Remembering Rachel

I first met you at my first job, even though we came from the same university, you already graduated when I started so I didn’t get to know you there. 

You had a reputation that preceded you – genius, workaholic, great friend. My college professor told me to seek you out if I needed a mentor at work but we didn’t really talk much about work though, it was mostly about books, math, travel, algorithms, music, the state of the nation, and whatever new tech was percolating. 

In one of my Japan business trip assignments, I got to know some of your friends and you invited us to your cute loft apartment for a movie marathon. I remember you lent me this collection of Ally McBeal DVDs to catch up on your fave TV show back then, you also shared some of the music you listened to in mini discs while I shared some of my writings with you. 

When I resigned from my first job, you gave me this book called “the curious Incident of the dog in the night-time”, and you said I would like all the mention about prime numbers there. You always had a knack for finding novels with mathematical references like Yoko Ogawa’s “hakase o aishita suushiki”.

Even though we didn’t work at the same place anymore, we still found time to email and chat about the exciting world of machine learning and all the Coursera we planned to take, I actually feel like my IQ goes up 10 notches every time we have our talks. 

Before I left for Canada in 2015, you shared about your medical condition and how the doctor gave you 2 years, our conversation was lighthearted even though the topic was grave, you joked that you finally know the medical term for “my heart skips a beat”, and it didn’t sound very romantic. 

Today they told me you were gone, I hopped on a zoom call with your close friends and they shared their fond memories of you. I looked back at our last conversation just a couple of weeks ago, we were talking about cognitive tools, subjects they should teach in school and our MMC logo – a hypocycloid, the path traced by a point on the circumference of a circle that is rolling inside a bigger circle.

You’ve been a really good friend to all those who knew you and up to the very end you didn’t want to be defined by your illness, you chose instead to downplay it, quietly bear the pain, and be thankful for the extra years you’ve enjoyed. 

As I listened to all their stories about you, I realized how blessed I am to have known you, how you’ve enriched the lives of so many people and what a big hole you’ve left in the hearts of everyone who had the honor of knowing you. 

Mata aimashou, Reicheru. 



Wookie has been with us since 2003, Papa picked her up from a friend in Davao and they took a bus and an overnight boat trip to get to us, all the while pretending to be a chicken in a box.

I remember Pa used to borrow her when he was in town and she stayed in hotels, drank milk at Starbucks, and was given Lechon hocks for lunch so her preference for food was ruined for life. (spoiled dog alert)

She fell on the pond at Ayala once while trying to chase some insect, hanged out at the shaded bench with Mama on the beach coz she didn’t want sand on her paws (dog diva much), took jeepney rides, taxi rides, van rides when we were taking Drei to school, road trips to family park and fishing village and now one last ride home.

She’s been with us through countless house moves – come to think of it, the only reason we moved residences was to have a bigger space where she can run free. If we didn’t have her, I’m sure we would still be living in a one bedroom and stay minimalists.

Wookster is a feisty one, she doesn’t greet you, she will lay on the couch or the bed and just stare at you so you have to come to her, rub her belly, give her treats, and then she goes to some unreachable corner under the bed to have a nap. I actually think she is part cat. Speaking of cats, she just looks at them, and goes about her way, she’s not into that barking and chasing stuff.

When Lola came, wooks followed her around and they were instant besties, like old pals who’ve known each other forever. I guess they both know the secret to life’s longevity.

18 years is impressive Wookiedookie, that’s 126 years of human life, you’ve outlived Lola and she wasn’t such a slacker when she left at 104. I guess that spoiled me into thinking that everything lasts a long time.

Thank you for the walks, the cuddles, the company, the lifetime. You are very much part of our family and we loved you the best way we could, I know you loved us too in your own way. I’m sad I wasn’t there for one last hug or belly rub but I’m sure Drei took great care of you. We’re going to miss you especially in photo ops since you’re such a great poser, always ready for the ‘gram. I don’t think I’ll ever have another dog after you, you’re such a hard act to follow. Maybe I’ll just get a pet rock and stamp your face on it.

