“Decisions, Decisions”: A True Love Travelogue Series – Part 1

24 November 2012

I woke up a few minutes after 5 o’clock in the morning, as usual; save that there was nothing usual at all about that day. It was the day that would change my life forever.

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I felt really tired, and my back muscles ached from staying up late the previous night. I got up from my bed feeling dreamy, as if what transpired the night before was indeed just a dream.

It was his call over Skype that had awoken me, and while I knew he was telling me something important, I found it difficult to shake my sleepiness off. Less than five minutes into the video-call, my eyes had begun to droop again and his words were only a mumble-jumble to me.

“So I cut my hair”, I very faintly heard him say.

“You what??” I jolted.

“I asked my mom to cut my hair, see?”

“Why?!”, I exclaimed in panic.

“Because you wanted me to.”

“No!!!!”

“Cecille”, I could hear desperation in his voice. “I thought you said I will attract unwanted attention over there and you don’t want that”.

Now I do remember telling him that. “I don’t know…I don’t know…I liked your long hair. I’m not used to seeing you like that!”…I seemed almost a child, unreasonable. I honestly didn’t know what I wanted anymore. Confused, tears started rolling down my cheeks.

“Oh, Cecille, please don’t cry.” He was almost pleading. “I have to go now, okay? My parents are taking me to the airport. It will grow back soon, anyway”.

It felt really weird for him to be consoling me then. He was the one who had one foot of his hair cut off and yet he was the one who was trying to make me feel better. I know he was kind of “attached” to his hair. He’s had it long since he was 11 years old. Looking back to it now, I thought it was frivolous for me to even mention the haircut. Of course, I tell him I never forced him, I was  just…sayin’.

When we first started talking online, I didn’t really care about his hair. I thought it was hot and I was attracted to that mysterious side of him. As the day to our meeting drew closer, I became concerned. I think it must have been my conservative influence. Men with long hair are sometimes stereotyped as bad boys: wild and probably addicted to dangerous drugs! How ignorant does that sound?

Not all long-haired men are like that of course, but it was all about the image of it. I knew my family was going to meet him and I just wanted him to make a good first impression. I was like, “Who knows? We could end up getting married!” 😉 Little did I know, he was going to impress them anyway with his charms, his very polite demeanor and, as my father said, his outstanding table manners. But more on that later.

After sleeping a while longer, I got up to check my messages. I wondered if he’d left me anything before he boarded the plane. Boy, did he!

airchinanotification

“Great! That’s all we need”, I muttered.  A glitch right in the beginning of the two-week itinerary that we’ve been planning for months is a downer, I thought. My nerves were already wracked at the thought of seeing him, finally in the flesh, after four months of relentless correspondence. I was on the cusp of being stressed.

I waited until 8am for business hours to begin so I that I could speak with the hotel personnel regarding his reservation. He was supposed to arrive at 11 o’clock that night so I called the hotel to let them know that he would be arriving the next day instead. The unexpected detour in Alaska was going to delay his flight for 3 hours. This also meant that he was going to miss his Beijing to Bangkok flight, the last flight for the day. He was going to sleep in a hotel in China, alone, and catch another flight to Thailand on the following day. I could imagine how anxious he must be, travelling halfway across the globe for the first time, to places where he doesn’t speak the language, while encountering these mishaps at the same time. The horror!

I smile at the thought of him making that gesture to see me. I’ve got to admire him for being so determined. I was actually sad that I had to cancel the chauffeur service I had previously booked  to pick him up. I wanted him to at least be comfortable when he arrived, after all the stress of intercontinental flight. I asked the lady if they could move the booking for the following day but she said they were fully-booked. Oh well! I tried.

I decided to let the stress of the rescheduled arrival go. There was really nothing we could have done about it. I thought: it’s only one night. I was going to see him tomorrow. At 1pm, I went about with my other scheduled appointments: Last minute girly preps that, without getting into much detail, included a nail spa. I would later reap the fruits of my tortured labor when he says the very first words that came out of his mouth upon seeing me. 😉

It took me several hours to finish and when I was finally settled in the couch, checked my messages again. Lo and behold! He was online and was typing to me, possibly as fast as he could!

“I’m in China. We did not stop in Anchorage”

“What?!?”

“Will you be able to pick me up?”

“Uhhh…I changed my plans for the day. I’m here at my mother’s place”. Yeah, I forgot to mention that!

“……….” Nothing from him. It said he was typing.

“Oh!” He finally replied. Goodness! What was I doing?!? I must be freaking him out!

“Of course, I’ll pick you up!” I typed in haste. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to do it in my condition.

“Okay. Boarding now. I’ll turn this off”, he said.

I sent a quick goodbye then his little green circle was gone. I exhaled in desperation.

Now what? Decisions, decisions.

I jumped up from the couch, picked up my backpack from the floor, and began packing haphazardly.

“Where are you going?”, my mom wondered.

Silence. You can almost hear the wheels turning.

“I have to go, Mom”, almost a whisper.

“Go where?”

“Back to my place”,

“But your foot!” Right! I forgot to mention that too. I had stepped on something earlier. I needed minor surgical intervention and my two feet were bandaged. Did I mention it was painful?  I’d been downing pain killers the whole day.

“I’m okay Mom, I’ll be fine”. She was observing me as I was cross-checking my stuff with my list in  hand.

“I thought you’re staying here tonight.” I didn’t respond.

“Just tell me what is it, okay? So I’d know.”, she prodded…I was worrying her.

“It’s Ian.  He’s arriving tonight.”

What ensued was an exchange between a worried mother and a stubborn daughter who will do what she wants, even against advice.

“Will you at least let your brother take you to the airport?”

……

……

……

For all of my life, my family and friends were always there to support me. I’ve always had people to consult with for all of the major decisions I’ve made. But as I said, it was not an ordinary day.

“No. I’m doing this on my own”.

I’d made up my mind.

