Doctor: You Might Be Covid19 Positive

“I think you should call 16000 and ask if you can be tested.” The doctor told me after telling him how I feel.

Anxious. I tried to defend myself as he asked his nurse to give him a pair of gloves and a face shield before he examines me. That day, I went home more anxious than ever.

It was February 27 when my husband came home and told me the news. They will start rescuing citizens of the country where we reside from infected countries. They will bring them home and put them in a hotel for quarantine.  There was no known case here during that time. But the government gotta do what they gotta do to keep their citizens safe and expats like us don’t really have a say on that matter. February 28 when we transferred to our new house since we are newly married. We were excited to start a new life together in a house that feels like home. We were excited to invite family and friends over. But, 2:00 AM of March 1, 2020 when I woke up with severe body pain, chills, and a sore throat. I asked my husband to take me to the hospital. We drove our way to the only nearby clinic that is open. The doctor examined my throat, told me I have pharyngitis, prescribed antibiotics and ibuprofen and sent me home. I rested and skipped work the following day.

I was hopeful that maybe after finishing the course of my medications, I will finally get better. I was wrong. My condition did not improve so I went to see another doctor. With the same diagnosis, he sent me home and gave me paracetamol. The sore throat persisted. I have learned how to manage it and was able to go to work.

At work, I used to check the news about the pandemic every morning and would report it to my colleagues. So the citizens were already repatriated and now in quarantine. Days later, they started confirming cases. 3 cases will be 6 after a few days. 6 will suddenly become 8. And now, there are thousands of confirmed cases. In a country this small, having thousands of confirmed cases can be quite frightening. It was then when I started having anxiety. My panic attacks are like a thief in the night.

At the same time, stress from work became intolerable. The number of positive cases are going up everyday. The work continues. There were no restrictions. I interact with different people on a daily basis. For someone who is not feeling well and anxious, the thought of going to work everyday was excruciating. I have been absent from work for a week. My boss said I have to come to work even if I’m dying. That pushed me to resign. It didn’t help with my anxiety at all. I was obliged to come to work to finish my notice period. Every time I come home from work, my anxiety level was high. My heart was palpitating.

My sore throat persisted. I went to another doctor and then to another one. They all gave me the same diagnosis and the same medicines. Another doctor thought I have acid reflux so I took a lot of medications for acid reflux. I have tried different gargles and home remedies but nothing seemed to work. I started having body pains and chills from time to time. One time my sore throat got really intense and I went back to my doctor. “Why are you so afraid of corona? I think your anxiety is causing you this.” I felt judged and offended. I was not joking. I do have a sore throat.  I told myself that I would go to a different doctor and will seek for another and final opinion.

I have seen 4 different doctors already and went to 3 different hospitals. It’s crazy. I asked recommendations from friends for a good ENT Doctor. Many sent me messages. (Thank you, guys!)

One of my friends works as a nurse and asked me to try their ENT doctor. She immediately booked me an appointment.

My tolerance for pain is really low. I can’t handle injections or blood tests. So when the doctor conducted an endoscopy from my nose to my throat, I almost fainted. He told me I have an inflamed lymph nodes. He ordered a blood test and a neck ultrasound. We went back the next day for all the procedures. The neck ultrasound turned out fine except for the inflamed lymph nodes which can go away on its own. But, my white blood cells (WBC) was high which means that there is an infection.

The doctor gave me antibiotics. He ordered me to get intravenous antibiotics for 3 days. Those days were excruciating. We had to go back to the clinic everyday so I could get an IV antibiotic since it works faster than oral ones. I felt better but on the third day, the doctor examined my throat once more. He said “You feel better but your throat is still congested. Usually, patients who receive IV antibiotics get better after the second dose.” He extended my medications. He ordered oral antibiotics and told me to take it for 5 more days. So I did. I did not get better. So I went back to see my ENT doctor. He did the usual examination and ordered 4 more oral antibiotics and told me that it would get better after that. When I finished my medications, I went for a final check up. Another endoscopy. It is a lot more painful than the first time I had it. I nearly choked. The doctor told me that all is well. I will start getting better in no time. My husband and I happily exited the hospital and wished to never have to come back to that place again.

Later that night, I started feeling a severe pain in my throat and I started feeling unwell. I thought maybe I can sleep it off. I was awaken by body pains and chills around 2 in the morning which was hard to ignore. I took paracetamol and hoped to get better. I usually feel better during the day and would feel body pains at night. I tried to self medicate for a few days. Until one time, I suddenly felt so weak. My legs felt sore. It continued until the next day. I tried to fight it out. But it only got worse.

My husband and I have exhausted all medical help. I have seen 6 different doctors in 4 different hospitals. Nobody can diagnose me. I can feel how stressed out my husband was. With the current pandemic, it is stressful to go back and forth to hospitals. We have spent a lot of money with consultations, tests, and medications. (Thank God for insurance!). But, among all of these, we have exhausted all our mental and emotional capacity. The fear of the unknown is just too much. My husband seeing me suffer is just too much for him. I knew he felt helpless. We fought about it sometimes. It was really stressful. I can’t even put it into words. For a couple who just got married, I believe we don’t deserve to be stressed out that way at this stage of our marriage. I am grateful for my husband. I am grateful for his love and care. (I might put that in a separate post.) I am grateful that God did not let him get sick knowing how weak his immune system is. I was in so much pain but I was grateful.

Knowing how stressed out my husband was, I was hesitant to tell him to take me to the doctor for the last time. I just need another opinion. So, we decided to see a doctor of internal medicine. He willingly brought me to see my 7th doctor.

The doctor studied my history. He looked at me with a scared look on his face and told me to call the Ministry of Health to ask if I could be tested for Covid19. It has been my greatest fear. The doctor looked so sure of his diagnosis. I felt numb. I felt scared. I felt somehow angry.

He ordered me to get another blood test to see if my WBC is still high. He ordered an Xray to check if there is any sign of pneumonia. He swabbed my throat to check for bacteria. He told me if my WBC remains high it means I still have infection and it is not bacterial because I finished my course of antibiotics and no effect. If the throat swabbed came back negative for bacteria, it only means that my infection is not bacterial, it is viral. Meaning the cause of my infection is a virus. And, the most important test of all, the Xray. It can either make or break me.  Then he sent me home. He reminded me again to call the Ministry of Health and to ask for a test. They would just call me if my test results are out.