Goodnight wook, go have that nap now and have those wonderful dog dreams…


2003 – 2021

*Wookie had a seizure and arrested at 732AM on July 5th and couldn’t be revived. We didn’t put her to sleep, she left on her own time, because that’s how she is, always getting her way up to the very last second. There are no goodbyes for Wookie, she will live forever in our hearts

Past Tense

“But don’t look back in anger, I heard you say”

Time makes memories hazy and fragile and cruel. Sometimes it even exposes things you’ve overlooked that were always hiding in plain sight. Then again, it’s not often that a blast from the past comes strolling by your present and totally changes everything you thought you once knew and held as true. 

Today a forgotten dream knocked on my door in broad daylight and I was reminded that what I thought I just imagined was actually a previous reality that I have lived through. It seems bizarre to even think there was a different life before the now and another place aside from here but that’s what time and distance do – they play tricks on us until everything just melts into a big pot of beautifully distorted colors that only our hearts can see through.

There was a yesterday when no matter how tightly I shut my eyes and how much I covered my ears, I could still see and hear all the things that hurt me, I felt too much then but the scars are faint now and I’ve come a long way from that dark place. The torments are few and far between. 

While it’s easy to just pretend it didn’t happen, it’s hard to ignore the lessons we’ve learned from every fall and stumble along the way. So rather than sweeping the dust under the rug like we always do, let’s clean up after ourselves and just admit, that once upon a time we brightened the night sky like we were daylight, and for a brief moment we thought we could fly, but as most fireballs do, we crashed and burned to the ground.

We lost pieces of our old selves that day but new things grew back to take their place. And even though these patched up parts don’t quite fit, we make do and we carry on. 

I carry on.

“I can feel it comin’ back again like a rollin’ thunder chasing the wind, forces pullin’ from the center of the earth again”

twenty seventeen

2017 was a year of loss for me, but since life always struggles to seek a balance, as the brown leaves fell, green ones grew back to take their place, and somehow that has eased the solace. I’m not saying the new ones completely replaced the old but they took up their own space in my heart and found ways to comfort me.

The passing of each year never fails to put me in a retrospective mood, it reminds me how ephemeral the world is, and everything else in it. It makes me question my reality, the things I’ve accomplished and those I’ve failed to do.. sort of a performance review. Did I do well? Did I learn enough? Did I give enough? Did I love enough? I don’t really know how I fared but since I’m a work in progress until my last breath, I will just rise back up and strive to be better with every step and stumble I make..

Today, while looking at my old blog, trying to recall when I last wrote a poem, I realized Photobucket has disabled all my images, I won’t be able to see them again unless I shell out some $$ to allow third party website referencing, what a drag, 14 years worth of memories now in hostage on their servers. I can’t even view them when I’m logged on to their site, I can only see the thumbnails and when I click on it, they show me that default logo that says I need to pay up to view my own photos. So of course I did what I had to do – go back to each of my post and remove the links to those snapshots so I won’t see that annoying gray box.

As I was reading the words written by the naive, brighter eyed me, I can’t help but shake my head and mutter, “you know nothing, young padawan”, and indeed I still know less than nothing until now. I doubt if I will ever grasp enough knowledge in this lifetime to make me tell myself that I did good despite of and in spite of everything else around me. But one thing is for certain, I won’t give up.. or I’ll try not to.


Goodnight, Lola

Dear Lola,

It’s been a long glorious life, 104 years and 28 days to be exact, but now it’s time to rest..

Thank you for raising me up, for teaching me to walk and talk and count and throw milk bottles when they’re empty. (although I’m pretty sure I learned that last one on my own)

I used to call you Nanay when I was growing up in Taguilos and I remember you chasing me from the river to our house because I was out playing with the other kids and you said I didn’t ask for permission (but I did! you were just sleeping when I told you I was going out, and you mumbled a yes with your eyes closed, so I guess that doesn’t count).

Remember that time when the passenger boat we were on suddenly sank on the way to Manila and you were holding me up with one hand and a pair of chickens with the other? You were laughing then even if you didn’t know how to swim and you told me to just hold on to the katig so we’d make it home.. (maybe it’s time for me to learn how to swim.. so I can save more chickens later?)

On your first plane ride to Cebu you were so happy and you said we should ride airplanes next time we go to Romblon so that our 12 hour boat travel will be reduced to an hour. I’m sure they have planes to our island now, I’ll fly on it for you one day..