TO BE CONCLUDED

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CURB or CURVE: That is the Question

So today at lunch a co-worker from the table across asked me if I’m pregnant. “Cos you know, you gained weight”, she said.

“No they didn’t!” was my fiancé Ian’s reply when I called him later (I skipped the courtesies and immediately launched into “They asked me if I’m pregnant” in my best Oppressed Cecille voice).

“Baby, are you crying?”, he asked when I didn’t answer.

“No” is what I should have said…Instead, I said “Yes”, lobbying for sympathy. (Well, I was feeling bad, okay?)

“Don’t mind them, Baby. They’re just jealous of you because you’re beautiful and sexy”. (Oh yeah, my fiancé is awesome, isn’t he?)

See, when you have somebody telling you that, you don’t really care if you gain a few pounds. This isn’t the first time the girls at work have said something about my weight, but I never really minded them. I know that I’m healthy and I’m secure about my future husband’s attraction to me no matter what.

Today, I’ve decided that I’m sick of co-workers picking on my weight every chance they get when I don’t even give a damn. Jesus Christ, I’m 49.5 kg at 5 feet 3 inches. Is that so bad?

To be honest, it’s indeed a jump from the 45.5 kg I weighed at the same time last year. But it doesn’t really bother me much. Well, until last month when I couldn’t stop saying: “I’m fat”. I seriously thought that I was beginning to have body-image issues. I took a beating when my co-workers’, with their prying eyes, started to notice my weight gain. And boy, did they remind me every day!

I once took the lift carrying take-out dinner. This girl I ride the shuttle with every day came in and commented that it’s already 7pm and that I should have eaten dinner before 6pm! It doesn’t end there: I have girls knocking on my door asking me if I want to go to the gym. When I’ve wanted to buy a chocolate croissant for dessert, I’ve had to sneak out to the bakeshop, making sure my colleagues didn’t see me, or risk being told “Ceciw, you eating again?!? Khun Ian see you, he say: What happened to you? Now you are uaan (Thai: fat)!” 

 Sigh! It’s exactly these kinds of “criticisms” that have been souring my mood. I’ve always been happy and confident with my body.  Like I said, I don’t give a damn. But I guess that’s why: They want me to give a damn!  Like really, telling me I should stop eating rice every day or else my fiancé would leave me for a skinnier woman?!?

As annoyed as I am, I really don’t blame them for the kind of mentality they have. It’s all the media bullshit they see in TV commercials, bus and train ads, posters, etc.

Have you seen Beyonce’s Cavalli  ad?

In the poster, we see an extremely stylized image of the songstress to the point that her famous curves completely disappeared! Instead, we see  B’s head on top of an exaggeratedly skinny CGI body with spider-like extremities that makes her look more abnormal than a Barbie doll.

Here’s the Skinny: Roberto Cavalli is the official designer for Beyonce’s Mrs. Carter Show. The poster is supposedly for the tour’s campaign.

Famous fashion designer Roberto Cavalli was, of course, widely criticized for the release. The photo was immediately removed from circulation after the slamming from fans, nutritionists, health advocates, feminists, etcetera.  Cavalli’s camp had explained – and I quote: “the image of the gown (sic.) is a sketch and not a photo, and therefore it is only meant to be a stylized and artistic vision”.

I get you, Roberto, but you know that the damage is done.

Beyonce, of course, was reportedly upset about the whole fiasco just as she was when H & M airbrushed her swim-suit photos (to make her look thinner) and insisted the original/unedited versions be used for the official summer campaign. She is currently suing them for millions of dollars.

Speaking of H & M, this was a really ironic move considering that their April 2013 campaign featuring Size 14 Jennie Runk earned them positive raves and accolades.

24-year old Ms. Runk here is billed as the heroine of self-loathing women, especially teenage girls who suffer starvation, amongst other scary means of losing weight. She is said to be helping women feel better about themselves because she heralds real beauty and that she has “the body of a normal woman”. Ha!

While I admire Ms. Runk’s beauty and support her message, I couldn’t help but see this as a dubious stunt—big corporations preying on vulnerable women’s craving for approval from the mass media. Even Ms. Runk can be just a pawn in this giant scheme. I hope not.

But whatever, if it works for the deflation of the over-all insecurity of the female population and teen suicide rates, then it’s fine with me. Besides, whatever the billboard ads say is “trendy”, then that’s what is “trendy”.  Ugh!

Obviously, trend varies depending on the market these companies cater to. The disparity between the message of Jennie and Beyonce’s H & M ads says it clearly: There’s the normal market and the other markets. Jennie Runk isn’t’ exactly labeled as just a “model” but a “plus size model”. Ask any beauty or fashion magazine and they will tell you that the normal sized- women are supposed to look like this:

Scary!

As an advocate for women and a healthy lifestyle enthusiast, this issue has always been close to my heart. I have always found the popular standards of beauty to be ridiculous and unrealistic for most people.  To condone this is outrageous and it sickens me to think how many women have suffered (and are suffering still) both emotionally and physically just to fit into the accepted “beautiful” and/or “sexy” category mostly perpetuated by selfish companies with vested financial interests.

 But, why this sudden lashing? Well, because, I too have become a victim of this vulgar commercialism and I can’t just stand there and take it.

I live in Thailand- where girls eat garden salad for breakfast and have dinner before 6 o’clock in the evening, where women go out of their houses as if they forgot to put their pants on, flaunting their chicken-skinny legs! Here in Bangkok, a popular cosmetic hotspot, co-workers eye you with disdain every time you put food into your mouth.

I am not arguing that women should just eat with abandon and not care about their bodies at all. I say we should all take measures to ensure our bodies are healthy and that includes eating in moderation and proper exercise. Certainly not by skipping meals, or even worse, fad dieting.  More importantly, on a bigger scale, the bashing has got to stop!

It’s not as if this is a life and death situation where one has to curb her diet or run the risk of gaining, whoa! unwanted curves! Yeah, because that’s really the worst thing a woman could have!