I wanted to get over with it so I called them. I told them about my symptoms and my history. The ministry representative was so polite and very comforting. She told me that since I never had a fever, I am not qualified to have the test. However, I should wait for my Xray because it can determine whether I can go for a test or not. Before cutting the call, she reminded me to make sure I wear my mask all the time, to sanitize any surfaces that I touched, and to isolate myself until my Xray result is out. I started to develop an extreme fear. I fear for my husband more than myself. What if I am really infected? What if I infect him? He is asthmatic. I cannot bear the thought.

The waiting time was a complete torture. I cannot wait for another day to get my results. My anxiety level spiked up. I cannot calm myself. I started having chest pains. It felt there’s a big rock on my heart. I felt paralyzed. I cannot move. I was frozen with fear. I didn’t know how I will be able to sleep that night. Fear was all over my body. I wanted to scream and cry but I can’t feed my emotions or else I would totally breakdown.

A video call from my best friend saved me that night. She stayed with me on the phone for hours. We talked about random stuff. We talked about my fears. What’s causing my anxiety? How could I change my perspective?

“Tomorrow will be my judgment day.” I told her.

She told me “It’s not like you’re gonna die tomorrow. Why don’t you look at it in a different way? Instead of thinking about it as a problem, why don’t you just think of it as a solution to your problem? Because tomorrow you can get a diagnosis, and when you get the right diagnosis, you can get a proper treatment and eventually you will get better. If it is Covid, yes it is scary, but your symptoms are mild. I am sure your body can fight it.”

She made sense.  She always does. I felt better.

We said our goodnights and I took one capsule of melatonin to aid me to sleep.

Wrong decision. It didn’t help me sleep. Worse, it caused me severe abdominal pain.

We went back to the hospital. I complained about my abdominal pain. My doctor associated it again with Covid. I was almost convinced that I have Covid. It fed my anxiety even more.

So my test results came out.

My swab test came back negative with bacteria.

My WBC was higher than before.

All of these are red flags for the doctor to consider me as a Covid positive patient.

The Xray was clear for pneumonia. It was a relief.

But still, the doctor can’t rule out Covid. He was as frustrated as I was because we don’t understand why my WBC was still high despite taking 3 different antibiotics. He ordered more tests. I told him that the ministry representative made it clear to me that they will never test me if my Xray came out clear. But, my doctor insisted that there’s still a possibility for Covid. He mentioned how he once had a patient whose Xray came out clear but still turned out to be positive. He suggested I take a CT Scan for my lungs, abdominal ultrasound, blood smear, and Urine Analysis. They said the CT Scan is clearer than Xray. They have discovered Covid patients by doing a CT Scan.

My husband and I were fed up with the idea of Covid that our doctor kept on insisting so we spoke up. We told him that maybe there’s a different disease that we can’t diagnose because we are stuck with the idea of Covid.

“Doctor, I started having sore throat on March 1, that was 2 months ago. I never had a fever. And I have interacted with a lot of people during those times. If I am infected, I would’ve infected a lot of people already. They’re all fine. My husband is asthmatic, if there is someone that I would infect first, it would be him. He’s still fine. And you can’t tell me to let the ministry test me because no matter what I do, they won’t. You kept on saying that I have Covid. You have no idea how much anxiety it is causing me. It’s too much.” I was about to cry but I was able to stop it.

There was silence.

I think the doctor was in shock and he may be contemplating what we just said.

The doctor asked about my medical history, it was then that I remembered that I had my blood tested September last year. Thank Goodness for the modern technology. I can access my previous results online. I opened my profile. It turned out that my WBC was the same level as it was last year. Apparently, this might be my normal range.  My WBC is naturally high.

“Why didn’t you tell me about it? We kept on trying to find out what’s wrong. I kept on talking about Covid because it is really strange that your WBC is still high despite the antibiotics.”

We were all relieved. But we still decided to go for the further testing. I complained about my anxiety and how I cannot sleep. He gave me antihistamine to help me sleep.

On that same day, I had an abdominal ultrasound, CT Scan of the chest, blood smear, and urine analysis. It was exhausting. We were in the hospital for nearly 8 hours. We haven’t eaten yet. We were emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially exhausted.

The next day, I received a call from the doctor. I knew it from the start that my CT scan would come out clear.

“Your CT Scan was okay. So, no Covid.” We both laughed.

“We found small stones in your kidney, bacteria in your urine, Vitamin D deficiency, and a possible cyst in your ovary.”

The doctor finally ruled out Covid, but the anxiety it caused me needs time before it goes away.

He suggested for me to see other specialists but I chose not to. I don’t want to go back to the hospital again and expose my husband and I. So I just booked a phone consultation with the government hospital.

I had to tell my medical history again and again. After hearing my history, the doctor told me not to worry. Most of the results are incidental findings. The more we do tests, the more we would find that something is wrong. She told me that maybe my anxiety is causing all my symptoms. That if I learn how to manage it, I will start to feel better. He advised me to maintain a healthy lifestyle, get some Vit D from the sun, eat healthy, sleep well, unfollow news about Covid or any triggers, surround myself with positive people, do fun things, plan my day ahead, create a routine and stick to it.

It is really a conscious effort. I knew I had to take some action.

I started unfollowing any Covid related pages and updates. I try to drink as much water as I can. I make sure to have a 30min walk under the sun in front of our building. I reconnect with friends. I started cooking and baking again. I always try my best to keep myself busy. I started to feel stronger physically. There are still some weird physical discomfort at times but I don’t let it bother me as much as I used to before. Slowly, I have gained my physical strength back.

It is not an instant process. I don’t want to force myself to be better so I am taking it slow.

During the time that I was sick, I used to get jealous of people who are in good shape during the quarantine. I used to wish that I, too, can do the things they do. I used to wish that I wasn’t stuck in bed all day. I stopped wishing and I started doing. I helped myself. I accept help from people who care. Even the doctor who thought I had Covid became a friend who calls me everyday to ask about my day and if I am doing okay. I started thinking of my husband’s wellness. And I know he is well if I am well. So instead of doing it for myself, I do it for us.

