2020: A Year like No other

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Where do I even begin? 




I wanted to write my personal recollection of what transpired this year so I could tell my grandkids that I was one of the survivors of 2020. 

This year has been everything but ordinary. It's like everyone's put into this arduous game of survival of the fittest. Congratulations if you have made it this far!

I would like to believe that with all that's happened, things could not be any harder from here. I wish this is the case for everyone. Sadly, it may not be for the millions of families who suffered losses.

Aside from it being "breath-taking" (pun intended), it got most of us sitting at the edge of our seats as we watched big, mostly unprecedented stories unfolding across the globe. Murphy's Law was in full force! 

And being able to write this blog at this point gives me a sense of relief for having survived what to many of us felt like a crazy roller coaster ride. 

2020 started rough for me as I realized that I might have positioned myself where I was exactly a year ago – at the point of exhaustion. I just moved to a new city away from my family and loved ones, joined a new company and juggling multiple tasks in my new role. I could have probably earned the right to claim I am a super woman with all the extensive efforts I put into my work this year. It's probably one of the highlights of my career. Ever. I can't complain. At the end of the day, I got a job that pays. I’m grateful.

Little did I know that it was just the beginning of a series of challenges ahead. In mid March, the COVID 19 pandemic broke and since then, we all have been witnesses to the many unfortunate events of global scale that could possibly happen in one’s lifetime. But I think this is still nothing compared to the world war back in the days.

Though many would say 2020 has been the worst, I believe it is one of the most important years of our time. With the rigid restrictions, everyone's life was put into a jarring halt - all of a sudden, we were compelled to approach things differently. Not that we had a choice really. In all my lifetime, I have never come to deeply appreciate human's resilience and adaptability more than before. 

In the midst of a looming pandemic, many lost their jobs as businesses were unable to sustain their continuous financial losses. Unemployment rate rose for countries around the world, millions of people suffered and some sought refuge from food banks, generous donors or the stimulus packages provided by the respective governments. The apparent social divide between the rich and the poor had only grown wider. 

On a positive note, we found ways to adapt and connect as we always do. With the lockdown period, many have resorted to creative means of keeping themselves sane and staying connected with others. Tiktok, Facebook, IG and other social media have been popular platforms for stardom or boredom. Not to forget cooking, baking, binge-watching “Tiger King” or Korean dramas on Netflix (I have probably watched all of them!), even growing plants(???) were a fad! LOL. While other businesses unfortunately suffered huge losses, Amazon turned up to be the biggest winner in this pandemic with an increased number of people finding retail therapy on online shopping. Gift giving was also made easier with just a click of that “confirm” button. (Ugh. I probably spent my usual travel budget on shopping this year!) And yes, you can also send food to your families and friends now via Ubereats or Doordash. No excuse for skipping on birthday presents!

Over the last 9 months, we have somehow managed to go on with our lives, albeit painstakingly. Zoom has become our best friend providing virtual connections with our loved ones and the rest of the world. I didn't know there is this thing called "zoom fatigue" until my introverted side started feeling exhausted from hours of video calls. But thanks to zoom, I was able to "be virtually there" for my friends' weddings, shower parties, baby showers, birthdays, all sort of celebrations and sadly, even funeral. Indeed, we could not be any more grateful for the technology that we now enjoy. This year would have easily become another version of the “great depression” era if we didn't have this connection as many struggled to live through prolonged isolation and financial constraints.

I wish this year's sights were as normal as a 20/20 vision suggests. Or maybe its offering is for us to obtain a clearer recognition of the things that truly matter to us. It is indeed a year of significant realizations and lessons learned. It's like someone pushed the "reset" button, our lives just changed in an instant and we were made to look at "life" from a different lens – a simplified view, back to basic.

 

Life is short and tomorrow is not guaranteed. Everyday is a blessing to behold. A lesson we kept re-learning over and over yet this year just had this important reminder written in the most discernible way. We grieved the many lives that were lost to the pandemic and disasters - natural or man-made, some families never even saw their departed loved ones for the last time. On the other hand, we also welcomed the gift of life for babies who with their parents fought their way into this world even in this most difficult time. This must probably be a good year for procreation for couples spending more time together. ;) The best that could ever come out from 2020! 

 

This pandemic taught us that there are some things we cannot control. There is a limit to what power and money can do. It cannot protect you from a dreaded virus, at least, not until a vaccine is developed. Even world leaders were not spared. ("It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”) This virus does not discriminate anyone. It knows no status, race, affiliation, border, etc.

