I vividly remember my dearest, perpetually well-coiffed Mum and ruggedly handsome Dad casually whispering to each side of my then ignorant ears that I would lead a charmed life. I was a thin 9 year old and it was the sweltering summer of 1978. Only the shallow but exciting thought of wearing a pair of newly-bought well-ironed, wrinkle-free khaki pants matched with a crisp, immaculately white short-sleeved polo shirt and shiny leather shoes to school for the very first time was what occupied my young mind. Come June that year, I would be attending fourth grade in an esteemed all-boys Jesuit educational institution.
The Ateneo de Manila was where my most formative years were spent; the place where I would meet future life-long mentors and genuine friends who I now consider to be more than just family. I chose them. And they chose me; one of them being my best friend who’s been one of my pillars for the past 35 years! Funny fact is my high school class has never been more tightly-knit than ever; regardless of every member’s successes and failures and blissfully tolerant of each one’s sexual preference! It was a spot for privileged young men where the country’s future leaders were born (including the much-admired, His Excellency President Benigno Aquino III, the Philippines’ current leader) and molded; where language and numbers mastery were upheld. It was likewise a site where we all learned to be “men for others” – the St. Ignatius (our patron saint) way. And for that I shall always be grateful to our teachers and the priests for my whole being, add to that my acquired messiah complex. We shall delve into that and how Jesuit education has impacted us in my future entries.
After six years of university existence where I finished Political Science, let’s fast-track to the year 1992 where I first worked as administrator in our family-owned vocational training school. Duty-bound, the job honestly simply bored me to tears. Thankfully, it was the also the time when I met the love of my life – the loving, dashing, adoringly-grounded, understanding, giving, most unselfish, and endearingly low-key longtime partner. Hence, you won’t see him in any of my posts.
Amidst the annual traditional family holidays spent mostly around the Philippines and Asia to celebrate the Chinese New Year, I hopped jobs from a Manila-based hotel as front desk clerk to public relations manager of a major pizza and pasta restaurant chain. I eventually put-up a public relations firm together with former workmates where I met the most brilliant lifestyle journalists (my mentor Deedee Siytangco, plus Ethel Timbol, Millet Mananquil, Joanne Rae Ramirez, Celine Cristobal, Abe Florendo, and Thelma San Juan), one of whom published my adventures and misadventures in the Manila Times covering topics ranging from culture (reviews of Broadway and West-End musicals plus art exhibitions), cities I traversed, and Manila’s social gatherings and parties – my deep and sincere gratitude, Joyce Fernandez! I also met extremely talented writers (who eventually became friends like the trio of Harriet Dy, James Ong, and Jerome Gomez, plus Gadjo Sevilla, and the amusing, multi-talented, and adored Lourd de Veyra) that taught me tons of valuable lessons in professionalism, hard work, and effective writing.
The song “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” popularized by Nina Simone in the 1970s and by the British duo Lighthouse Family in the last two decades best describes how I spent most of the 1990s. Together with my partner, I felt free as a bird! Those dizzying years were consumed shuttling mainly between Manila and London; with short trips to Edinburgh, Paris, Cannes, Nice, Grasse, Chartres, Antibes, Eze, Brugge, Florence, Pisa, Amsterdam, Chicago, Toronto, New York, San Francisco, and Monte Carlo. My 20s were admittedly the time when I cherished wickedly carefree years of waltzing around Western Europe and North America. Even with my parents’ indulgent acceptance, I’d like to think that these were the years I matured most, having lived away from them for the very first time.