My previous health battle was truly a test of marriage, a test of character, and a test of faith. I remember praying: “Lord,  we have exhausted all possible medical treatments but nothing seemed to work. I know You are my healer and I trust that this is just a test and you will soon heal me.” I have learned how to surrender fully. I remember the times I held on the cross just so I can sleep. I remember crying out to the Lord to make me feel better. I remember praying over my husband while he sleeps just so he can remain strong and healthy as we both face my situation together. I remember waking up early just so I can pray in front of our altar. I remember questioning God and asking Him what He wants me to take away from this experience. I remember begging Him for strength to endure the pain.  I remember praying over each part of my body that is in pain. I remember staring blankly into our altar trusting that God knows what I want to say when I cannot find the right words.

Being sick for so long and dealing with the fear of the unknown really made a huge impact into my being. I still cry inside whenever I remember. But I cry  even more whenever I remember the love that I receive from family and friends.

There have been a lot of times that I felt weakness in my knees. I used to just stay in bed whenever it happens. But then, I realized that the only thing that I should do when I feel weak in the knees is to kneel down and pray.

Let’s trust that God is healing us. He is healing the world.

                 

 

Wedding Reception Venue Booked: Traveler’s Hotel and Event Center Subic

The major expense of all our wedding expeses is the Reception Venue.

This is something that we honestly weren’t able to consider when we booked the church.

Subic in the world of weddings only means one thing: Expensive. It is somehow considered a destination wedding since it will be held in a famous tourist place. Though there are lots of hotels in the area, it was still hard for us to find a venue with a reasonable price.

Here’s our criteria in finding the perfect reception venue:

  1. It has to be big enough to accommodate our guests.
  2. It has to be near the church.
  3. The food should be satisfying in all aspect or we should be allowed to bring our own caterer.
  4. It has to be a classy high ceiling and carpeted function room.
  5. And, the inclusions should meet most of our needs.

So again, being an OFW couple, we will not be able to conduct ocular visits right away. So, family’s suggestion and Google helped us a lot.

My brother suggested Traveler’s Hotel as it is known for its high ceiling and good food. So, I immediately put that on the list and googled it.

After googling for sometime, I already completed my list.

  1. Traveler’s Hotel
  2. Segara Villas
  3. Lighthouse Marina Resort
  4. Vista Marina Hotel and Resort
  5. Subic Bay Yacht Club
  6. White Rock Beach Resort
  7. Mansion Garden Hotel

I sent an inquiry to all of them but only 4 responded.

  1. Traveler’s Hotel and Event Center – Since this is our top choice, we were very enthusiastic to receive their response but the energy slowly died down after seeing their rate. haha! Their initial offer was 390,000 Php for 200 pax. Their inclusions are very good though.
    – Complimentary use of 1 Function Room
    – Two nights stay in 1 Executive Room
    – Delectable Managed Buffet Menu
    – Bottomless Iced Tea
    – Welcome Drinks with Hors d’oeuvres
    – One crispy lechon
    – Bridal Shower Party
    – Fondant Wedding cake with cupcakes
    – Champagne for the Bridal Toast
    – Doves for ceremony
    – Luxurious Bridal Car (Lomousine)
    – Personalized Guest Book with Pen
    – Photo Booth for 3 hours
    – Backdrop with Floral Arrangement
    – Centerpiece for Tables and Buffet Table
    – Food tasting for chosen menu
    – Lights and sounds with LCD Projector
    – Wedding Party Host
    – Welcome Streamer at the Hotel entrance
    – 50% discount on Room accommodation for guestsBut still, it’s still way beyond our budget. 🙁
  2. Segara Villas – Their rate was 299,800 Php for 200 pax. Their inclusions are almost the same as Traveler’s except that theirs include a massage for two the day after the wedding, and a complimentary room for the groom. However, they only offer a 20% discount for the guests’ room. Technically, their offer is a lot cheaper and has extra perks. We can also do our pre-nuptial photoshoot in their establishment for free.
  3. Lighthouse Marina Resort – Their rate is way way way more expensive. It starts from 437,800 Php to 520,350 Php for 150 guests. So, this is obviously off the list since it doesn’t meet our requirements and they only offer an outdoor reception.
  4. Mansion Garden Hotel – They offered us 280,000 Php for 200 pax. However, their offer has a lot of restrictions. Rooms are not sound proof so loud music or live bands can only play until 9:00 PM. You cannot use a smoke machine. You cannot bring any extra dish even if you pay a corkage fee. And there is an additional fee for almost everything; LED Wall will be charged for 5,000 Php. Red Carpet will be charged for 2,000 Php. Photobooth for an extra charge of 500 Php. I believe we will spend more in paying these extra charges so this is definitely a no-no. Also, decorations are not provided by the hotel and They have an additional 5% service charge.

After all the search, we are only left with two options; Traveler’s Hotel and Segara Villas. I immediately asked my family to visit the places and get back to me. I am so thankful that my family are always ready to help us out.

After visiting, they made their vote. Though both facilities has their own advantages, they still voted for Traveler’s because it has more class. We tried to make their offer a little bit more friendly by negotiating and by excluding some of the package inclusions. We were able to get a 40,000 Php discount. The new offer was 350,000 Php. We think it’s still pricey so I just decided to wait until I go home so I can personally negotiate and visit the hotel. We haven’t heard from the agent since we last inquired so there is no clear deal.

I went home last January 2019. I rested for two days then drove to Subic to scout for the perfect venue. Though I am only torn between Traveler’s Hotel and Segara Villas, I still decided to visit different hotels.

My grandmother insisted that we visit ACEA Waterpark. She said she has been there and it’s a beautiful place for a wedding since it is near the beach. It’s a 20 minute drive from the church. When we got there, sure we were amazed because it has a good view and a good hall. But, there’s no available marketing staff to deal with our queries. Considering the hassle that our guests will go through just to get to the hotel from the church, we just crossed it out.

