A Face in the Crowd

December 15, 2003, 3F, end of the hall

And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire.

—Stephenie Meyer, New Moon


I miss you, my dearest friend. I find myself searching the crowd for your familiar face. For even the tiniest semblance on them of you. But as always, I see nothing. For there could never be another one like you. A whisper, a glance, or even a slight nod would have sufficed to make me believe that people still know I exist. But none came.

Your departure left me in fragments and, more poignantly, in tears. How can I survive this place without you? Without the warmth of your bedimpled smile—which always held just a hint of naughtiness behind them—the rooms seem cold and unfriendly. Without the comfort of your presence, our school seems unforgiving and harsh.

As I reminisce about the times we spent here together (as I am wont to do every now and then), I hear your laughter once more, echoing loudly  as it bounced against the walls. I was so accustomed to seeing the cocky way you walk, sashaying up and down the narrow hallway like some glamorous movie star and beaming at everyone you pass by. But then you went away abruptly, had your baby, got married, and moved abroad. And I never saw you again.

From the moment you came up to me and asked me where the administration office was, I knew we would become fast friends. I know now that I will never be the same again. As your laughter fades from the halls and your scent disappears from the room we shared as penniless students, I wonder what life has in store for me. Will I survive graduating without you? Will I have to venture out into the real world alone?




Tiny House Dreams

As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.

—Henry David Thoreau


“Four score and seven years ago,”—Okay, this isn’t the Gettysburg Address, but it was around seven years ago that I discovered the Tiny House Movement from a Jay Shafer video in YouTube. From that moment on, I was hooked!

I started dreaming of building my own tiny house. Of course, having neither land nor the money to actually do it, it has remained a pipe dream for now. In my research, I’ve looked at a hundred videos on YouTube about what I wanted my tiny house to look like. Recently, I settled on the design. Of course, of the three that I made, none of them is to scale. I never claimed to be a graphic artist or an architect.


But it started with a simple floor plan. As someone who pees a lot in the middle of the night, it’s a pain to walk up and down the stairs. The problem with this layout is the lack of storage and very little closet space, if any at all.


Still, I wanted a minimalist design. Lord knows if this is achievable with my current income. But hey, a girl can dream, right?

Disclaimer: Again, these floor plans are not to scale. I did account for 1 inch for 1 foot substitution (1 in = 1 ft) and the insulation for the borders/walls. But the furniture and appliances are drawn freestyle.


I’m a Victim of Domestic Abuse

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

—2 Timothy 3:1–5 (NLT)


I’ve debated for some time whether I should take this story public or not. But first, I will preface this article by saying that my parents are two of the most wonderful, hardworking, loving, and kindest people I know. More importantly, they have never laid a finger on me. Begrudgingly, I’m talking about my baby sister.

For some context, my baby sister and I, born six years apart, were remarkably close before I offered to take her in while I was working in Cebu. At that time, I was championing for her against our family because most of them have been fed up with her constantly dropping out or switching majors in college. To ease the burden from my mom for a bit, who was paying for her very extended college education, I offered to have her join me in Cebu. We shared a room at first, but when another room opened up, I moved next door from her. After a few weeks, she started causing some ruckus in the house I was staying in, forcing my landlady talk to me about her. Embarrassed for what she has done because I never had problems in my nearly nine years of staying there, I moved her somewhere close to my workplace so I could pay her rent on my way to work. Apparently, she hated that setup because she was sharing her room with three other girls in bunk beds. At that time, she found “work” at a bookshop just right across the street from her dormitory, which we surmised to be just a volunteer gig offered by a church friend of hers who owned the bookstore. I made sure she was near enough that I could check on her from time to time and she can commute conveniently to any major mall or hangout spot. I carefully packed her stuff, bought a lock for her locker and baskets for her stuff, and gave her money for laundry. After several months, she decided to leave Cebu and flew back home. She eventually went back to school only to drop out again. One time I went home for the Christmas holidays, she was openly berating our mom for something. I stepped in to rebuke her then she turned and started attacking me with scathing words. A few days after that, she left for Davao. She didn’t even stay until after New Year’s. I found out later that she’s been telling my family that I kicked her out and threw her clothes outside the house. So that’s how it began. We clashed two times after that but it never escalated to something physical—until recently, that is.

Ever since I moved back home and she decided (yet again) to give up the pretense of going to school, we have been locking horns every so often. She continues to verbally abuse our parents despite me calling her out on it a couple of times. At first, I’d find my laundry thrown off the roof, my shirts torn, and my things disappearing one by one. One time, she even trashed my room. While I got some of my things back (Dad found my sporks in the garbage pile at the back of the house), she still held some hostage or she may have dumped them somewhere else.