This morning I was looking at your photos to share to my friends, to tell them you’ve been recognized by DSWD as one of the centenarians in the Philippines, you had a picture with them and Tito Robert said you just started eating again after a few days of not eating much, that was just two days ago.. a few minutes after I shared your photos, Drei messaged to say that you passed away quietly in your sleep just after midnight.. everything just crashed in me in the blink of an eye..

It’s time to go home now Lola, I wish I could have been there with you, I wish I could have held your hand one last time, hugged you and kissed you good night, but that’s not very possible right now..

Goodnight Lola, you’re going to live forever in me..


when good things come to an end

It’s not every day that you find something that fits you perfectly, challenges you constantly, positions you in situations where you can thrive and succeed, grows with you through time, and evolves with you endlessly. So it’s only natural that when you find something like that, the instinct is to cling, to hold on to it for dear life, to never let it go..

However, sometimes, an event bigger than we initially expected will force us to release our hold on this something that we thought would last for always.. and slowly we must gather all the learnings, cherish all the moments, be thankful for the opportunities and appreciate it for what it has helped us to become, before we finally move on to take on other things..

Working with this team for the past 6 years gave me the chance to meet a lot of brilliant minds and take on many different responsibilities, it has stretched me and helped shape me to become the person I am today. If things were different, I would stay and grow old with it, this is the company I’ve been with the longest, and it was a difficult decision to leave.

But things are not different, and I have to choose one  over the other because I couldn’t do both – belong to an organization I value and pursue my personal dream at the same time. Maybe someday when I have achieved my goal, I will come back here if the doors are still open for me.

For now, I just want to thank everyone for making this journey a defining one. I would like to create more memories with you and more contributions to this corporation next time.

So no goodbyes, just hellos, and see you all someday soon..


remember when the circus came to town

dear ma,

being the only daughter of Lola’s only daughter certainly has its perks, this doesn’t include borrowing your shoes, bags and clothes because they really wouldn’t fit me anyway, but that’s ok. you gave me more than just things that can be bought from a store. you gave me love, faith and patience – although that last trait is sometimes being cancelled out by this other set of genes in my system :).

i am amazed at how crazy our life has been and how we were apart more often than we were together, but despite everything we’ve been through, i will always remember that time when we were sharing a cup of Nissin’s instant ramen in that small room at the second floor of a boarding house in Singalong and you told me it was your birthday. I looked at your sad eyes across the steam rising from the cup between us and gave you a hug – I knew then, more than anything else, that I wanted you to be happy.

you once said that “you and me against the world” was our theme song and i liked that part at the end when the kid says “i love you, mommy”. when I close my eyes I still see the little me hugging all your clothes in your closet whenever you would leave me alone to go to work. and I would laugh when i recall myself crying in front of the electric fan while you sang Green Fields.

i don’t know if i ever said i loved you enough and it breaks my heart when i break yours with the things i say or do, but i hope you know that all my life i have tried my best to be someone who deserves all the sacrifices you have done for me.

today is your birthday in your time zone and I know you don’t celebrate such things but please know that I still wish the same thing that the younger me wished for you many years ago – happiness – no matter how elusive and difficult that choice seems to be.

I want to give you a hug right now but I only have words to fill this space between us. someday I will finally grow up to be someone you can be proud of and maybe all your dreams for me will finally come true, but until then please be happy everyday and send my love to Lola who gave the world the gift of you.


the cookie quest

My self confessed foodie friend (and who my mom always said would make everything taste great just by her endorsement) introduced me to The Cookie. It was just another Saturday spent strolling along the Bay Area and walking across the Golden Gate Bridge then dinner at the Cheesecake Factory when she said we should stop by Bristol Farms at Market street to try the (in)famous cookie. I’d have to say, it ruined all cookies for me and I wished I bought more to take back to Vancouver.

This time around, in between short hikes and long drives to Yosemite and Lake Tahoe, I decided (come hell or high water) that I’m going to take a dozen cookies back with me. Since I’m staying at Shing’s pad in San Jose, going to the cookie store means an hour and a half drive to Ria’s place in Millbrae then another hour ride at the ear splitting BART.