Then, we immediately went to Segara Villas. We were greeted by friendly staff and welcome drinks. We had a sit down meeting with Ms. Joy. After discussing all the requirements, she toured us around the area. Segara Villas is inspired by the Indonesian Culture. I see a lot of Bali inspired decorations. Their Villas are also Bali inspired. It’s beautiful and picturesque. Their suite is perfect for honeymooners. It is so private and it has a nice bath tub. I love it. Then, we checked out their function room. Their function hall is a deal breaker. It is a large open space with a lot of unnecessary pillars in the middle. It is not carpeted and it lacks class. The main entrance of the hall is on the side. This really made me sad because I badly wanted to stay in one of their villas. Ms. Joy promised to send their proposal but she didn’t. I didn’t bother following up because I didn’t like their function hall.

We passed by the Best Western Hotel so we just decided to give it a look. Their function hall would have been good if it is bigger. It can only accommodate 100 guests, 150 max but it would be too jampacked. Their function hall is adjacent to a resto-bar and they proposed to open up the bar for our extra guests. But, we don’t want that set up.

Obviously, we are only left with Traveler’s Hotel. On the way there, I was just praying that we get a good deal because that’s our only option. When we got to the hotel, we requested for a new marketing officer to deal with since the first one is very unresponsive. They gave us Ms. Joan who is very accommodating and soft spoken. We also found out that we are from the same place; Bataan. She toured us around the hotel. First, she showed us the way to the function hall. The guests can take a grand staircase going to the function hall on the second floor. She suggested to decorate that area to put a nice entry way. We can also put cocktail tables so the guests can have something to eat while waiting for the program to start. For convenience, guests can also use the elevator. She helped us picture out the possible set up of the reception. There’s an alloted photobooth space at the lobby. Then before entering the hall, there’s an aisle where we can put a tunnel entrance. When we got inside the function hall, I was surprised because it looks bigger than in pictures.

She presented us the new package. It was still too pricey at first but when we excluded the styling, flower arrangement, and the lechon; she gave us a final quotation that somehow suits our budget for 200 guests. A 50% downpayment is needed upon contract signing but Ms. Joan is generous enough to help us out. She agreed that we can pay the 50% on a monthly basis and other half to be paid days prior to the event. This is a good deal for us. We wouldn’t have to stress ourselves in paying the half all at once.

After our ocular visit, I immediately discussed it with the fiance so we can make a decision. It wasn’t a hard decision since the answer is very obvious. Days after, I found myself together with my family and the fiance’s family in the hotel to pay for the 20,000 reservation fee. We finally closed the deal and we couldn’t be happier to see our plans becoming a reality. Ms. Joan toured us again and gave us tips on how to style the venue; where to place the photobooth, the buffet table, etc. Planning is so much more exciting now that we can picture out the church and venue. I must say that on my recent visit to the venue, I had that “this is it” feeling. I can imagine how beautiful our wedding party would be. The place where our family and friends will unite for our union. I am just so excited to see the people we both love together in one room.

We just really thank God for leading us to the right place and people. Everything is going smoothly so far. We are just months away from our big day. <3

XOXO: A Confession

We all have stories we won’t ever tell.

But, have you ever imagine how liberating it would be once we let that story out into the open?

It was February 26, 2009. A year after my college graduation. I had to miss my nephew’s first birthday. It was my flight to Doha, Qatar. I left my beloved Philippines and put all my hopes in the bag. Hope for the brighter future.

I boarded the plane. My flight was luckily upgraded to business class. It was a comfortable and fancy journey. A good start for my brand new start. It was like an affirmation of what awaits me.

After nine hours, I finally reached my destination. I was greeted by my brother at the airport. The weather was amazing. It was winter. There were flowers everywhere. We headed to a famous shopping mall. I bought the essentials; toiletries, food, etc. After dinner, we went to this Venice, Italy – like spot. We rode the gondola. It was fun.

We headed home just in time for sleeping. Reality sets in. My brother’s place was like a slum. Tenants had to share the toilet and kitchen outside the compound. We lived on the second floor. So we had to go out of our house if we want to cook or use the toilet. It is cold during winter. Taking a shower is a challenge. It is still clear to me when I washed my clothes for the very first time. Our family is not rich but I don’t do my laundry. The washing machine in our compound is not automatic. I had to manually rinse and dry my clothes. I was crying while doing my laundry. But, I told myself to get used to it because I would have to deal with it for quite a while until we transfer into a more decent house. Right there and then I knew my journey won’t be easy and I was not even close to the end.

I came to Qatar on a tourist visa that is valid for a month. I had a hard time finding a job since I had no working experience. All I wanted that time was to work in an office and decorate my little cubicle just like what I see in movies. I sent my CV to every possible company, I ask referals from people. A week before my visa expires, I received an offer letter from a luxury department store. I was offered a sales job. It means I would have to let go of my goal to work in an office and do paper works; I will fold and arrange clothes instead. It was a make or break decision. Decline the offer and go home or accept the offer and stay. I have always wanted to give back to my family. But, I can’t swallow my pride. I may not be the best one in school but I did great during my school years. I studied in a good school. People believed in me. I believed in myself. My hopes were high.

I sighed. I cried. I prayed. I signed the job offer.

April 4, 2009. I removed my shoes. The pain was unbearable. I can’t even feel my legs. It was a gruesome first day of work. I never wanted to come back. A year later, I was still standing on the same spot, greeting customers, assisting them while trying on shoes and clothes. It went on for another year. I swallowed the last bit of pride, it took all my self-esteem. But, not my tiny bit of hope. Two years later, I decided to pursue my goal again. I tried to enter the corporate world. Luckily, I got a job offer. I immediately resigned from my job in sales. To my dismay, I was scammed. The offer isn’t legit. The company just closed. I had no idea why did they have to offer me a job if they knew that they are closing. Oh well. I was crushed. I watched my dreams die right before my very eyes. With nowhere to go. I just cried out loud. I was jobless for 2 months then I was told that if I will not find a new employer, my visa will be cancelled and I would have to go home. I had nothing. I wasn’t even done paying my loan from the bank. I didn’t know what to do. I only knew one thing; I can’t go home. I prayed for wisdom, for opportunities, for help. Then I got a call, the department store manager gave me an option. They will not cancel my visa if I will decide to work for them again. I tried my best to escaped that work and now I am being asked to come back. Maybe that is where I was really supposed to be. Maybe I should forget about my goals and just accept my fate. So I did. Same story. Same hardships. It turned all my self esteem into dust. I continued working without any goal but just to support my family and survive. I can’t even count how many shoes I have removed from people’s feet or how many hours I spent standing even if my knees were trembling and my feet were in pain. I lost count of the times when I had to hide in the fitting room, talk to myself in the mirror just to remind her that there is more to life only if I will give it a try.