Christmas Day last year, I was unaware that my family was tying to stage an intervention for her until it was about to happen. I’m sure she was thinking it was my idea in the first place. We all prayed for her and everything. It was scary. She acted like she was possessed or something. She went wild—kicking our dad, pulling my sister’s hair, and shoved me and our mom at one point—trying to escape. But after she calmed down some, we thought things are finally going to change. After we got home, she seemed mellow and back to her old self for a little while, though some of my stuff still ended up missing from my room and she continues to verbally abuse our mother. Little did I know what she had planned for my computer then (pouring water all over it). I guess our family intervention did not work after all.

So here we are in 2018, still at a loss on how to handle her angry, resentful, and vindictive behavior. I understand why our mother didn’t call the cops on her—because it will definitely put a permanent taint on her records—but if our prayers and pleas no longer appeal to her (my sister literally got down on her knees, crying and pleading with her), how else can we make her understand the pain she has caused and face the consequences of her actions?

Now I am not perfect. I gave our parents and siblings the same sort of grief at some point in my life. But ever since then, I tried so hard to make up for it by taking good care of the house, helping out with the bills, and serving our parents. I know the pain I’ve caused was unforgivable so that’s why making the decision to move back home was an easy one for me to make. Absolutely, without any measure of doubt or hesitation, I would sacrifice my life for my family. If that meant taking the brunt of this abuse, so be it. I’d wear that target on my back willingly because I know it’s not my baby sister I am fighting with, it’s the spirit of hatred, resentment, and vengeance inside her that we need to vanquish.

Some people might dissuade me from posting this, but having spent half my life being afraid of what the world thinks of me, I realize that if we don’t stand up for ourselves, who else would? While I fear for the people judging my family unfairly and questioning how us children were raised, I can no longer hide behind this like it’s some dirty, shameful secret in our family. It is not my intention to throw my baby sister under the bus or play the victim card at all. I simply want to raise awareness that violence—in any way, shape, or form—is completely unacceptable. When “fighting fire with fire” is counterproductive and “fighting fire with love” is ineffective, the only thing that remains to be done is offering this entire situation up in prayer and surrendering them to God. Vengeance is His, so I should no longer have to worry about this, right? I’ve suffered enough, my family has suffered enough. It’s out of our hands now, so help me God!

Disclaimer: As I write this, I am reminded that my plight is inconsequential compared to others. Over the holidays, I found out that a former classmate’s brother was in a coma from a motorcycle accident and a former work colleague and friend’s father was suffering from another health crisis. I find myself tremendously blessed to have both my parents still with us and in relatively good health. Not to mention, some of my stuff had been found and returned safely. Silver lining indeed!


The Last Straw

Bedroom, January 8, 2018, 11:20 p.m.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

—Edmund Burke

After cleaning the house all day and taking a shower, I sat down on my desk to eat my early dinner and watch some YouTube clips–as was my routine as soon as I’m done with work–only to discover my laptop drenched in water. I immediately cleaned it up as best as I could and let it drip-dry sideways. She has done it! My worst fear has happened! I tried so hard. I didn’t post anything sensitive or dark on my blog because I want a fresh start in 2018 and do away with all the negativity. In fact, I was working on uploading a series of posts about our trip to Japan last year. Then this happened.

As soon as she arrived, I confronted her. I couldn’t take it anymore. Not this time.

I screamed, “Nabuang naka? (Have you lost your mind?”) She said something sarcastic that just flew over my head. I found myself grabbing a fistful of her hair. She did the same—but hard. I kept screaming at her. “Undangi nako! (Cut it out!)” I just wanted her to stop provoking me.

She started punching my face—something she was threatening to do for a long, long time. Dad stepped in. I let go of her hair after clumps of mine already fell on the floor I just finished mopping an hour ago. She’s still hanging on for dear life. Dad had to push her off me before she finally let go.

I cried once more, “Undangi nako!

She cried back, “Undangi sad ko! (You cut it out too!)”

“Why are you doing this to me? I never took any of your stuff!” I told her.

At this point, Mom chimed in to defend me. “Wa na baya mi nanglabot nimo, ha! (We haven’t been touching your stuff!)” We as in “me.” It’s painfully true. I stayed as far away from her stuff  I could for some time now.

She yelled as she was making her exit upstairs, “You just don’t what she’s done!”

What did I do? Because I wouldn’t wash the cups she’s been drinking out of for the past two days? I chased her up the stairs. “I’ve had it with you! You’re no longer my sister!”

“Yeah? Well, you’ve stopped being my sister a long time ago!” she spat one last time as she slammed the door to her room and locked it.

Dad wanted to call the cops. I secretly agreed but didn’t say it out loud. Not because I was afraid of her or felt unsafe, but because I wanted her to get a major reality check. She has to understand that there are consequences to her actions. Mom, obviously, didn’t think it was worth calling the cops over.

I don’t know what else to do, what else to say. If there’s a word for “beyond exhausted,” I was that a year ago. I tried so hard not to cry in frustration but the tears just wouldn’t stop coming. Looking back, I woke up to this exact nightmare barely a month ago of us fighting again, only it’s the reverse. Just as I predicted though, she did most of the punching. In the meantime, clumps of hair are still falling off my head.