This obsession with these (and I say this with a bitter taste in my mouth) “standards of beauty”, of an ideal sexiness is pushing women to go to absurd lengths- pressuring them to achieve a figure that may not be healthy for them. By the way, these ideals are not only promoting malnutrition, they are also cultivating a culture of mean-spiritedness and superiority complexes in those who fit the criteria, and low self-esteem in those who aren’t welcome into the category.

I do know that some women are just naturally skinny and they don’t gain weight no matter how much they eat. I don’t have anything against them. I do think they can be indeed sexy too, but not just because of their vital statistics. There are a million things that can make a woman sexy: wit, wisdom, kindness, sense of humor, skill, perhaps? If I were a man, these would certainly attract me.

It’s very sad that nowadays, the art of husband-hunting has almost regressed to merely an aesthetic tourney.  They used to laugh about women in the time of Jane Austen or the 1950s that had to be educated in art, literature, music, geography, science, language, home economics and the like to make a good match, when eventually they will be consigned to the home to attend to their men’s needs and look after the children. Well, at least they had to use their brains; these days, women only have to look good, wear a perfect smile, be a size 0-2 and they can land senators, business tycoons, heirs to fortunes, etc.

Lastly, these days women don’t really seem to try to look good just for the hell of it. When you hear people say “Oh you should do this and that so you can get a boyfriend” or “Oh you should be like this or else your husband will look somewhere else”, it makes you think, is it really all about attracting men?

I love it when my fiancé compliments me and this encourages me to try to look good. But also, I just want to look good for myself…just because it makes me feel good. Do you know what I’m talking about? I mean, these decisions about our bodies are ours to make and should not be influenced by peer or social pressure.  It should also be about us!

Sweating it out, running around the park, and working my butt off in the fitness center? Yes, I do it because I want to. I know I have a responsibility to take care of my body. I do it and I will keep doing it – not because some damn commercial is telling me too or that I am afraid of Ian Weinstein abandoning me if I bloat.

CURB or CURVE? No! I am not letting anyone or anything decide for me whether I am “sexy” or not.

I believe that in every woman is an innate seductress, a charming maiden, an irresistible nymph, a goddess… no matter what her shape and size. We only have to claim that inner vixen…and tell her she shouldn’t be intimidated by whatever people around her say. Let her out, because she should be freakin’ running the world. Size 2 or not.

Piña Colada, Prose and Poetry: Parting Ain’t Pretty

It’s been 43 hours since Ian left. I am still not ready to face my life…my life in Thailand, to be exact.

My thoughts keep repeating: I don’t belong here anymore.

I am at the point where my reality feels unreal.

My real life is in my fiancé’s arms.

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I’m supposed to be cheery. This last visit marks the final leg of this K1 journey.  In a few months, I will finally be with my love for good. We will never be apart again. But I’m not exactly feeling like Missus Positivus today.

I don’t feel like doing anything. I’m blaming it on the fact that after 10 days together, I got so used to Ian being here. I wrote him a poem earlier and in it, I expressed my melancholy…

My darling…

It’s only hours from your departure

And even the skies in Bangkok

Cry tears of grief

Your absence has sucked

The life out of my city

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I know…I know…I can be overly dramatic sometimes. Or hormonal.

There’s something different about this last visit though, aside from (but possibly related to) it being the last. I feel like this time I am bluntly refusing to feel all of the agony of longing. I cried so much before Ian even left, so maybe that’s why I didn’t have any more tears to spill after coming back from the airport.

Ah! The train trip back to the hotel – always the worst part of Ian’s every visit.

This time, I managed to scribble a note aboard the coach:

Dear Ian,

It’s 9pm and you must be boarding your plane now. I’m at the basement level of the airport, waiting for the next train to arrive.

I am safe. Don’t worry about me (although that’s impossible for you not to do). I’m a big girl and I will take good care of myself-I can handle it. 

So this is it! We’ve come to the last leg …three exciting, exhilarating and extraordinary visits. We have definitely made tons of memories that will last a lifetime. I want to thank you, with all my heart, for everything you’ve done to make these visits possible. And of course, for all the things you did while you were here. You have made me feel very special in countless ways.

 

Absolutely special! Years back, I used to wonder: How do you know when the person you’re with truly cares about you and cherishes you? I never found the answers until I met Ian. I know now, even without putting so much though into it, I am truly deeply madly loved. I feel it in every word that comes out of his mouth, every little lazy croon of endearment, every single touch and breath…

I am secure.  He makes certain I feel that way every day.

On my end, I am equally and irrevocably in love with him, powerfully so.

Have you ever thought of being in, or staying in a relationship just for the sake of it? Have you ever felt like keeping it the way it is because, after all, it was a good-enough set-up for you?

It’s not the most wonderful thing in the world.  But some say, you won’t really know the difference until you are in a relationship where both partners are truly crazy and craves for each other, respects, trusts and values each other like they would themselves, admires  and adores each other and expresses said admiration and adoration for each other through words, actions, etc.  It’s elusive, this seemingly ideal thing I am talking about, but it’s not impossible to have it. It does happen to mere mortals like us. Once you have it, you’ll be wise enough to follow Christina Perri’s example:

I will be brave I will not let anything

Take away

What’s standing in front of me”

 The PA announced the train’s arrival to Makkasan Station…less than 13 days ago, Ian and I got off at this stop to go to our hotel. That place is special to us because it’s the same place we stayed the first time Ian came here. Being in its lobby, rooms and dining hall once more was reminiscent of our very first few moments as a couple…It was in this place that we first said the three little words that made us both the happiest people in the world that minute…

(more of this in TRUE LOVE TRAVEL LOGS…Coming Soon!)

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20 minutes after my departure from the airport, I was still sitting in the little corner I found inside the train. I kept writing:

“Your plane is probably flying back now. I pray for a safe flight for you my love. Know that I am always sending positive thoughts your way.

Darling, I already long for you, even though we were together only a few minutes ago.”