Ria said I should think real hard and make sure it’s worth it because it’s definitely out of the way. However, I already said my promises, so skipping the cookie was definitely out of the question.

Sometimes in life, it’s so easy to just blurt out words without thinking about the follow throughs. Often, people make empty vows and half meant jokes (like politicians these days) and then pass them out as nothing more than fairy tales and parables to fill up idle time.

I’m definitely not one of those people who spews out words without meaning. Words are sacred to me. I’m a sucker for a well written prose. I always try to mean what I say and say what I mean, and I do my best to keep my promises.

So yeah, I’m sure this isn’t the best cookie in the world, and it’s probably not healthy either, but then sometimes it’s not the actual thing that matters but rather the journey to get it.

This is surely one of those cookie stories that will go down in history.

flying towards the unknown

2015 started out hopeful as I still had a hangover from the volunteer activity in Ecuador and the side trip to Peru. The people I met there reminded me that I was working with the world’s most brilliant minds, making me feel like a kid walking among giants. It was both an enriching and humbling experience. They inspired me to achieve greater heights in my career, and I was duly recognized.

The rest of the year unfolded as it should, I immersed myself in family, work, friends, travel and hobbies while I grew roots and faded into mediocrity. It was predictable and safe, it was frighteningly comfortable, I was almost on the verge of contentment, and I would have stayed there if I could, but then life happened.

Life’s like that, it doesn’t prepare you for a denouement, it takes you up then slams you down, forcefully to the ground, without warning, and you are left clueless on what just happened, as you try to pick up your broken pieces and decide what you’ll do next.

Coelho said “don’t be someone that searches, finds, and then runs away”. When I decided to leave my comfort zone for good, it felt like I was running away.  I was not really looking for anything in particular but something found me, something that needed to be distilled by time to make it pure. So I chose distance to make me wiser, but I think Murakami may have been right, “distance might not solve anything, no matter how far you run”.

So here I am, thirty three days later and seven thousand miles away, I jumped off the cliff and I’m about to hit the ravine, but I’m still struggling to grow my wings.

I’ve got nothing on me save for an inked pen, a notebook and three minutes of your time, so here’s the one zillion simoleon question of a lifetime: will you come fly with me?


Dear Papa,

Happy birthday to you! Today you will be 61, I wonder where you are, are you celebrating with friends or family or just on your own looking out to the sea?

Once upon a time you were my superhero, my Santa Claus, my protector, the tallest and strongest and most handsome guy in the world, the man I look up to, the one who will read me bed time stories at night, sing Simon and Garfunkel to make me fall asleep, and sing “Mockingbird hill” to wake me up each morning. Once upon a time you taught me how to play chess and ping pong and bowling and billiards and poker until I learned to count Hershey’s kisses like chips that I can use to call, raise or go all in.

I remember we used to go on midnight drives to the gas station convenience store to buy chocolates or to Minute Burger to have a midnight snack. Life was so simple then, the house in Bulacan was like a distant dream that I used to visit every summer so Kuya and I can play Monopoly and hide and seek with our cousins.

Everything is so different now. I last saw you three years ago when we had dinner at Shakey’s, you told me about your life and where you’re headed then you asked me what my plans were. We talked like old friends and suddenly I missed the father who knew the answers to all the questions, the cure to all the pain, and the solutions to all the problems. There were so many things I wanted to ask you then but it looks like as we grow older we’ll just have to figure things out on our own.

Pa, I think I got my anger issues and running away genes from you. I try to keep it at bay and everyday is a chance for me to be better, but sometimes I just want to leave everything behind and go as far away as I can to a place where no one knows me. I think that’s where you are right now, did you ever find happiness there? Is it everything you had hoped it would be?

You once told me that when you grow old, you just want to go to the mountains and live a simple life among indigenous people then teach them crafts, I wanted to ask you “but what about me? what about us?”, but then you taught me not to be the clingy, needy, possessive type. Instead you showed me how to be strong, independent and unattached, like you.

Someday, maybe I will see you tuning a guitar and singing “Bookends” or sitting at an old cafe playing chess with a random stranger and talking about the history of the world.

Till then, I hope you are with people who love you and I hope they are taking good care of you, or since you don’t like that domesticated crap, I hope you are strong and healthy and still fighting with life.

Your daughter,