By God’s grace, I was able to continue working there for two more years. Those years were hard. I was too proud to admit to my friends the kind of work that I do. Whenever I go on vacation in the Philippines, I would tell them that I work in the sales and marketing department. Only few knew my real work. I had to hide the truth from many people because I just can’t tell them. I was too scared to be judged, to be looked down, to be compared, to receive pity. I remember some of my friends in Doha would often invite me to go out during weekends but I always say no. I would tell them I had prior commitments or I was busy but the truth was I work on Fridays. I only get a day off in the middle of the week because the store is usually busy during the weekend. I often get invited to church activities and I couldn’t go even if I wanted to. I would make up excuses. I kept that as a secret for years. I lived with a fear in my heart that soon they will find out.

It was year 2013 when I had courage to try again. A friend referred me to a contracting company. I applied as an admin assistant and I got in. I permanently left my sales job. I will never forget the things it taught me. It was truly a humbling experience. It humbled me so much. But at the same time, it destroyed me. I was scarred. It left me strong but broken. I started having inferiority complex. I was overwhelmed with insecurities, self-pity, and self doubt. I always think that I deserve less so I always sell myself short. I never ask for more thinking that I deserve less. It still affects me up to this time. I know I have to set myself free.

Yes,  my experience didn’t turn out the way I pictured it to be when I left for Doha. I have never met a strong person with an easy past. I lost a part of myself in the process. But, I gained so much more. I learned to be strong when it was my only option. I learned to survive when there is nothing left to do. I learned that the effect the past has on me isn’t something that I want to carry to my future; even to my present. I want to let go of it. I want to empty myself so I can be filled again with so much greater things.

I have a habit of comparing myself to others. It is tiring. I don’t want it anymore. It’s tiring to please the world. It’s tiring to live a life of proving yourself to the world. It’s tiring to want less than what you deserve because you set limits to what you can achieve. It’s tiring to be trapped in a shell when you are meant to experience the world.

We all have stories we won’t ever tell but sometimes, sharing it no matter how ashamed or afraid you are can result to a beautiful thing called freedom.

Today, I am free. I am loved in spite and despite.

What’s your story?

XOXO,

South Korea 2017: Seoul Searching Day Two

Annyeong!

So here’s our Korean Adventure Day Two. I must say our second day is the most tiring but it is also the richest in culture.

We started our day with the usual free breakfast from our hotel. We had cereals, fried egg and toasted bread. We can only hope that it will sustain our energy until half of the day. With our black boots on, we headed out to the streets of the shopping district – Myeongdong!

         

Myeongdong was full of shoppers and tourists when we arrived. So that morning, we took a little time to explore it before we headed to our first tourist destination. It’s nice to see the streets clear with people. A perfect time to take blog worthy photos.

   

On our way to the Gyeongbokgung Palace, we saw a group of people wearing Korea’s traditional dress, Hanbok. We were so fascinated that we even followed them anywhere just to take stolen photos of them. We were clueless that by the time we enter into the palace, there will be hundreds of people who are wearing the same. We can even rent our own Hanbok and wear it ourselves. There are plenty of Hanbok Rental stores to choose from. We entered one near the palace so that we will not have a hard time returning it. You can rent the Hanbok and wear it anywhere you want for 6 hours. We chose not to go far from the shop so we will not have to come back again to return it. We just need a few pictures wearing them. But, you can never have enough photos wearing their traditional dress.

There are a lot of designs and sizes to choose from. Mix and matching took us a while before we finally settled. I chose a blue one and my friend, Jillian, chose a pink one for herself. We could pass as a Korean for a day. Prior to this trip, we already planned our photoshoot.  Here are some shots.

There was this one shot that we tried our best to achieve but failed miserably because, first, no one will take our photo. We had to ask other people to take our photo. As expected, they cannot get it right and it would be too much to ask them to take our photo again and again. Second, there are just so many tourists at that time. There are photobombers everywhere. So we just settled for this…

Next time, it would be nice to travel in group so taking a perfect photo won’t be a problem. Just like this group of friends…

When we’ve had enough taking photos of ourselves wearing Hanbok. We just stood by and waited for the changing of guards. It’s nice to witness such activity in the palace.

Half of the day is almost over. We had a mini break in a park inside the Palace – my favorite place. We did some people watching while eating dewberry cookies which Jillian brought from the Philippines to save us from hunger in the middle of sightseeing. I could stay here all day. I just love how quiet and peaceful it is there.

                                                                                 

The colorful and intricate details of the Palace’s ceiling.

Once we had enough of the palace, we just took few more photos and then we headed to our next destination. The Bukchon Hanok Village. We had a hard time locating the village. We were already exhausted and very hungry. We didn’t even have the energy to explore the place. We just took some photos and we went to find a place to eat. Our feet brought us to the nearest restaurant. We had some kimbap and chicken for lunch.

Here are some of the photos that we managed to take in the village before we lost the hunger game.

                                                                                                  

On our way to our next destination, we grabbed a Koreak bread that tasted really good. I just don’t know what it’s called. One thing is for sure, it’s perfect for the cold weather and it is yummy. We wished we bought more. Here’s Jill modeling the bread.

Our last stop for our second day, the Cheonggyecheon Stream. We originally planned to visit it on our fourth day but since it’s near the Gwanghwamun Square where we went to search for the outdoor ice skating rink which turned out to be a big parking lot and since it’s not snowing at that time, no ice skating rink was found; so we just decided to walk going to the Cheonggyecheon Stream.

Cheonggyecheon Stream is a 10.9-kilometre-long, modern public recreation space in downtown Seoul, South Korea. (c) wikepedia

It is open for 24 hours for those who wanted to relax while listening to the sound of flowing waters. It was filled with people but thank goodness we found a good spot. It’s just so good to sit down, talk, and relax there after a very tiring day.