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It’s almost silly how I could miss him already when we were together only a few minutes ago. Silly, yes, but ironically it’s more sad than silly, how Farewells are.

You say goodbye with the promise that you will see each other soon…as if the promises will make it less painful. It doesn’t. But they give hope. It’s almost like grimacing a smile, or swallowing a bitter pill that you know would heal you and end your suffering…Thankfully, his farewell kisses (like the Pina Colada I had back when we frolicked on the beautiful island of Koh Samed), were sweet, full of promise, with a burst of salt from my tears…they were a reprieve.

“Parting is such sorrow, but your warm embraces and loving whispers are sweet sugar cubes to our otherwise bitter cup.”

But I know Ian and I know each other more than anybody else does. Our love transcends. I am connected to him and he is connected to me no matter how far apart: We are two photons entangled.

b-w photons I+W

“I am pressing my lips, savoring the memory of your last few kisses: quick but passionate still, urgent but not any less meaningful, a public display which yet delivers a secret only our two hearts will understand…”

Yes. I truly believe you my love. We will see each other soon.

My GF is super, tell me about yours!

Today I met “Ana”. She is a fellow Filipina nurse who works next door to my office. I have been with this company for six months and I never even knew she existed- until the day when my family came to visit. They were waiting for me outside my office, and she overheard their excited chatter in our mother tongue. Just as any homesick kababayan would, she approached us and introduced herself.

“Ana” is a single mother of two. She used to work in the Middle East in an Intensive Care Unit. She moved to Bangkok through the constant prodding of her sister, another “Ana”, who was already working as a Medical Report Nurse in our company.

We talked for about fifteen minutes, comparing our job descriptions, hiring process, day to day responsibilities and a little bit about our future plans. She told me she was recently transferred to her new department because the boss needed help with troubleshooting some issues. She later excused herself when she saw her colleague struggling with communication to a Middle Eastern patient.  She went to the nurse’s counter, spoke to the man in fluent Arabic and everything was fine again. This was Ana “troubleshooting” and kicking a** at it.

Today’s encounter made me remember my experience in Singapore just a few months back. My company sent me to train for an operating room procedure in Singapore General Hospital. On the first day of the workshop, we were supposed to walk around to visit the various stations to practice our skills in performing with a new technology called Transbronchial Needle Aspiration. Manning the booth was Fannie. Clearly and intelligently, she explained to the workshop participants the techniques for equipment preparation. I had more questions in mind so I spoke to her after her demonstration. I wasn’t surprised when she told me she is Filipina. We exchanged contacts and hugged each other goodbye on the last day of the workshop.

That was Fannie, the girl who was chosen to be in charge of representing her hospital amongst her other Singaporean colleagues.

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Fannie (in a gray sweater and white RN uniform) is a nurse in the SGH Endoscopy Unit.

Speaking of the chosen ones, there’s Joan; magna cum laude, student leader, columnist, photo-hobbyist, loyal friend, President of the Philippine Nurses Association of Mannitoba and future Fil-Canadian public servant. Among her many titles is Awesome Daughter to her dad and mom who are surely proud of her. I’ll make it short because when it comes to Joan, her voluminous credentials speak for themselves.

More about Joan: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/filipino-nurses-find-life-sweet-in-rural-rhas-78501942.html?path=/local&id=78501942&sortBy=newest&viewAllComments=y

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zXuJRJltds

http://filipinojournal.com/v2/index.php?pagetype=read&article_num=12212009035211&latest_issue=V23-N24

http://winnipeg.filipinojournal.com/m/local-news/philippine-nurses-association-of-manitoba-officers-induction/

http://winnipeg.filipinojournal.com/m4/editorial/pnam-holds-1st-symposium-to-iens/

When it comes to families, I couldn’t think of a better role model than “Saori”. At 25, she is a proud full-time mother of two cute kiddos, an artist-entrepreneur and a loving wife to the man she’s loved since high school. She is a staunch advocate of exclusive breastfeeding and a practitioner of Modern & Smart parenting.  A lot has changed in child care and child rearing practices since and Saori is encouraging all moms to get into this amazing mommy experience.  Together with her mommyhood group, she strongly promotes innovative and baby-friendly techniques.

See:  Attachment Parenting, Baby Wearing, Cloth Diapering

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Saori is the proprietor of LIKHA NI SAOSAO’s custom art services: CLAY WORKS, GRAPHICS DESIGNS, PHOTOGRAPHY, & other ARTWORKS. Contact

https://www.facebook.com/LIKHANISAOSAO?ref=ts&fref=ts

I once met a girl in grade school who I will never forget. Her name is Kristine and she was my brother’s classmate. She once dreamt of travelling the world and now she’s realizing that dream. In her early 20s, Kristine already knows the value of money and saving. As an airline crew, she has been saving and investing her earnings wisely and has secured herself and her family’s future.

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Kristine was recently selected to be part of Saudia Airlines among 1000+ applicants and will be training in Jeddah for 2 months. She has previously travelled to United Kingdom and other locations worldwide.

Interesting stories, right? But why am I listing them?

We meet a lot people in our lifetime; some become part of our lives, and others leave marks, while most just silently drift away, only to become fragments of our memories. Yet there are some very special people, whether we’ve known them since childhood, met them at a summer camp, or during a Basic Life Support training, who manage to touch our hearts and inspire us. They are the women I have named above. To me, they embody the true ideals of a Global Filipina.

Who is the Global Filipina?

The Global Filipina is an inspiration to her fellow women. She is an asset not only of our country but of the world. She excels at what she does, may it be her profession, motherhood, or a vocation. Most importantly, she takes pride in what she does and who she is.

Take Reinabelle Reyes, a 28-year old astrophysicist from Princeton University, better known as “The Filipina who proved Einstein right”. When she was 26, she proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity on a cosmic scale. For us non-science geeks, that means she made a really cool and celebrated achievement in her field.

