Turning 27

Top, COS | Skirt, Banana Republic, thrifted

I turned 27 yesterday! Mikaius planned a lovely day for us, with the trip to the Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters exhibit at the AGO bookended by food – thank you, my love, for the effort that you put into this date!


Breakfast was at Yonge and Wellesley, at a restaurant called The Coach House Restaurant. We’ve eaten here before and had a grand old time, so we decided to come back. Mikaius had pancakes (super fluffy and delicious, by the way) with sausage and bacon and a milkshake to wash it all down, and I had the spinach and feta omelette with a cup of coffee. A wonderful and hearty start to my birthday!


We then walked to campus to visit the Trinity College Annual Book Sale, and on our way there, this adorable little ladybug decided to hang out with us for a little while. It particularly enjoyed Mikaius’ Misfits patch.

I got myself my first Ian Fleming book, an unabridged 1959 edition of From Russia with Love – it’s this exact one, although I only paid $3 for my copy! I’m going to hold off from reading it until December, but I’m pretty excited.


Afterwards, we hit up the Krispy Kreme at the Kensington Market for a snack: a Pepperoni Pull-apart, a Pumpkin Spice donut, an Original Glazed donut, and a Triple Chocolate Frozzé that we couldn’t finish because it was so thick. We had to walk around Blue Banana for a bit to try and shake things down, we were so full of food.

We made our way to the AGO for the exhibit, fairly buzzing with excitement. IT WAS SO COOL. Photos will honestly not do it justice, so I only selected a few to show here, but I was so glad that this was what he had chosen to take me out to for my birthday. I adore Guillermo del Toro – Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my favourite movies!


We headed out to Mo Ramyun, a short walk from the AGO, after the exhibit. Mo Ramyun is a favourite of ours, and we both tried something new: Mikaius had a bowl of the Chicken Ramyun, while I tried the Don-Gol Ramyun. Both delicious and so very filling – we had plenty of leftovers to take home.


All in all, a wonderfully relaxing day: I stayed off of my email and messages for the most part, and didn’t do any schoolwork. I’ll get back to it again tomorrow, but oh my goodness was it wonderful to not have to think about everything that I needed to submit and all my looming deadlines.

Grief, one year later.

Writing this now, in the year following his death, I am discovering that the ferocity of grief that comes to define your life after someone you love passes away can be terrifying. It takes so little for the angry sobbing to begin, and the incidents that cause the pent-up grief to crackle through my shields are, more than anything, mundane. Those incidents render me utterly helpless with weeping. Once it was the sight of a car that looked like the Jeep he used to drive. Another time it was when I glanced up from stir-frying bok choy and saw the photo of his that I’d stuck to my fridge door. There was a particularly harsh moment last year when I smelled Filipino food in the air and I started crying because I’d never taste his cooking again.

I walked out after the first few songs at his viewing, unwilling to look at the people, at the body that wasn’t him anymore, at the flowers that were flanking the fucking coffin. He was wearing something that I knew he would never have chosen for himself, and the anger that swept through me over the choice of clothing for a dead man’s body is like nothing that I have ever felt before or since. It felt like madness. Perhaps it was.

I did my weeping downstairs in the chapel, alone and angry. I tried to keep the pain contained, but it was, and still is, too unwieldy to hold in any container. It spilled out in my tears, and in the words flying out of my mouth as I tried to cope with the enormity of this loss. I flung my anger and my grief at nobody and at everybody, and it stained everything it touched. My brother found me a few minutes later, and he stood behind me, letting me be. Ultimately, Luis was who calmed me down.

The funeral was horrifying. There is nothing like having to bury a man while the sky is blue, a man who stepped up in every sense of the word to be your father. The sky was blue, my friend. That was a cruel joke. Couldn’t it have been raining? Couldn’t the sky be an expression of my grief? That was the cruelest thing, I think, that it was such a beautiful, ordinary day.

I will never set foot in that cemetery ever again. I can’t do it.

The week he died, I barricaded myself in my apartment, rolling around in my grief. I don’t remember what I ate. I don’t remember what I did. I remember attempting to plow through my readings. I remember seriously considering jumping onto the train tracks at Wellesley Station, and to be honest, up until quite recently it was constantly in the back of my mind. The week he died, I didn’t wash my hair for seven days; when I finally did because I had to attend classes, my hair was so thick with grease I had to shampoo twice before I got a lather.