My partner and I simply got tired of that scene and we eventually found ourselves moving to the then idyllic, dreamy island of Boracay in 2001, where everyday felt like a Sunday. Running a small shop selling Bench, the Philippine’s top clothing brand and Speedo, the leading swimwear purveyor from Australia, was considerably stress-free; if you were intoxicated most of the time. Happy hours (usually in the late afternoon in big cities) were anytime as far as most residents and visitors were concerned; what with the non-stop influx of visiting friends and family. “I miss you already” was my famous welcome remark to everyone! Best of all, it was the time when we truly realized that we were dog lovers. Haughty but totally adorable Bruce, our eldest pug, was given to us shortly after we settled. We recently had to put him to sleep due to numerous illnesses at age 15. This was the most painful decision we had to make. Suave, masculine, and quite intelligent Dickie, the American Bulldog, and endearingly sweet, funny, ever affectionate Wallis, the female pug, were both purchased soon after. Hilarious, God’s gift to his female counterparts, gentle giant Edward, our Alaskan Malamute, was also a delightful gift from a close friend after a year or so. He passed quite unexpectedly last April and it totally broke our hearts. The latest additions to our family are a couple of Siberian Huskies we affectionately call Gorgeous George and Handsome Harry, and our resident clown, a Pug dubbed as Bodacious Bertie! The triumvirate are the current toasts of Tagaytay’s malls and markets plus Salcedo Village’s rows of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops! They bring us indescribable joy with their genuine, selfless love and loyalty! They are and forever will be our darlings!
The irritating constant power and water outages on the island in 2008 got to us and we decided to transfer to cool, laid-back, picturesque Tagaytay, albeit on a whim. I reckon the surroundings, plus my years, have had a significant effect on my mellowing down. Days are spent leisurely biking or going on long walks with the fur balls, hitting the gym every so often, losing myself tending our garden, humming and dancing with my sous chefs Gorgeous George and Bodacious Bertie while preparing our meals, grudgingly enjoying doing my own laundry, and merrily playing with our lovely furry kiddos! We’ve finally found our true home! The significantly more sober past several years living here have taught me to appreciate the simpler and more valuable things in life!
This is not to say that just like everyone who’s got their own pains, I also experience gloomy days due to my departure from another family business venture, the recent passing of my most beloved first best friend – my favorite brother – Kuya Boboy, Edward’s (our dearest Alaskan Malamute) untimely demise, Bruce’s (our eldest Pug) painful departure, and the fact that my 85 year old Mum’s bedridden with the debilitating and dreadful Alzheimer’s disease. Such is life and the world will not stop spinning even if you’d want it to.
We’ve all got to move on! Fortunately, the travel bug has not quit from biting us! We simply adore Indochina. We still constantly travel around Southeast Asia with a tad of the North (with special thanks to budget airline Cebu Pacific!): Thailand with buzzing Bangkok (our most fave, we’d like to think it’s our third home after Tagaytay and Makati), cool Chiang Mai, and sun-kissed Krabi and Phuket as favorites; Vietnam with Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh and their endearing organized chaos plus Frencg colonial architecture; Indonesia with exciting Bali, the magnificent Borobudur, and soon Jakarta; Malaysia with her multicultural Kuala Lumpur, and the pretty Langkawi island resort; Myanmar with her magnificent Yangon and her golden bewildering temples; Cambodia with Siem Reap and its amazingly breathtaking Angkor Temples; swinging Singapore; and Laos with her utterly pretty, picture-perfect, quaint Luang Prabang; add to that everyone’s usual Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai; and next on the bucket list are (hopefully) Japan, India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.
Whether traipzing around on vacance or just lazing on the home front, I’ve got much more to share with all of you – Aestheticism, Contempo Cranny, Domesticity, Grub Mentality, Persuasion, Pet Partiality, and Voyage! Anything and everything under the sun, actually!
Appreciate the simpler, but finer things in life with me. Go shopping with me. Experience bliss in the home front with me. Gorge scrumptious food with me. Meet interesting personalities and learn from them with me. Analyze ideas with me. Drown in the selfless love of pets with me. Get blissfully lost traveling with me.
Although I’m leading a more sedate existence nowadays, it most definitely doesn’t result to less fun and interesting stuff! In fact every experience, place, and sensation is better savored.
I must say my parents were right. Don’t you agree I’m living an interesting life?
Come outside with me! Join my journey! Be my accomplice! In cahoots with PJ!