 

  

It’s time to go back to our hotel and have a restful sleep. As usual, we grabbed a snack on our way back to the hotel. We grabbed a Korean Carp Bread with red bean inside. As expected, it was good.

And for our finale, of course, just like the usual, the streets of Myeongdong! We had Myeongdong’s street food for dinner! hahaha! Myeongdong is totally different at night. It’s so lively and packed with people and colorful lights.

That concludes the second day of our Korean adventure. I can’t wait to tell you about our experience in Nami Island and Petite France on our third day.

I hope you enjoyed reading and will visit my blog again. Have a blessed day! <3

Lonely Nights

I have experienced a lot of lonely nights in my life. Every lonely night hurts but to a different extent. It is not new to me anymore. I have always thought that I am wired for it.

It was Good Friday. The day Jesus Christ died for our salvation. I went to church for the stations and veneration of the cross. The experience was overwhelming. It is good to be reminded of Christ’s passion just to save us and to show His love for us.

I was seated with a woman who had her hair covered with a scarf, with pale skin, and dark circles around her eyes. It seemed to me that she is a cancer patient. The veneration of the cross was a series of standing up and kneeling down. In the middle of it, she got tired and her deep sighs told me she was in pain. I heard the lady beside her told her to just sit down or just stand up so she will not get tired of moving. That’s what she did. After the communion, as we were silently praying. I can hear her cry silently. She might probably be praying for healing. My heart grew heavy. I can feel her pain and helplessness. “Lord, I am offering prayers for the woman beside me. Please grant her healing, Oh Lord.” I mentioned in my prayer. Oh, the joy of praying for others.

We all have a different cross to carry this season of Lent. It’s just up to us whether we look at it as a burden or to carry them joyfully.

I had another lonely night last night. I was scrubbing the bathroom floor while crying. There was a deafening silence in the room. This might sound too dramatic but I felt like I was abandoned by everyone. I can feel the physical pain in my heart. It was too painful; I had to rub it gently so it would calm down. I tried to divert that pain into tiredness. After doing all the cleaning, I went to the bathroom to freshen up. I stared at myself in the mirror. I looked like a mess. I cried for a few minutes. Washed my face and went back to my room to rest. I was home alone. It was too lonely, I was deafened by the complete silence. It was too quiet I can hear my thoughts.

I consoled myself. I fried an egg for dinner. I usually fall on self pity in times like that but that night I couldn’t be more thankful that I have that sunny side up on my plate. “I feel lonely.” I told my egg. The egg made no response. I just decided to eat it. I may be lonely but atleast I am not hungry.

I switched the lights off my room. I originally planned to reflect for the night but my thoughts are too loud. So I just held on my wooden cross instead. Like I always do whenever I feel down. Hugged it so tight until I fell asleep. I woke up in the middle of the night with a heavy heart. The kind wherein you can’t pinpoint which part is hurting. All you know is that a part of it is broken. Shedded a few tears. I wish I can say that it’s just because of the bed bugs’ bite but it wasn’t. It was something else. Something deeper.

I stared into darkness. Evaluated my life. I started to miss home. I just want a hug from my mother. But, no one’s left to hug. I hugged my pillow instead and tried to fall back to sleep. Unsuccessful. But, I am thankful. It gave me the chance to finally reflect. The silence is not deafening anymore; it’s actually comforting. The night is too quiet. I feel like the only person awake and I feel like I have God all to myself. I cried out to God. And though Jesus Christ is dead during that time, I was still able to feel His love. Because hey, He died for my sins.

They say the most beautiful of loves requires the heaviest of sacrifices.

Some has to carry a cross of sickness, just like the woman I sat beside with in church, some has financial difficulties, some has broken relationships, some has problems at work, some has inner struggles they never talk about. The lonely nights are the cross that I have to carry during this season of lent. I have had a lot of it. I was tempted to put my cross down but God’s love sustained me.

We all have to go through our own passion. We all have to die to ourselves just to let others live. We all have to stay in the wilderness (for me, the lonely nights is my own kind of wilderness) so we can experience the joy that comes in the morning. God’s love will pull us through.

I can’t wait for my own Easter.

Thank you, Lord, for the loneliest of nights. It is such a privilege to be hugged by You. I love you. <3

The Comeback

“Thank you for flying with Qatar Airways. Local Time is 11:20 in the evening…”

The pilot said his final announcement in a very monotonous voice. No sign of excitement for making it alive after a nine hours direct flight from the Philippines to Qatar. This best describes my feelings at that very moment. My cousin who traveled with me brought my carry on luggage down and I dragged it out of the plane.

Arrivals  —   Transfers

<———             ———->

That sign welcomed us at the airport. It means my cousin and I had to part ways. My final destination is Doha while my cousin still have to wait for his flight bound to Oman. We stood under the sign and said our goodbyes then we turned our backs and went our separate ways. That’s it. The last person who makes me feel closer to home was out of my sight. Reality set in. I had to walk out of the airport alone. I am really back. Qatar and I have this love-hate relationship ever since. It has cradled me for the past nine years but it broke my heart countless times. But, I am here and I am back whether I like it or not. I stopped by a rest room to put on a red lipstick. I feel stronger when my lips are red. It hides whatever anxiety I am dealing with. The airport corridors were clear with people. My co-passengers are probably waiting for their luggages while I am walking alone on my way to the immigration. I appreciate that tiny moment of solitude. It helped me sink in the fact that I have to spend another year before I get to go home to my family again. I was staring blankly while walking until I reached the conveyor no. 3. I watched the luggages and boxes go round and round. I have been staring at the conveyor for a very long time and I didn’t get a sight of my boxes yet. I waited a little longer before I approached an airport officer to ask if the check-in baggages for flight QR 931 is in conveyor no. 3. Then he said, it’s in conveyor no. 8. I laughed at myself and started walking towards the right conveyor. My boxes were there enjoying their time circling around. I was the last one to get my baggages. I felt like I own the place. I took them out of the conveyor. I saw what my cousin wrote on my box before I left home. She wrote: #YourMomNeedsYou. Right there and then, I was reminded of my purpose. I am so ready to work harder and endure lonely days and nights again.