I remember Mikaius practically living at my place – washing my dishes, doing my laundry, keeping me company. I remember Yvonne sending me an entire package of chocolate from Berlin – “to help fight the Dementors,” she wrote, in a card so full of kindness and love my heart broke even more. I remember friends sending me messages – and I remember vividly how it felt to not want to be physically touched and to not want to see anybody, but to feel secure in the knowledge that if I wanted company, I only needed to call. If you were one of the people who sent me love and light, I want you to know that I screencapped your message. They’re all in a folder buried somewhere deep in my phone, little flotation devices that I hold on to whenever I feel like drowning.

I feel so cheated, I honestly do. I feel cheated of a future we were supposed to have with him: all the missed birthdays, the graduations, long summer days roadtripping to one of the many apple orchards and pumpkin patches within an hour or two of the city. I miss him, painfully so. I still instinctively scan the parking lot for his damn Jeep whenever I’m at Mom’s.

All this to say that I wish he was still here, and there’s a lot I would give up in a heartbeat to have him back.


Summer Series, #02

I love that twisty ring on my middle finger – found it for $1.99 at a Value Village and I’ve been wearing it daily ever since.

After tinkering with my summer schedule a fair bit over this past weekend and finally figuring out how much time to devote to each of my activities (in theory, at least), I’ve decided to move the Summer Series 2017 to Mondays, as opposed to writing them for Fridays. I have too many deadlines that fall on Fridays, and with a reading course I really would like to dig into, it made more sense to schedule these posts for Monday.

See, this is where my new Passion Planner would come in handy, for keeping track of all my scheduled deadlines – can you tell how excited I am to finally get my hands on that thing?

Speaking of scheduled things – one habit that I have finally ingrained in myself as an adult human being is washing my face twice a day! It took me so long to set it up as a habit, and I’m a little ashamed of myself for only having done it this year. I started in January with a very simple routine: in the mornings, washing with a very gentle cleanser, then a toner, then moisturizer with SPF; and in the evenings, washing with a scrubbier cleanser, the toner again, and a heavier moisturizer. I’m not sure if my face has really improved, to be honest, and I’m too chicken to try out new moisturizers and cleansers, but for now it works! Nowadays, my breakouts only really happen around my period or when I go more than two weeks without swapping out my pillowcases.

When I was a young kid, I was under the impression that all adults who had hit their twenties suddenly became responsible and serious adults, and now that I’m **twenty-six, I feel so lost and uncertain about where I’m headed. Having a handle on a skin care routine makes me feel a little bit less lost, to be honest. I know that it’s a small thing, but the way things have been going, I’ll take all the little victories I can and enjoy them.

I look forward to getting more expensive facial care products in the future when I’m a more adult-y adult doing adult things, but for now, drugstore products it is!





Summer Series, #01

Up on the hill at the Evergreen Brickworks during a short day hike.

After an arduous and emotional hiatus, it feels so good to have the time and energy to expend on writing for myself again. I know I say it every single time, but I’ll say it again: it’s been too long. 

To celebrate my goal of making it out of my first year of grad studies in one piece, I took the plunge after months of fretting and ordered an Undated Compact Passion Planner for myself. I know, it’s hilarious, I see it too: a planner ordering a planner as a present to herself for completing year one of Planning school. But, this present actually works for me because I am also the type of individual who thrives on routine, and I genuinely think that my planners have come to be a necessary form of self-care. I already have a 2016-2017 planner from ban.do which I purchased last summer in prep for grad school, but my use of it has evolved: from actively using it to plan my months, I’ve since been using it as a remembrance book where I make collages of movie tickets, business cards of food places I love, and other small paper mementos. Looking back, I realised that this change occured becase while fantastic, the ban.do planner is gigantic. I eventually realised it was not functioning the way that I needed a planner to work, as I carry it around everyday in my bag and hardcover + spiral bound was not making my life easier.