The complete story:  http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/2686-the-filipina-who-proved-einstein-right

The Global Filipina is motivated to succeed. She plans for her future. She saves. She dedicates her time to fruitful endeavors, whether it is climbing the career ladder, taking care of her husband and kids, or pursuing a worthwhile hobby that allows her to express herself.  She works hard while others slack. She strives to make a difference in our world. Whether she is a Filipina who lives in the country or abroad, what’s important is that she is proud to be one.

Meet “Lyn”, a young teacher in her mid-twenties, worship leader at Singles for Christ, and a doting big sister to a brood of 8 whom she helps send to school. She currently lives in Thailand, away from her family.

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Second from Right, Lyn poses with her fellow choir members after the Christmas mass.

 Like Lyn, we know stories of many of our fellow Filipina women who are conquering the world every day, miles and seas away from their families. These Filipinas are everywhere.  They are surviving the daily battle of homesickness to either provide for their respective families or pursue their careers.

Sadly, we also often hear stories about the insufferable conditions that many of our fellow Filipinas have had to endure. I thank God every day that despite my personal struggles, I am healthy and safe. Then I close my eyes and say a little prayer for them.

Amidst these heartbreaking stories, once in a while we hear of our countrymen’s amazing feats internationally and it somehow aids in healing our nation’s broken dreams.

Angela and Mikaela Guerrero, gifted siblings, are truly blessings to our Motherland.   In an article, both sisters were described to have high IQ and were considered child prodigies. Angela Guerrero is 15 years old and a 3rd year undergraduate student, BS Chemistry Minor Music, at Cal State LA in an Early Entrance program for the Highly Gifted, prior to enrolling at CSULA.

Mikaela Guerrero, the younger sister of Angela, was found to be exceptionally gifted, with an IQ of 167, and was assessed by Dr. Sheila Vaughan of the Mirman School. Mikaela is an 8 year old child prodigy who is also a gifted writer and excellent artist.

Read more: http://www.asianjournal.com/galing-pinoy/59-galing-pinoy/3276-gifted-kids-jonathan-malabanan-angela-and-mikaela-guerrero-child-prodigies.html

During my lifetime, I’ve met so many wonderful Filipinas: There’s Race from Bulacan, (now a Singapore resident), Jade from Las Pinas (now travelling the world through Qatar Airways), Rose from my hometown who is now in Middle East, Doods, Dione, Jo, Nina, Chingkai, Gwen, Abi, Regi, Zy, my ninang Marivic, my friend Marivic, Vanessa, Raeca, Kim who are scattered around various parts of the world …..and so many others! Please forgive me if I couldn’t mention everybody.

Personally, my Global Filipina is my mom, Juvy. She is a mother of four and a passionate educator. She was my first teacher. She has dedicated her life to us, her children and to her students. I have never met a teacher as dynamic as my mother. I know this because as a child I would wait for her outside of her classroom, listening as she finished her classes. My mother has been rocking classrooms for 26 years, both in the Philippines and abroad, and I am really proud of her. Off-duty, she is the sweetest mother that can be.

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Flanked by two girls from her class, my mom shows these Thai teens the love she has given her Filipino students. 

As I launch my new website, I would like to pay homage to all of the Global Filipinas who are out there: nurses and doctors who save lives, teachers who inculcate to children the important lessons in life, engineers, scientists and inventors who sustain life, parents who nourish life, and the friends  who make life worth living. My dear Global Filipinas, I salute you all.

My beloved readers, who is your personal Global Filipina? I invite you to nominate your own special lady. Describe her in three sentences or more, and please explain why she is your Global Filipina. Three sentences is only a minimum, you are encouraged to write more. Please post it as a comment under the tagline “Who is your GF (Global Filipina)?” below this blog entry. The best story will be featured in my next blog article.

Thank you very much for your support. I hope to hear from you soon, GFs!!!!

P.S. To my foreign readers, if you know a Filipina who embodies the GF characteristics, you are welcome to nominate her 🙂

TEN FLEETING DAYS and My After-Musings Part 4: Melancholic Reveries

 

February 25, 2013, 9:30 pm. I was back at the same exact station, but this time I was waiting for the train alone.

It felt like only just a few hours ago when the love of my life and I took the same railway going to the city proper.
Ian arrived to visit me again here in Thailand in the evening of February 15th. I met him at Arrivals and led him to the Airport rail link that took us to Ratchaprarop Station, approximately a 7-minute walk from Baiyoke Tower, where we were booked for the night.

As the passengers filled the car, Ian and I were all smiles, chuckling to ourselves in disbelief. We were in each other’s arms again! Our small corner inside the train echoed with our happy and excited chatter and my insistent inquiries about how his flight went. We were both grappling/vying for air time and oblivious to the world.

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Ten days later, as I sat solitary on one of the station benches, there was only silence and the hushed rolling and clicking of my 7-11-bought pen as my companion.

Imagining what I will return to, I was not looking forward to seeing the receptionist’s grouchy face in the hotel which had been our love nest for the past few days. His face could have been in a constant frown but it would definitely look happier than mine.

The PA announced the arriving train in two languages and I stood up to fall in line. As I took a seat, I looked back to our final minutes.

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I went with him to the airport to send him off. Outside the Passport Control (where only passengers can enter), we were saying our difficult goodbyes, exchanging promises and hastily uttered reminders (mine to Ian consisting mostly of repetitions to Take Care, Drive Safely Every day and Keep in touch). Right on cue, just like in the movies, an airline employee cuts in on our desperate last moments with a hand signal pointing to the clock/wrist watch as if to say “It’s time”.

Great! Make it easier for us.

Either he was just doing his job, or grossed out, or jealous of our blatant public display of affection. I was never big on PDA but with Ian and especially right at that very moment, the world around us had ceased to exist and I was shameless.
It was just he and I in our own perfect little world.

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I let go of Ian and he stepped onto the elevator that took him to the final security checkpoint and immigration. He never looked away from me-we kept mouthing our I LOVE YOUs until he was out of my sight.