Okay, so I can no longer prolong my time. I pushed my cart out of the airport. In a big crowd, my eyes went looking for a familiar face. There he was, with shining eyes and a bouquet of flowers in his hand, greeted me with a big smile and wrapped me around his arms; the most comforting embrace. I told myself, “I am home.”. Being back doesn’t feel that bad anymore. The end of missing someone. And I am so proud on how we managed to endure two months of being away from each other. Thank You, Lord, for the grace.

The Bouquet

A bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken was waiting for me when we got home. This made my comeback even more real. Haha!  I came home to a messy (this is an understatement) house. I didn’t even know where I can sleep. I couldn’t stand seeing the house like that. It’s not very comforting especially when you are so tired. I put on new sheets and rested on the bed. I was so tired but I couldn’t get myself to sleep even though I was wide awake for the entire 9 hour flight. I got up and tried to declutter the house a bit. I tried to unpack some of my stuff. It was already six in the morning when I felt the need to go back to bed. I think I was able to sleep for two hours before I woke up chilling. I felt cold. Yes, I was right. I woke up with a high fever. Maybe I was just tired but I was sick for three days. Thank you for a very sweet welcome, Doha!

Well, being sick extended my vacation for three days. I never got the chance to enjoy it though because I was in bed feeling cold and sickly. I couldn’t even eat properly and catch up with people. After three days, I resumed to work. It’s not my favorite thing in the world. But, it is something that I will have to eventually face no matter how long I prolong it.

I have been here for two weeks now. I couldn’t believe it. A lot has happened over the past two weeks. I am back to dealing with lots of issues and anxieties. I have to face the same struggles at work. I have to keep moving forward no matter how much I miss home. I have to overcome challenges and inner battles. Did I mention that I have made Sesame Street’s “Elmo’s Song” viral in the office? I told them that that’s our happy song and when things get a little harder to bear in the office, just sing it and they will be happy. I can only hope that it’s effective because for me it is. (La la la la, Elmo’s world! La la  la la, Elmo’s world!). I have also tried singing that while stuck in traffic with windows down just in case someone on the road is having a bad day. I just love being a wounded healer.

My Life Verse on my desk

Until I came across the THE POWER OF NOW in the internet. It says, in our current situation, if we can do something about it, we have to do it now; if we can’t do anything about it, we have to let it go. I am still trying to figure out what to do. Sometimes life is just so confusing. I am still trying to sense where God is leading me. For now, I will just rest on God’s promise of a future full of hope. If I survived two weeks, I think I can survive more.

Will you pray the serenity prayer with me?

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.

In Christ,

 

Courage, Dear Heart

Dear heart

I know you have always wanted to do it. It’s about time that you brave life and do what you have been praying for.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Dear heart

I know you have been holding on for so long. It’s about time you let go.

It might hurt but things will start to feel better eventually.

Dear heart

I know you are tired. You have all the right to feel that way.

You deserve a break. Go take it.

Dear heart

I know you are scared. Who is not anyway?

But sometimes, you have to do it afraid.

Dear heart

I know you are broken. I understand. You have been through a lot. I don’t even know where you got all those strength from.

It’s okay. Don’t you know that broken crayons still color. Broken hearts still beat. God gave you life and He will sustain you wherever you go.

Dear heart

I know you still want to try. I think that’s brave.

But, is that you’ll ever do? Just try?

Dear heart

I know you’re not doing this for yourself. Oh yes, that is selfless.

But, isn’t it time to put your dreams first? Stop putting them on the back burner.

Dear heart

I know you can still hang on. But, it doesn’t mean you have to.

Stop making yourself believe that you can do it. Because it’s okay to admit that you can’t.

Dear heart

It is okay to quit. That’s the only way to be free.

Do not lose yourself in the process of chasing dreams that aren’t even for you.

Dear heart

Let your dreams die so you can start dreaming again.

Life failed you a lot of times. You failed at life a lot of times. But, it only made you better and stronger. And now that you are stronger, you can conquer more of the world. You can dream bigger dreams. You can aspire greater heights. You can jump into the unknown. You can jump higher. You can jump. Believe me, you can. Do not be afraid. Do not hold back. Just go for it. How many times did you promise that to yourself? Isn’t it time to give yourself what it deserves?

Trust God more. He knows what He is doing. You passed His test of resilience. It’s okay to tell Him that you cannot do it anymore. He will understand. He always does. He is a God who has big dreams for you. Do not confine yourself in the tiny little world that you are in. There is more to life. See it. Experience it. God knows you deserve better — the best even. Don’t chase dreams. Chase God who has dreams for you.

All this time, God is fighting battles with and for you. Isn’t it enough assurance that He will fight for you whichever path you choose?

Dear heart

You are the happiness that you are longing for. You are the joy that have been missing for so long. You are that one thing that can fill the emptiness that you are feeling. You are the dreams that you are afraid to pursue. You are the strength that you need. You are the courage you never thought you have. You are the love you never received. You are loved. Because you know why, dear heart? All this time, God is inside you.

Now, go and let God take you to paradise. Let God heal you. Let God fix everything that is broken. All those years of pain, dead dreams and heartaches, they’re worth it. It’s about time to be happy. Just do it afraid. God will carry you through.

Dear heart

I can’t wait for you to be whole again. Chase life. See you in wonderland.

Courage, dear heart. Courage.

p.s.

I will always be proud of you. I know God is, too.

Cheering you on,

Happiness

That Friday was one of the most exhausting Fridays I’ve had so far since 2016 started. I went straight to an activity right after a sleepover; which isn’t really a sleepover because I didn’t sleep. I was half awake the whole night trying to put myself to sleep while trapped inside a blanket between my sisters and the next thing I know, the alarm was coming off. It was 5:15 AM and whether I like it or not and whether I was asleep or not, I have to wake up. So, I did.