 

It also presented an opportune time to reflect on our relationships. With families and people in the same household locked down together, it was an opportunity to make up for the lost times. Gone are the days of dragging yourself through your busy schedules outside home and neglecting the people who matter most to you. Families were more engaged and connected than ever. Parents are more "present" in the lives of their children over the last 9 months. (Teachers are venerated by parents as they struggle to answer their kids’ homework. About time!) With constant togetherness, either you are able to patch things up or you realize it may already be too late to make amends.


Speaking of relationships, kudos to some couples who braved out all odds and still pushed through with their wedding plans even if it meant celebrating with just the 2 of them plus the officiator (while the ceremony was on live streaming or families/friends were parked outside the church to celebrate with them from afar - really touching!) Besides, it is the best time to get married on low budget without feeling guilty for not inviting your distant relatives. LOL.


Many heroes also emerged during this crucial time - our frontliners and those who provide essential support to the vulnerable, the needy and the general public. Most of them did not even get to see their families for months. We honor them for risking and/or sacrificing their lives for the greater good. We realized they have been underappreciated all this time. We could not thank them enough. 


At this point, we probably would have developed a better appreciation of the simple things that we neglected in the past years – smiles of people we encounter each day, a simple pat on our shoulder, a tight hug or just being near each other.


After all, 2020 may have been the “pause” that we all needed – a defining year for many of us. It has probably turned us into the stronger version of ourselves as we fought through to survive this year. Hey, you owe yourself a pat on the back! And although it may be a great test to humanity, we have become better social beings, people capable of great love, compassion and resilience. We were there for each other, lifting each other up.


While we all suffered to a varying extent, there must be a thing or two that this year has positively brought to us. And for whatever it is, I hope that it would help us move forward with a firm resolve to face whatever lies ahead. I pray that things will only get better from here. Remember, we survived 2020, we got this! 


Personally, I choose to remember this year for all its blessings and meaningful moments.  I thank God for the guidance and protection over me and my loved ones. And I am grateful for everyone who stood by me and helped me get by this year.

As per my yearly tradition, here are my 2020 highlights in a video. :D (You may need to clear some cookies to view this youtube link.)


May God bless us all. Take care and stay safe everyone!




The Peace of Not Knowing

Monday, May 4, 2020

Today is my 45th day of being locked up at home or should I say not really. I do go out to run or walk at the park outside may apartment. As risky as it may sound, going to the groceries feels like a respite for me from the constant little battles I fight through each day. And my battlefield? Everything happens in my mind and my room has become my solace. It has been my place of comfort, of worship, my personal quiet space. The 4 corners of my room have been the witness to my silent cries when I terribly miss my family and loved ones or when I get overwhelmed with anxiety over the things beyond my control.




Just like everyone else nowadays, I too go through a lot of anxieties over the unknown. I could imagine it may be a lot harder for our essential workers or front liners. For someone like me who finds security in knowing, the past few months have been a real struggle. As shared by Fr. Mike Schmitz, Anxiety is said to be "the overestimation of danger and the underestimation of one's ability to cope with such danger". It is interesting how this definition is true for me and it is usually the case whenever I realize that I do not have control over things. Planning helps me gain control over the outcome to some extent. And not knowing when this is going to end and how things would pick up from then are kind of agonizing. But maybe just maybe, this whole COVID 19 situation is a reset for me. Like a lesson for me to learn to let go and trust beyond my limited human capacity. 

While I fill my thoughts with positive things every so often, it may not be enough to get me through all these. Hope is just as important as staying positive. It does all happen in the mind, the conditioning and the silent prayers. And it is important to nourish our mind with hopeful and positive thoughts each day. When the horizon seems bleak and the eyes cannot see farther, the mind can envision a good sight of a beautiful day. However that day may look like for you.

Each day I pray for the peace of not being troubled of not knowing everything and the grace to let go and let God. Easier said than done but with hope and faith, I find assurance that this too shall pass. Quietly unyielding to the torrents of uncertainties, taking one day at a time. ❤



NOW is the Time!

Monday, April 13, 2020


These days feel like "life" is put on hold. The world just went in slow motion mode. If I were to imagine it in movies, it is as if a humongous spacecraft had covered the whole horizon like that in the 'Independence Day' and we all await in horror for the world invasion of the ugly COVID 19 aliens. Sadly, it is not a movie. I wish it was. It is reality unfolding before our very eyes. Everyone is anxiously waiting. Oh the agony of waiting for reunion of families,  friends and communities separated by the quarantine restrictions, reinstatement of jobs, healing and recovery of the sick, discovery of the treatment or vaccine, the return to what used to be the "normal way of things", the end of this pandemic.



Yet amidst this apparent bleak situation, we also welcome new life each day as babies are conceived and born, celebrate unlimited time of togetherness for families at home, forge stronger bonds with our loved ones, reconnect with friends we have not spoken to for years (courtesy of technology!), expand our capacity to care for and love others, enjoy the discovery and rediscovery of one's passion (I bet at the end of this quarantine, one may end up resigning from his boring office job to finally pursue becoming a baker, a chef or an aspiring actor/dancer - thanks to tiktok and IG apps!). 