Wow! So that’s it? Lea, Ian’s sister, was right. Those 10 days flew by so quickly. Of course, we both knew his visit was going to end but it didn’t change anything: the pain of separation is always the same. It’s as if the heart was torn from the chest because it follows the one you love, as Ellena, my future mother-in-law, had put it.
No matter how many times I said goodbye to Ian, I never got used to it. This feeling is only relieved when I see him again.

See him again… I had no idea when the next time would be and that made it all the more depressing for me. But before I could break down for a crying spree, a thought struck me:

Isn’t the Immigration Services right behind the glass wall in front of me? I remember from my recent Singapore trip that the Passport Control Section in Suvarnabhumi Airport was renovated in such a way that passengers have to take the escalator going up to some sort of boarding pass check, and then take an escalator down to appear before the Immigration officer.

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I rushed to see if I could get lucky and actually get a glimpse of Ian. My mind was racing, heart pounding, desperate for that one last goodbye. I positioned myself where there was a good view of the escalator and of the passengers going down. I didn’t want to miss him. Just moments later, he came through- in a hurry and with no time to look around him. He had a mission, to catch his plane. He didn’t bother to explore his surroundings. I was so desperate to catch his attention that I began tapping on the glass walls almost futilely. Then, with a bit of luck, a seemingly cordial middle-aged man behind him saw me and so I signaled to him to call Ian’s attention. He was kind enough to oblige and said something to Ian that made him turn his direction towards me. Seeing me unexpectedly lit his face up and my heart leapt for joy. Ian politely thanked the man and again started whispering his muted I love yous. I silently whispered back. Ian placed his hand on the left side of his chest. It is his way of telling me “Cecille, you’re in my heart”.

I know I am. It makes it seem all the more wrong for me to be sitting on a train back to a hotel room while Ian was set to fly thousands of feet above the ground. Moments ago, I was a woman loved and cherished by my man who was beside me. As I head back to Central Bangkok on my own, all of a sudden, I became a little girl again, caught in my melancholic reveries,and the city felt far too big for me.

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I was now a station away, and as I readied my train pass, I caught sight of the ring on my finger; now, Ian’s words echoed in my brain… “Whenever you feel sad and lonely, look to this ring and know I am always with you. We will be truly together soon, I promise”.
I desperately tried to suppress my sobs until I unlocked what used to be OUR room. As I pushed open the door, the scents of our frolicking filled my nose-remnants of Ian’s loving, comforting and reassuring presence not too long ago. Oh, dear God, I miss him already.

And that’s when the dam broke.

IAN.Y.S.M. Entry 004 – Does she speak English?

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Let’s face it: stereotypes will always exist. It’s human. And, while often carrying a negative connotation, most stereotypes do reflect a degree of truth – and if we’re honest with ourselves, we all rely on them sometimes. It’s our nature to have the need to simplify things – this isn’t always borne from ignorance or hostility, it can be just a matter of convenience in terms of how we interact with each other efficiently.

Stereotypes become dangerous when we accept them as universal truths, or as an interpretation of how things are “most” of the time – and even more so, when it impacts how we treat or interact with people we’re unfamiliar with. Do we judge them by their race? Color? Place of origin? Socioeconomic status? Accent? Hairstyle? Clothing? I could go on and on.

So, if I apply stereotypical thinking to everything I can observe about a person without ever speaking to them or getting to know them, how accurate would my assumptions be? How well am I describing who this person really is? Creating a person from a collection of stereotypes is fine for comedies, or comedians. But relying on stereotypes as your main way of understanding someone that you don’t know is simply ignorant.

Let’s get to the heart of this: Western/American guy. Asian woman from abroad.

Maybe she is a mail-order bride. Maybe he picked her out of a catalogue, or plucked her from the rice paddies.

Maybe she’s escaping a life if poverty. Maybe she’s after the green card and naturalization – and plans to import her rice paddy family too!

Maybe she’s an opportunist; a gold digger.

Maybe he is being used. There’s a long list of family members back home getting sick!

Maybe…

Maybe he’s a misogynist. The Western Women are too independent-minded for him, and he needs a submissive woman who will attend to his needs, desires, and follow his orders. (Anyone who knows Cecille is surely laughing at this point!)

Maybe, he’s a loser. There must be something wrong with him if he can’t even find a woman in his own country. It feels good to be getting all of these out of the way! Can anyone think of any more? If so, have at it in the comments!

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So it’s with these aforementioned stereotypes that we come to the inspiration for my post. This past Monday morning at work, I was at a meeting which is held monthly for all of the Managers at the Non-Profit Agency I’m employed at. At the start of these meetings, the facilitator (an Administrator who is also my boss) encourages the Managers to take a few brief minutes to speak in turn about anything they’d like: this is actually on the meeting agenda as “What I feel like saying…”

Typically, people will share either big life events, or simply anecdotes about their weekend activities. It had been a couple of months since I’ve been able to attend one of these meetings, so when it was my turn, I announced that since the last meeting, I’d become engaged.

Everyone in the room clapped. It was…well, cute. One of the other Managers asked me if I’ll be visiting my fiancée again soon, and I replied that yes, I will be traveling back to Thailand in May. To which she replied: “So does she speak English?”

I wasn’t especially surprised, but a bit annoyed to be asked in such a blatant way in that forum. But instead of switching to full-on defensive mode, I took it in stride and approached it as a “teachable” moment to explain that Cecille was fluent in English… She works in Thailand but is originally from the Philippines, and that English is the predominant language in the country. Everyone learned it in grade school. (In fact, Cecille learned it even earlier, as her mother is an English teacher.). Anyway, it would have been more tactful of her to ask me this question without the company of all of the other Managers in our meeting, but whatever…

I’d like to think that she was well-intentioned overall, or that maybe she assumed my fiancée is Thai and thus less likely to know English than a Filipina. While there are many Thais who speak perfect English too, it’s not ingrained in their culture like it is in the Philippines. I can’t help but to wonder if she would have asked me the same question had I said I’d be traveling to the Philippines.