A Potterhead Goes to Japan

You’re a wizard, Harry!

Hagrid, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Ever since I picked up my very first paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at a local bookshop, where I paid PHP 229 ($4.50) almost two decades ago, I have been a devoted fan. I first read about this book in a magazine. Then I saw it some time later at the bookstore and bought it. Thus began my love affair with J. K. Rowling’s magnum opus. Year after year, I saved enough of my allowance—being only a poor student then—just to buy the latest book. I just got my hands on the fourth book, the thickest one in the series at that time, when the first movie was announced. I was beyond excited. I was the one who introduced my family to the magical world of Harry Potter, and they joined in the fandom wholeheartedly.

Looking back at it now, I’m glad I picked up that first book, though I thought it was pretty expensive at that time. Never in my wildest dream did I think I would be lucky enough to visit the Wizarding Word of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan. Having gone through four rides already, I felt my skin tingle in anticipation for the first time as we were walking through the Forbidden Forest toward Hogsmeade.

Then I spotted the towering, majestic Hogwarts castle in the distance. I was instantly transported back to when I first read the book. Sure, I was way past my childhood when I discovered Harry Potter, but I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve about the open her presents under the tree. My eleven-year-old niece, who shares my birthday, was just as excited.

After the longest queue we’ve ever had (easily over an hour), we finally get to experience the ride. It was breathtaking! Though I understood very little as Harry, Ron, and Hermione spoke in Japanese the entire time, it hardly mattered to me as I was so lost in the moment. Much sooner than I would’ve wanted, the ride was over and the spell ended. Still, I spent my last remaining yen to purchase these ultra-expensive-yet-worth-it souvenirs:

I had such a lovely time overall in my trip to Japan, but the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction will always be my most favorite memory. One that I will cherish for the rest of my life! And just like “Mischief managed,” the adventure ended and I went back to being a Muggle.

HP wall banners

For the Love of Kit Kats

Mama always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Forrest Gump


Ever since I first tasted Japanese Kit Kats, I made it my mission to sample as many of the 500+ or so flavors unique only to Japan as I could. When I finally made it there late spring of last year, I had my fill of them. Still, it wasn’t enough. So far, I’ve tasted around 20—technically, including the ones I’ve had from Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia. They are not as good as the Japanese ones, to be honest.

In my never-ending quest to get my hands on as many Japanese Kit Kats as I could in my lifetime, I’m like a Pokémon junkie with a strange addiction. “Gotta have ’em all” is my motto. So here are the flavors I’ve had in order of consumption (I think!):

Regular Green Tea
Cocoa Plan (dark chocolate)
Bakeable Sweet Potato
Pumpkin Pudding
Bakeable Butter Cookie
Special edition Almonds and Dried Cranberry
Matcha Green Tea
Ginger Tea
For Café
Premium Mint

From Malaysia:
Mini Mocha
Mini Cookies and Cream

From Australia:
Raspberry Cheesecake
Chocolate Mint Whirl

With more than 400 flavors out there, I know I still have a long way to go. For those out there who truly know me, there’s only one way to make me the happiest person on earth—give me some Japanese Kit Kat bars I haven’t tried before. The weirder, the better (soy sauce, anyone?). Although I must admit, I’m partial to those elusive coffee-flavored ones and the cheesecake series. Wish me luck!



The Dark Shadow

Green Bedroom, 3:21 a.m.

A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows. 

—St. Francis of Assisi

Three things have gone missing in the last 48 hours: my Marauder’s Map mug from Universal Studios Japan, my tiny spork (also bought in Japan), and my other spork someone gifted to me. Yesterday, I woke up and couldn’t find my sporks, which I always use during mealtime. While looking for it, my mug was still safe and sound in its hiding place. This afternoon, I discovered that my mug is missing too. I was so frustrated.
A few hours ago, I heard her complain, “Gihilabtan nasad akong butang ay! (Someone messed with my stuff again!)” as she was rummaging through her things she kept under the attic stairs. I knew she was referring to me. I don’t even use her bathroom behind the attic stairs so she wouldn’t have any reason to think I touched her stuff again.
I closed my eyes and saw red. I kept muttering over and over again, “Please, Lord. Please, Lord. PLEASE, Lord!” I was praying for peace until the red haze disappeared. How could she do this when my own stuff is still missing? I bet she was thinking it was me retaliating to my missing items. I’ve looked through her usual hiding places and came up empty. I’m scared to throw the garbage away for fear that she may have hidden them there! Lord, how did this happen? I often questioned myself. How could she even dare to do this while there are so many family members around the house now?
A few moments later, I thought she went downstairs. The door to her room squeaked open. I barely glanced because I thought she changed her mind about coming out of her room because the lights were off. A minute later, the door closed by itself. I thought I saw a shadowy figure behind it. Minutes later, I saw her coming up the stairs and into her bedroom. The lights turned on. That was odd. I thought she was in her room the whole time.



A fleeting glimpse at a madwoman’s universe of mental chaos…