My day started from there. Spent almost a day in a community activity then went straight to attend another activity which lasted until 9:00 PM. In short, my energy level is close to zero. I just sat down on the floor the entire time while waiting for my friends to finish so we could all attend our friends’ exhibition. I remember falling asleep while waiting. Slept inside the cab and woke up realizing that we couldn’t make it to the exhibition because we don’t have enough time. We decided to just go to a friend’s house and to just stay there until we regain a little amount of energy to go home. We were all tired and quite sad because things didn’t go as planned. Our restless selves ended up inside our friend’s living room. Each of us seated on almost every chair in the room not even saying a word.Until a bright idea popped in our heads, the next thing we know, we were ordering pizza. Once the pizza came, we were on beast mode. That was stress eating at its finest. I don’t know what we’re up to that time. All I know is that we are happy. We are exhausted but we are happy. And in that moment, that is all that matters. The room slowly started to be filled with laughter. We’re actually laughing over silly things. We laughed until our stomachs hurt. We laugh at ourselves. We laughed until we couldn’t laugh anymore. Nothing is better than that.

happiness-is-priceless-motivational-quote

Then we realized, we haven’t done that in a while. It feels so good to be able to do it again. We all managed to go to our friends’ exhibition the following day. A lot of expensive jewelries and watches were showcased in the exhibition. Some cost way too much. Do people actually buy stuff as expensive as that? Yes. Because some people just have too much. Then, we realized how expensive their happiness could be. And, are they even happy? They seem like they have everything but do they, really?  They can buy all these fancy stuff. They can buy literally everything they want. They can buy ten times, or even more, of the things that we want. It would take us a few months or even years to buy something that they can buy in a snap. What a wonderful life, we thought. But, are they really happy? Do they go home happy to their million dollar home and to their fancy things in the house, lay in their comfortable bed, but do they really sleep smiling? I don’t judge wealthy people but it makes me think, are they really happy? Will I be happy if I was able to get everything I want? Then, I remember that night with friends. The laughter echoes in my head as we boomerang-ed ourselves. I remember the joy on our faces when the doorbell rang and the pizza delivery man appeared right before our very eyes. The twinkle in our eyes the moment we opened the pizza box and smelled the pizza that is waiting for us; and the sound of satisfaction and relief the moment we finished everything. That very moment I thought to myself, all of us in that room doesn’t have everything in life, some are even struggling, but we are happy. Happiness is indeed priceless. I pray that everybody can get a taste of happiness; the most genuine kind. The kind of happiness that brings joy in our hearts. <3

Prayer:

Lord, teach us to find happiness in simple things; Laughing with friends, accomplishing a simple task at work, laughing at our silly selves, smiles from our family, eating our favorite food, having a restful sleep. May we be able to radiate joy to others because of the joy that you planted in our hearts. May we be contented with what we have instead of feeling sorry for what we don’t have. May we have more priceless moments with the people we love.  May we find the real joy and happiness in You; the only source of joy, the only one who can fill the emptiness in us. Amen.

 

Birthday Love Tank

I guess as we grow older, birthdays become ordinary. You don’t get that special feeling as the day approaches because you know that birthdays are not different than any other day. Unlike when we were kids, we don’t excitedly wake up and expect to get the present that we have been begging our parents for or to blow and have our favorite chocolate cake for breakfast. We don’t expect people to be extra nice to us because it is our birthday. We don’t look forward in wearing our birthday dress at school. We just don’t get too excited about it anymore. It lost all its magic. Period.

On the morning of my birthday, I woke up not realizing that it’s my birthday. I dragged myself out of bed and unwillingly walked towards the bathroom to take a bath. I still don’t remember that it was my birthday; until my housemate told me that there is something on our doorsteps and he thinks it is for me. To my surprise, friends dropped by our house and left some surprises on our doorsteps.

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That is when it sinks in: It’s my birthday! 🙂 What I thought would be an ordinary day became more and more special every minute. Greetings from friends all over the world flooded my social media accounts. I see my face every time I open Facebook. Everyone sending out their love for me in any possible way. I couldn’t help but feel loved. Because I am an adult now, I don’t get to have a birthday off so I just spent most of my day in the office replying to every birthday greeting that comes my way.

I went straight to the church the moment I got off from work. Our company driver offered me a ride. I solemnly celebrated the Holy Mass alone. I thanked God for all the love and blessings that I have received that day. My heart is at peace. There is no better way to celebrate my day than to have a date with the one who gave me life.

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After my birthday date with God, I accompanied a friend to hunt for the perfect shoes for her mission trip to Africa. We went to Souq (Market) and my friend kept on telling everyone we talk to that it is my birthday. I received tons of greeting from strangers. It was still a little bit hot that night. I grabbed the nearest carton and use it as a fan to ease the uncomfortable feeling that I have due to sweating. Before we left the store, one of the guys who works there handed me a cute little pink fan as a birthday present. For some reasons, i was extra appreciative on that day. I guess it’s a conscious effort to be happy. After finding the perfect pair of shoes, we went straight to the birthday dinner that my friends arranged for me. We already passed the stage of birthday surprises but friends still managed to surprise me in their smallest ways. We picked two of our friends from their house, when they got in the taxi they immediately handed me a bouquet of flowers and greeted me a happy birthday. When we got into the restaurant and handed the taxi driver the money for our taxi fare, he refused to get it. “You don’t need to pay because it’s your birthday. Happy Birthday. Have a nice life. God bless you!” he said. My heart melted. Faith to humanity restored! How can someone who earns a little give a portion of what he has to a stranger just because it is her birthday? My heart is smiling. I didn’t accept his gift but I made sure to let him know that I appreciate it a lot. “God bless you!”; I told him before we shut the taxi door close. I mean it. May God bless the selfless people.

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The birthday dinner was awesome as always. It wasn’t an extravagant celebration but sharing that moment with your family away from home made it extra special. We just talked about life, laughed at life over pinakbet, lechong kawali and sisig. I don’t know what did I do to deserve all the amazing people in my life. I must have done something right to deserve all the love. But, one thing is for sure, God loves me so He blessed me with everyone/everything I have in my life right now. I felt so loved; not just because it’s my birthday but because I truly am. I am God’s beloved. I am God’s masterpiece.

IMG_6071

Birthday 2015.

Thank You, Lord, for the gift of life. May everything I do bring glory to you. Thank You, family and friends, for the love. <3

4:00 AM Thoughts

It’s 4 in the morning. The sun will probably rise in a few minutes and here I am, not fighting off sleep, but fully awake and watching some crappy TV shows. A lot of things happened today and i can’t put them into words. So… it is 4:06 AM now and I guess I have to go to bed.

Words will come later, I guess.