I think that what I’m hoping for in purchasing the Passion Planner is to be able to use it as a tool, to help me engage with my introspection in a more guided manner instead of wallowing and drowning in it like I have recently been (like I still am). This past year has been incredibly difficult – and not because grad classes were poorly-taught, or because my professors were not supportive, but because I mentally checked out midway in October 2016. Someone I loved died four days before my 26th birthday last year… and I have not been taking it well. This death plunged me into a state where I had no desire to apply for graduate scholarships or for additional funding, or even go looking for summer internships. I still don’t have an internship lined up, but I am applying left and right and front and back. We’ll see how it goes.

I need to map out a life path for myself this summer and gain some semblance of control over my life, as I feel as though I am currently careening out of control and trying so desperately to stay on this road. So here I am, excitedly and rather impatiently awaiting the delivery of my Passion Planner, and while I am fully cognizant of the fact that a planner will not solve all of my problems, I’m hoping that the act of planning my summer out will at least lessen the anxiety and antsiness that comes with feeling very helpless when looking into the abyss.

Montréal Mayhem Part 1

We went on a short trip to Montréal!

Mikaius and I had been planning to go on a short weekend trip for a while now, and we finally managed to book the dates for the first week of May. School had officially ended – I embark on my graduate school journey this September – and we were excited to have a short break, especially since he has summer classes beginning the second week of May.

There was a short discussion about whether to take the ViaRail or Megabus, but our decision was made by the discovery that going by train would take 4 hours, while going by bus would take 6. And also that the two hour was really not worth it when you consider that the train ride would cost us hundreds of dollars, while the bus far was only $83 for us both, including reserved seats at the very front row.

Mikaius’ Mom very generously drove us up to Scarborough Town Centre, where we were an hour early for the bus and we waited… and waited.. and waited. Shivering the entire time, because we were a tad underdressed for the weather. Seriously, Toronto, this flip-flopping isn’t fun anymore!

I thoroughly enjoyed that bus ride, and the day was cloudy enough that my photosensitive eyes didn’t require me to wear my sunglasses for the entire trip. Reserving seats 3 and 4 (second level, first row) was probably one of the best decisions we made on this trip, because you could see everything. It was fascinating to me how the landscape and architecture started changing before my eyes as we got further and further away from Toronto. And it was all beautiful! We passed by at least four small towns I would gladly settle down in if I could find work there. You really can’t take the small-city-feels out of this girl: Bacolod City has a population of 511,820 (as of the 2010 census), while Toronto has 2,615,060.

When we got to Montréal, we found out that the Airbnb we were staying at was in close proximity to all of the things we wanted to explore, and we ended up not even buying passes to the Metro. We spent our first night in with an order of chicken tenders from Coq-O-Coq, which was just a few blocks away from our lovely apartment.

The next morning was perfect for walking – bright, warm, and sunny – so Mikaius made the call that it was the day we were going to the Old Port. We decided to walk, since it was a short 45-minutes away by foot from our place. Fortified by breakfast sandwiches from Tim’s (which Mikaius said was “inherently more fancy” since the transactions were conducted in Quebecois French), we began our exploration! Our route took us along rue Sainte-Catherine and straight to the Vieux-Port de Montreal. There weren’t very many people around yet, so we were able to enjoy ourselves, taking our time and walking from one end to the other, ooh-ing and aaah-ing at the different sights. We found a sweet little spot, Muru Crêpe, where we decided to have a late lunch. Their crêpes were delicious, and after we had gone back to Toronto, I found myself wishing that we’d eaten there at least once more. Dinner was a club roll and buffalo poutine from Dunn’s Famous, and while I wasn’t wild about the dry-ish club roll, I did love the poutine!

We ended the day at home, watching M*A*S*H, feeling so incredibly lucky to be spending a couple of days together on a really enjoyable trip.


Sundate: Trinity Bellwoods

This past Sunday, Mikaius took me out on a walking date, which is my favourite kind of date. The sun was shining, it was a warm +22, and Torontonians were out in full force enjoying the first really good day of spring. It felt like summer.

First on the list was the Sunday Antique Market at St. Lawrence Market, at the Esplanade. I had so much fun, I forgot to take photos. The vendors were selling all kinds of interesting stuff, ranging from Canadiana, old postcards, jewellery, knives, to vintage TMNT and The Beatles action figures still in their packaging. It was a madhouse, but the kind of organized chaos that I truly enjoy. I fell in love with this obscenely large costume ring — a chunky gold number featuring a lovely purple gemstone and two CZs that I’m pretty sure are glued in. It was a fantastically gaudy number, and Mikaius, seeing how much I enjoyed the bauble and because (oh rare moment) it fit me perfectly, bought it for me.