Finally, we now have time to pause and ponder on the important things we have been putting aside before as we just got dragged into the hustle and bustle of our daily grind. You now have the time to tick that dusty item off your New Year's Resolution list, to gather the courage to patch up relationships or finally commit to one or decide to take it to the next level or to write your first novel or to plan your dream vacation. You can also take this time to help others in need - all the more the world calls for heroes these days. 

NOW is the time to do something WORTHWHILE. Make best use of this time. With the recent rapid changes in the world, we are reminded that Life is fleeting and thus each waking moment is indeed a Gift to behold. Do not just live another day. Make TODAY count.

P.S. I chose this photo because it reminded me of how serene it can be when we see things through the lens of positivity.

Take care and stay safe everyone!


"It is Finished"

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Over a month ago, we entered into the season of Lent and it was also about the same time that we started getting alarmed by the rapidly growing cases caused by the COVID 19 virus. 2 weeks thereafter, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it as a Global Pandemic. And the next thing we heard, we all need to stay at home and we are precluded from going about our normal social activities. Slowly thereafter non-essential businesses shut down, a number of people lost their jobs while others had to be in difficult vulnerable situations to aid those who are in need.

In a span of 1 and a half months, we all have become witnesses to the drastic significant changes that took place in the lives of many. While sadly many may no longer even see the end of this, most of us are left in this whole bubble of anxieties and uncertainties. 

I personally do not watch the news as often anymore. It breaks my heart to see tremendous suffering and sorrow around the world. I cry as I get so deeply affected by everything that has been happening. And these days, I have turned my bedroom into a "War Room" where in the midst of my own anxieties and fears, I fought through prayers, imploring fervently for protection for everyone I love and care for and for help for everyone who is suffering during these times. 

Today is Palm Sunday and is the start of the Holy Week. I felt blessed and touched by Fr Mike Schmitz's homily in the online mass. He reminded me that before we ever experienced this great suffering in our lifetime, Jesus already suffered tremendously. He bore all the humiliations, every scourging, the piercing of the nails into his body, the weight of the cross, all that he had to go through to pay the price of our salvation. And his last words hit me to the core, "It is finished." 

While I believe Jesus did not need me to suffer with him, I take my own present tribulations as my redemptive meaningful suffering to share in His Passion. With His grace, I am able to look past the uncertainties and difficulties and embrace each day as Jesus' personal gift to me. 

And through the promise of His glorious resurrection comes my hope that we will be able to rise up from all these sufferings. These too shall pass. In Jesus' name. Amen. 

Stay safe everyone and may God bless us all!




Here is the link to today's online mass:




The Gift of Today

Wednesday, March 18, 2020



Just when we were nearing the end of 2019, most of us were overwhelmed with goals or new year's resolutions. Some had an insatiable thirst to achieve something. We go in circles in the hustle and bustle of life day in and day out. Some of us have forgotten how to truly live.

Today, we take this chance to pause and reflect on what is valuable to us - what is worth our time. We relish every moment that we are able to breathe normally, we have food on our table and we are able to spend time with our loved ones in safe proximity.

In just 3 months, notice the drastic changes around the world and the paradigm shift for most of us.

May we come to a deeper appreciation of a reassuring hug, a consoling pat on the shoulder, a friendly handshake, a kiss, a fist bump, being able to talk right next to each other, a close meaningful interaction, or even maybe the commute going to work - all the little things that are often taken for granted.

We may be uncertain of how things will turn out to be but we could only hope to make best use of our time and be grateful for every little blessing that comes with each new day. 

A Blessed 2019

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The year started with a warm welcome with my family and Rob. A great assurance to have my loved ones together!

When I look back at the passing year, I could not help but be filled with gratitude. I would not say that it didn’t go by without some hurdles to leap over, but that my blessings outnumbered my challenges.

My first big blessing was my citizenship in March this year. After nearly 5 years, I can officially call Canada my home. Yey to more countries to visit anytime without the hassle of getting a VISA! And of course, since I will always have my heart for my birth home - Philippines, I also took an oath again to qualify for dual citizenship. Smart move eh! 😊

As for my summer escapade, I had the privilege to visit and taste the bests of Spain and Portugal with my dear friend, Carrie. We went to Barcelona and got to appreciate the masterpieces of Antoni Gaudi. Madrid’s sights, sounds and tastes were definitely few of the highlights of the trips. I cannot forget the tapas and the Flamenco experiences. I also had the chance to meet my cousin, Manuel there for the first time! I am glad we both share the same interest for travelling. Further South is another beauty that surprised us – Seville! It is a small town full of exquisite architectural designs in all of their infrastructures. Man, no wonder Game of Thrones had their scenes taken there. The place was amazing!

