”  NINE.  That’s almost a perfect 10, I thought.  “Oh, a bump.  Could it be cancer…”  He’s mimicking me now.  “Oh, my hands are pale…” and he looks anxiously at his hands like I do when I don’t feel like myself and does short, deep breaths.  We both laugh.  His in amusement.  Me in more worry.  I’m a 9.  Damn.  And I thought I was the calm one.  But then again, that’s his opinion. 

This brings me back to my University years in Diliman when Cynthia, my friend from freshman year in HRA school tells me the same thing while we are on the Ikot jeep to our next class.  I was sharing something I don’t even remember anymore.  “Chiquita, you are such a worry wart.”  Probinsiyana me didn’t even know what “worry wart” meant.  She was laughing when she said this so I thought it was a joke.  I think I laughed along with her.  Just going along.  I did a lot of these going alongs when I was younger.

Back to the writing exercise.  Keep the hand moving.  This is me.  Broken open and emptied to my present life.  Wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend.  Lover.  Hater.  Distant.  I’ve become what I once feared.  Ordinary.  Or so I feel.  The Ordinary Woman.  Feared it and longed for it at different times in my life.  Always, always the dichotomy.  My friend Jeannie once told me “The duality of good and evil shows very strong in your cards.  The fight between angel and demon, light and dark.  Do or don’t.  It’s almost two people in one.”  Doesn’t everyone feel this way?  I thought.  Jeannie, the archeologist.  No, not archeologist, arthritic…architect…what was it…that study of sun signs and the stars and moon…astrologist/numerologist!  And I am dumb again.  My diploma from the State U, my Iskolar Ng Bayan status, my 99+ on the NCEE and all my accomplishments combined are nothing now.  They look good on paper.  They are useless in real life.  In this lifelong search for authentic living. 

Snowy Branches
Canon 40D
Winter 2010

I am broken open.  
I am both my best accomplishment and my greatest failure.  I love with all my arms, hands, fingers, my very breath and then I hate with all my entrails, loins, blood boiling.  Overflowing.  I see everything and nothing.  I walk my morning walks for days, weeks, giving and sharing with my all my heart and then one day I am comatose on the coach, in hiding, eyes closed to the shimmering, twinkling light of the Christmas tree.  I stay this way for too many hours, withdrawn into this shell of emptiness.  Homesickness.

Hello, Winter Solstice.  I see you.  I feel you.  I honor this hell that arises with you in me.  I see me.  Finally.  I’m free from the darned, doomed, devil-hold.  How did I get here?  I refrain from analysis.  No more paralysis.  I look and listen instead.  It.Just.Imperfectly.Is.

I see you.  More beautifully, openly, crystal-clearly, your glass prism showing off all colors no longer the imitation Nescafe glass of your younger days but a crystal cut and formed by the tender hands of your later years.  I take all of you only because I take all of me, too.  The emptying of the shoulds and shouldn’ts.  It feels good to walk again.  In the sunlight.  To live and breath in the open space and wet grass and brown mud and cold air.  

To have died and live again.
I’m new to hearing this piece of music that goes la, dee, dum, dee, daaa today and bom, boomb, booom, crashhhh the next.

I’m gripping the red Parker pen too hard again.  I’m feeling my fingers, hand, right arm getting strained.  I loosen my grip, loosen my hold.  I loosen control over how this should be.  I hear Natalie’s voice: Keep your hand moving.  I hear the others, too.  Still there sitting by the rafters, speaking four different languages – Filipino, English, Cebuano and one that I’m not familiar with.  The one I don’t recognize is pure venom, vile and vulgar with its grunts and pfffts and eye-rolling hisses.  My heart races again.  Is this another anxiety attack coming on?  No.  I decide it is adrenaline pumping in my veins from the fresh morning walk in the sun earlier today.  I embrace the discomfort slowly growing in my chest.  I choose excitement.  Over being reborn to this new day.  Again, born in Manila, Davao, Pasig, Makati, Toronto.  Born in every city I’ve ever lived.  Born in every home, fifteen as of last count, I’ve grown up in.  If and only if I allow it to happen.  I am brand new, brewed fresh daily just like the Tim Hortons coffee advert proudly says on the radio.

The voices of urgent chores are getting louder now – the gift-buying, the clothes exchanging, the birthday greeting, Xmas dessert-making – all still undone.  I gently, tenderly loose the voice.  Always gently and tenderly.  I notice the hard light that shimmered earlier reflected on the broken lamp light casing is gone.  The sun has moved higher in the blue, cloud-smeared sky.  It has been fifteen minutes since I began writing my heart out on this beloved Moleskine notebook.  I feel good.  And tired.  Full.  And  Empty.  Spent.  And Energized.

I feel.  Light.

Free Flight/Lamp Light
Canon 40D
Winter 2008

Courage in creativity,