If I’m especially cynical, I can also infer other meanings from this question:

First, that I would be able to marry someone that I couldn’t even communicate with. I could not. This may be an OK arrangement for some people, but not for me. Second, her question could be a reflection of the stereotype of Western Man/Asian Woman from abroad. (note – I add the phrase “from abroad” here because there are many American Asian women to which this stereotype doesn’t seem to apply). Knowing my fiancée is from Asia and further assuming the possibility that she can’t speak English seems to type-cast me as a potential bride-shopper, swooping in to rescue the hot but helpless rice paddy girl regardless of the fact that we don’t know how to talk to each other. That’s ok, because I’m the type of man who likes my women clueless and quiet… Obviously not.

Am I reaching here? Have I lost the ability to be objective and thus am overly sensitive to what people may assume?

All in all, does it even matter what people think? Yes and no.

No, it doesn’t matter because Cecille is my match regardless of what people may assume. Before I met Cecille (in person) I was attracted to her for her personality, her intelligence, her wit, and her charm. In fact, that’s what kept me talking to her so often in those first few weeks. The things that drew me to her then (and much more now) have little to do with her race, nationality, or where she is from. Yes, I knew she was Filipina, but more importantly, we later came to realize that we share similar values and dreams. Ultimately, during the two weeks I spent traveling with her, I fell in love.

I don’t have much previous experience with Asian culture or people – I’ve never had a close Asian friend before, let alone a girlfriend. That being said, the process of intermingling our two cultures and the resulting variety is one that I’m looking forward to.

Yet in a more general, and less personal way: Yes. It does matter what people think insomuch as it’s always a positive thing to challenge ignorance, to prove negative stereotypes wrong.

Cecille grew up on a farm. In fact, both sides of her family owned rice paddies. She would tell me stories of her life growing up in the countryside. She would often tease me that I did indeed pick a girl out of a rice paddy. But Cecille was also Editor in Chief of her college newspaper while concurrently the Vice President of the parliamentary debate club (which used English as the medium). She went to graduate school after her RN. For my future wife to have a solid resume is impressive – but more importantly, I would settle for nothing less than for my wife and I to truly connect and clearly communicate with each other – essential for any successful marriage.

In the end, I don’t look down on men who do the “mail-order bride” thing, or the women who marry them. To each their own, but it isn’t for me. The only reason for me to marry is when I have found someone that I truly love and cherish. But then again, this article isn’t meant to criticize other people’s preferences in choosing life partners. Rather, this is about the reliance on stereotypes to form opinions about people. And voicing such opinions publicly, especially in an inappropriate venue, rather than realizing you don’t really know anything and just keeping your misinformed judgment to yourself. Be careful with that, everyone.

Immortalizing International Love through Photographs-An Engagement Pictorial (1 of 2)

It’s wedding season for my age bracket! Lately when I’m on social media networks, I’ve been seeing my comrades getting engaged, marrying, and having babies. Love is in the online air!

It’s amazing what modern-day communication affords us. I can truly attest to this. My mind is blown because of how with one click, I am able to talk to old friends I haven’t even touched base with for a while… people I would otherwise only see again in the pages of old yearbooks, class pictures or night-out photographs of years past.

I remember frolicking under the sun with as kids with some of these old friends. Others were high school girl friends that I used to share colognes and crushes with. The rest were either colleagues from previous workplaces or someone I knew through somebody. Now in our mid-twenties, discussing wedding plans with them after several years of inconsistent communication is both unexpected and refreshing.

“We are at this stage, huh!?” we would comment to each other. Yes – it seems like we are not getting any younger.

On the subject of weddings, it is usual for brides-to-be to share and compare wedding plans with each other. Crucial topics such as the ceremony venue, reception, cake and catering services, florists, and for some, preferred officiating ministers or priests are thoroughly discussed.  Then they fuss about invitation printers, save- the- date ideas, table cards, giveaways, and of course the entourage’s outfits and the bridal couture! Ah, and the wedding dress!

To my dearest grooms – keep in mind that holding everything together is difficult enough for the bride to do even with her bridesmaids in assistance…and for an occasion as big as this, the ladies always put their best foot forward so that absolutely nothing goes wrong and everything is perfect come the big day. Minor glitches are not even tolerated. Women plan for and organize their weddings like a platoon strategizes before battle. It’s do or die. But in terms of wedding planning, women are even more feral and unforgiving when they don’t get their way and/or things don’t go as planned. Hell hath no fury than a bride and her entourage scorned. It’s like “Bridezillas Unite!” and you, poor little groom, don’t want to end up as collateral damage. So if you value your life, DON’T EVER commit the crime of ripping even just a teeny-tiny portion of the train of her dress on your way home from picking it up from the couturier. I’m telling you, she will definitely lose it. You’re a dead man walking. I can’t even begin to tell you how justice will be served…

(Yes, Ian. The whole paragraph about keeping the wedding dress safe and secure is essential to this entry and so you must not edit it out. ;-))

So, a few weeks back, I started talking to my ladies about wedding planning. Gentlemen, when we ladies talk weddings, this includes the blow-by-blow scrutiny of each one’s grooms: how helpful and participative they are with the organizing process, do they go to food tasting sessions, have they picked out their suits, were they aware the guest list just ballooned to 200..what??!!?, etc. Luckily for my darling Ian, I’m not quite in that Crazy Bride mindset (yet…that would be later, baby…hehe). I explained to my girls that since we are in a not-so-traditional circumstance, we can’t really do the whole big wedding thing (yet). Ian and I will say our vows in front of a Justice Of The Peace. Or, a city mayor – I  am not certain. I am not even sure when I’ll get my visa or when I’m leaving.

Naturally, this plan was met with raised eyebrows.  People gab about getting married as being a once in a lifetime deal (true for some people), and that couples are supposed to make it as memorable as possible. And so they ask me, “Why aren’t you throwing a big wedding? Don’t you want your friends and relatives to celebrate this occasion with you? Don’t you want your loved ones’ blessings?”

