Sayonara and Domo Arigatou, 2014!

As the year draws to a close, I am taking a moment to appreciate all the gifts the past months have given me. There have been plenty of bumps along the way. And there have been challenges that stretched me past my limits. But overall, it has really been a great year.

Even after all these years, it is still not easy to have our mom living so far away from us. But communication has not been sparse thanks to phone apps that make constant messages as well as voice and video calls possible. Good health is one of the best gifts this year has bestowed on our family. My dad has stopped drinking since that frightening vehicular accident last year. The decision to let go of the car, which would need repairs anyway because of the major damages the collission caused, meant losing the fear of him driving after he gets drunk. It has been such a relief for me given the scare his drunk-driving usually gives me. This year has also been a time of reconnecting with relatives although for sad reasons. My aunt’s death brought together relatives from my father’s side of the family. It was a bittersweet occasion. A time of remembrance and getting to know extended family members that I met for the first time or after a long time.

Good friends are among my greatest treasures. I am happy to have extraordinary friends who inspire me, challenge me, and stick with me. I am also pleased to meet a lot of new friends this year. One of the highlights of my year was the trip to Chungju in South Korea for the Asian Games and the side trip to Seoul after. Apart from seeing colleagues I have worked with in the past, I also met others for the first time. I had a great time with them throughout our stay in Chungju. I also got to spend a few days with my close friend Bixie who is based in Seoul. We finally had more time for sightseeing and catching up unlike my first visit a couple of years ago.

With Bixie at the War Memorial
With Bixie at the War Memorial

Spending time with Bixie was an edifying experience for me. She is one of the select people that I can truly connect with. Talking with her even about the most mundane things brings me joy. While we keep in touch through KakaoTalk, being together paves way for more meaningful conversations and memorable experiences. 2014 is also about staying in touch with other dear friends who live in Australia (Min2x with her daughter Maxie), US (Beth and Milo with their daughter Enzie), and Manila (Anna Liese and Chalyn). We have all been together through all the highs and lows of our respective lives. It is hard not to appreciate how they are still part of my life until now and for years to come.

This year is also a time for rekindling friendships with high school friends that I have lost touched with for many years. My high school friend Deanna and I have become “food trip” buddies. We have explored Davao’s culinary delights and food haunts every time she was home for a visit from Cagayan de Oro. I have not had much contact with my other high school friend, Leonor, but she never fails to check in once in a while through text or on FB. I have also enjoyed the dinners and get togethers with some of my high school classmates that I rarely see.

Jury duties (umpiring)

With the other juries on our respective boats during the umpires' salute/parade after the final races.
With the other juries on our respective boats during the umpires’ salute/parade after the final races.

Growth and new-found confidence are two of the significant things that I think happened to me in my role as jury (umpire). I think doing Kendo has influenced that. I still feel nervous at times, especially when working with more experienced umpires. But there is a deeper level of calmness that has not been there before. This has afforded me with greater focus and clarity, which was probably why I performed way better than I expected during the AG.

As early as February, I knew in my heart that I want to finally take up Kendo. It has long been one of the things I want to do. I emailed the club manager of a dojo in Manila if he knew of any dojos or clubs offering Kendo in our area. He told me that there was no Kendo club in the city at that time. It was only in June that the opportunity presented itself. The club manager from Manila informed me that a club is being formed. I quickly visited the Facebook page link he gave me and inquired about how to join the group.

During keiko
During keiko

My Kendo journey has not been an easy one. Joining the club while it is still being formed meant dealing with the birth pains that usually come with anything that is in its beginnings. But the challenges did not diminish my passion for this Japanese martial art. Most of the things I acquired and invested on this year were Kendo-related – shinai, kendogi and hakama, and bogu. And these are on top of the fees we pay for the venue. Kendo is teaching me a lot of things in return though. Focus, mindfulness, and humility are just some of the things that are repeatedly being honed in me every practice. There is so much I need to learn and I am only barely scratching the surface of what Kendo is right now. But I am looking forward to this journey and to grow in it over time.


Two years ago, while waiting for my flight home.
Two years ago, while waiting for my flight home.

In April 2012, I was sitting at the pre-departure lounge for Asiana airlines at Incheon airport. I was gazing outside the wide glass windows directly across where a row of Korean Air planes were parked. I thought then that I want to fly with Korean Air on my next visit. Little did I know that the random thought would become a reality. The said airline was the official airline sponsor for the AG so all international technical officials and other invited delegates were provided with free tickets. It was a pleasant experience for me both ways. The plane even arrived roughly 40 minutes earlier than scheduled during my Manila to Incheon flight.

The South Korea trip brought me back to Chungju where the rowing venue was. But it was like visiting the place for the first time again. I was able to explore more of the traditional cuisines along with my co-umpires. We also had the chance to go sightseeing to Chungju Lake which I missed two years ago. The side trip at Seoul was also one of the best ones I have had. There were many firsts, which traveling unfailingly provides. It was the first time I spent hours sightseeing on my own.

I left Chungju for Incheon airport with my co-umpires Admiral Chai and Mao who were catching an early flight home to Thailand and Taipei respectively. From the airport, I took a bus to Jongno-gu like I did in 2012. Since I arrived early at the hotel, I just left my luggage and walked from there to Gyeongbokgung Palace just across Gwanghwamun Square. I joined the English tour and walked around on my own after the guided tour finished. Fall has not fully arrived yet but the weather was already perfect for long walks. I proceeded on foot to Insadong and soaked in the sights and sounds around me. Bixie and I met later after her work.

The next day we had brunch at SuJi’s Deli in Itaewon then went to the War Memorial just a few bus stops away. We went to another part of Itaewon after and walked uphill to check an apartment for rent since she was planning to move from her current place. Our last stop was in Myeongdong, which was as crowded as I remember it to be.

The following day, we joined a DMZ tour. Getting in and out of the Third Tunnel which was part of the tour was a test of my endurance. It was easier to traverse than the narrower Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam, but the downhill trek going in and uphill walk coming back was too tiring for me. The fatigue of the past days and my state of unfitness took its toll on me. It was probably only because of sheer will that I managed to get out without fainting and rolling back down to where I started. We spent the rest of my stay in Seoul walking around, eating, and chatting.

This year, I understood much better how different freelancing can be. Comparing it to the previous jobs I have had would only lead to disappointments and grief. Job security is an alien concept when you work freelance. The benefits I took for granted before are no longer a given. I have to work extra harder to provide them to myself. I also have to learn not to undervalue my work. It is not an easy path to take, but the rewards include having the freedom to make decisions on how I want to spend my time.

It has been a far from perfect year for me, but it has been great in many ways. So thank you Universe and God for all the good things and even the bad. I truly am grateful. Sayonara and domo arigatou, 2014!


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