Portugal, on the other hand, presented us with a different charm of its own. Lisbon is a town that takes pride of its history and architecture. We also marvelled at the sceneries at Nazare, Obidos and Our Lady of Fatima Sanctuary. And our last leg of the trip was at the home of best Portuguese tarts, Porto. My best memory was that one breathtaking sunset by the Duo river.

I realized that unlike all the past years where I travelled a lot, this was my only big travel this year but it was all worth it. I have only been able to afford eating tofu since then. LOL.

Then I also got my drivers licence in September which makes me the first in my family to drive! Woohoo!

It was a tough year for me at work when I got sick. But then the last quarter of the year ushered me to new opportunities. After a decade of working for the company that brought me to Singapore and Canada, I had discerned that it was finally time to take on a new journey with another firm. This also meant for me to move to a new city – Montreal. The decision didn’t come overnight. Funny that amongst my big moves from Philippines to Singapore and Singapore to Canada, this move from Toronto to Montreal was the hardest. LOL. Oh well, I still continue to discern for what God has in store for me in the bilingual city.

2019 was also a milestone for me and Rob too as we celebrated our first year together! Wooot! It was a year of constant and intentional efforts of choosing and committing to love each other. We can say our love has blossomed like the sunflowers. 😊

Moreover, along with blessings came few realizations this year as well:

   > Look after yourself. Work is just an aspect of your life and not your life. Do not work yourself to death. (I should tell myself this 1,000 times!)

  >You can never say you love enough. Everyday presents us with a chance to expand our capacity to love. Love all you can!

   >Take your time. Slow down if you must. You run your own race in your unique path. Never compare your pace or progression with others. Every hurdle leaped over is a milestone, celebrate it.

  >There is something extraordinary in making a difference in others. The fulfillment derived as a by-product is rather lingering and deeper. It fills you to the brim.

    >You can only control so much in how life unfolds. In as much as you try all you can to orchestrate things to happen your way, there are certain aspects that need waiting for time to take its course.

And as I close the page 365 of my journal this year, I thank God for all the trials that kept me resilient and blessings that made me grateful.  Thankful too for the love of my family and loved ones around. Thank you 2019 for everything!

With prayers, I look forward to a grace-filled 2020!

Here is my 2019 in review:





A Ride through Life

Thursday, September 12, 2019






One of the perks of coming home late from work is my special privilege to meet people from all walks of life with interesting journey. (Trust me, I am really trying hard to get a positive spin of things here. 🙂)
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Hailed a taxi tonight and heard an uplifting story of resiliency amidst suffering. I asked the man how long had he waited on the line. He said 2 hours and he was fine with it. He could be anywhere but just like everyone else there, he took the chance. He got nothing to complain about at this point in his life. 'Wow. Ok.' Intrigued by his answer, I commended him for his positive spirit. Turns out he is suffering from a carcinoid cancer that has spread to his liver. He had already undergone surgery and is supposed to be on full rest for recovery but he opted to still make a living amidst his condition. I felt sorry for him. He told me he didnt want to mention about it at first because he does not like people to pity him and that a lot of other people he met suffered worse than him and need the empathy more.
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He went further that he was never more grateful in his life before. When he first got the news of his diagnosis he was in denial and dismissed all the doctor's recommendations. Sooner someone from the medical team reached out to him asking if he could meet her or if he prefers for her to go visit him at his residence. He looked at me and said "I am the one supposedly needing help and dying, she is the one begging for me to come visit the hospital. They treated me like their brother here. I am never the same person since I got my cancer. Everyday, I wake up thanking God." The man was teary eyed, I could tell he was holding his tears from the sound of his voice. And mind you he was very much driving carefully at this time with 2 hands on the steering wheel. A very uncoventional venue for an intense conversation, eh! "A lady I met at the hospital only doing her regular check up was later told she only had 3 months to live. She died during my 4 months of treatment at the hospital. I also met a man whose son died, wife got blind and he himself was diagnosed with cancer. All these happening in 1 week!" Then he looked at me to question, "Can you honestly tell me, when was the last time you woke up and thank God for your health?" That caught me speechless. I felt like it was God poking me to check if I had anything to complain with my life now after hearing the man's journey. LOL. 🤦‍♀️Just 15 mins before that ride, I was already starting to feel like I was getting sick of life. O.K. Message received, Lord. 😁 What an uplifting and inspiring encounter it was! God bless you, Samuel and all those resilient souls out there! Respect. Never give up! Keep going! Aja! #whattrulymattersinlife #LiveFully #BeGrateful