It’s not that we don’t want it – of course we do. But we can’t just yet. Basically, the plan is for me to leave for the US as soon as possible after my visa is approved. After I step foot on American soil, I intend to marry Ian as soon as we can.  After all of this exhausting bureaucratic work and the agonizing longing and waiting that came with it, I doubt I will have the time and energy for any kind of wedding planning.

So, civil courthouse ceremony it is.

Of course, that was not how I imagined my dream wedding would be. And this is absolutely not my mother’s dream wedding for me. But as I told you in my earlier entry, we make do with what we have. If there is anything my love journey with Ian taught me, it is to prioritize the things that are truly valuable in life and let go of all of those things that are material, temporary, and unnecessary. As for the two of us, to be in each other’s arms forever is blessing enough.

Besides, it’s not the wedding but the marriage. I know it’s not an original thing to declare, but it is certainly true. How many extravagant weddings have you been to and later found out that the couple split or that the bride ran away with another man? In 1974, Ian’s parents, Bob and Ellena, were married by a Justice Of The Peace too. Forty years later, they are still together, very much in love, and renewing their vows over the coming (American) summer.

Oh well, who knows? Maybe Ian and I will have a nice wedding in the future…we are certainly dreaming of it. Don’t be upset if we require guests to wear cloaks, tunics or kilts, because what we are imagining is a unique Game of Thrones inspired medieval-style wedding in honor of the circumstances of our first meeting. DIBS!!!! Dare duplicate my theme and my dragons will be after you!

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But for the time being, we have our minds focused on priorities.  We are taking it one step at a time. Among the important details we carefully planned for and arranged was our pre-wedding pictorial.  I believe the engagement photoshoot is as important as the marriage ceremony itself. It says a lot about the couple and their love story. Also, it is sentimental because it is both a formal declaration of the couple’s betrothal and probably the last formal portraits of the couple as unmarried individuals.

Some people make an effort to come up with unique themes for their shoot. Some go with the customary and pose in bridal couture. Either way, the theme selection process is never easy.  Yet for Ian and I, our love story and our theme were a match made in heaven. Our theme had always been there since we first knew each other. We chose to channel The Wind-up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, a novel which is very close to our hearts. You do remember me telling you about Emiko and Anderson Lake, right?

 For my first-time readers, and for those who have forgotten, here’s a link to one of my earlier entries:

https://theglobalfilipina.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/rewinding-to-the-windup-girl-epiphany/

This riveting novel, although fictional, had repeatedly tugged on our heartstrings as if it were real. We were moved by the harrowing possible future reality presented by the author. We empathized with the characters, and in our imaginings, they became alive. When we were deciding on a concept, there was no doubt in our minds. This had to be it.

After rigorous research, we found out that no individual or group has thus far done a detailed interpretation of The Wind-up Girl, either through stills or film. Good! We wanted to be the first.  With the help of our hardworking team, we breathed life into the pages of the bestselling book.  So to Paolo Bacigalupi and to the many sci-fi/dystopian future fans out there, here’s our offering. We do hope that our version is close to how you imagined these characters.

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Also, we would like to share an exclusive sneak peek of some behind the scenes activity.

THE INSPIRATION

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THE MAKING

A day prior to the shoot, we met with our team to finalize the details of our endeavor. Like us, our photographer and stylists had done intensive research on the concept. We were all eager to make this shoot an unforgettable one.

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(Notice the photo of Audrey Hepburn on my laptop? More of it on Part 2 of this entry)

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Also, we did a pre-photoshoot location visit so that our team could become acquainted with the surroundings.

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Finally, here we are in action on the day of the shoot.

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Earlier that day, Ian and I encountered an inconvenience. His parents were worried and so they were calling him from the States. That’s him picking up his phone.

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Our team was eager to start and so they were waiting on us.

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This was me asking them to give us a minute. They did.

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Minutes later, Ian was still on the phone.

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 And still on the phone….So we waited.

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“Baby, they want to start”

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Ian was so stressed he needed re-touching…

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And some more last minute touch-ups…

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Me too, apparently…

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Then, our main photographer RJ gave us instructions…

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And more instructions…

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Finally we are ready to roll…

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The first few shots were awkward of course!

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But then they just kept taking photos….

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And more photos….until we were both exhausted.

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And so they gave us some break time

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(The Windup Girl photoshoot location was just outside the Champs Elysees Condominium compound, where my parents live. We shot the remainder of the photos inside….Stay tuned for Part 2)

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More retouching for me….and Ian was back on the phone!

It turns out; it wasn’t very easy to solve our dilemma that day.  Lucky us, Ian’s parents were to the rescue. They were very supportive even from thousands of miles away. From afar, they ended up saving the day. Thanks B + E.

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Back to work! RJ was relentless in motivating us.

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He did well at taking charge

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This time, the more intense shots….

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And finally, we shot the last set.  Everyone was quiet while these pictures were being taken. The scene was so solemn and so moving that I swear I saw my uncle shed a tear. Personally, I was being emotional. The stress of what happened earlier finally got to me…but what helped the most was when I was internalizing Ian’s impending departure the following day…It was a heartbreaking thought and maybe you can tell when viewing the final published photos how somber I was….

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But all is well that ends well. We finished the first part of our pictorial session right before lunch. Relief! Also, food was waiting for us back in my mother’s place. So, we had the perfect excuse to be playful in this photo.

There you have it folks, the first part of this photoshoot entry. Stay tuned for the next installment. I promise I will publish ASAP!

To view the complete set for this photo session, click here:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.411157965640497.95111.150758515013778&type=1

Our Compliments and Special Thanks
Photo Credits:
RJ Protacio and RJ Protacio Photography
Jared Villegas Teves
Hair and Make-up Artists:
Kittikoon Khinkhajorn
Auyjung Naja
Co-stylists:
Clint Lopez
Jan Jay Espino
Production Assistant:
Karl Castillon