Mikaius then decides to present the ring to me at the crosswalk, going down on one knee and saying, “Will you do me the honour of being my wife?” I had such a visceral negative reaction to this that Mikaius laughed his ass off and decided to hold the idea of a public proposal over my head for the rest of our lives. What made this even more hilarious is that (a) he and I are already engaged, and I was actually wearing my ring that day, and (b) I had thought that I would love a public proposal… but obviously I don’t.

Anyway, after lunch at A&W, we went to The Paper Place, which is one of my favourite stores in the city, and shopped around for wedding inspiration. We’ve decided on a “rustic winter vaguely Christmas” theme, which is going to be interesting as neither of us are religious, but my family is church-going. Weeeeelp. We found this gorgeous paper for invitations that he fell in love with – Tairei Ginfuri, cream speckled with silver – because it reminds him of mithril

We had also brought The Well Tempered Heart for me and Prisoner of Azkaban for him so that if we found a sunny spot we could sit down and read, and when we were done browsing we crossed the street to Trinity Bellwoods Park. It was bustling with people and dogs (there are areas in the park that are designated leash-free zones), and we had a grand time pointing out all the fluffy puppies that had come out to play. The tree we chose to sit under also had a nice comfortable curve, and instead of reading his book, Mikaius took a nap. He said that it was the most restful nap he’d taken in a long time, and it was probably made even better by the fact that the winter semester was over.

He then treated us to ice cream cones for the walk back to Bathurst Station (twist cones for us both, chocolate-dipped for him!), and that concluded a lovely day. The day didn’t end there, not really, we  watched The Prisoner of Azkaban as soon as we got home, but sunshine and warmth in Toronto means that summertime is just around the corner, and I cannot wait to see what it brings.

It’s our third anniversary!

Mikaius and I quietly celebrated our third year of being together this February, and what an absolutely fantastic three years it has been! I spent the months leading up to our anniversary racking my brains, wondering what to get him that he would both love and use daily. Since he started reading the Harry Potter series last year (he even wrote a post about The Philosopher’s Stone!), I decided to get a metal bookmark stamped with a personalized message.

I’m so proud of how I managed to sneak an opinion out of him regarding what material he preferred: I pretended that I was getting a gift for a close friend of ours and showed him the sample photos that Anice Jewellery sent me of their bookmarks, asking him which one he would prefer if he were the giftee. He picked the brass-toned one and off-handedly said, “If I was commissioning one for myself, I would add a little brass feather on the end of the cord.” Bingo! The only question left unanswered then was, “What the hell should be stamped on it?”

Very helpfully, and again, unknowingly, Mikaius gave me the answer to that, too. He has been trying to learn Tagalog for about a year now, and so he’s picked up on the basics (pero, alam ko, gutom na ako, hindi, oo). Because he’s trying to keep the words fresh in his memory, he oftentimes speaks to me in a mix of Tagalog and English. He also has a slight tendency to misuse some of the words since (a) he’s still learning, and (b) Tagalog is a very situational language.

One day after we had been talking about Star Wars, the following exchange ensued:
Dani: “Love kita.”
Mikaius: “Sige.”

Tagalog speakers will know that sige was used incorrectly here, but since he had initially learned the word as “okay,” we both cracked up and moved on. That little moment stuck with me, especially since it echoes Han and Leia’s iconic “I love you”/”I know” exchange. I think you know where I’m going with this: that short conversation was what ended up on Mikaius’ bookmark, and you can see it in the header photo for this post. That, and I made sure to include the little brass feather that he wanted.

I am proud to report that the bookmark was both a success and a surprise, but less proud to report that I actually gave it to him three weeks early. Don’t judge me, he was having a bad day, the bookmark was in my bag, and the look on his face was so worth it. Mikaius loves it, and I am the queen of gifts!

The end result is a beautiful, sturdy bookmark, perfect for constant use. I can’t quite capture how great it looks in person, as the colour is deeper and the letters stand out well.

On the day of our anniversary, we met up after class to go to St. Lawrence Market. Neither of us had ever been and since we both love adventures, especially ones that involve food and walks, it was the perfect date.

The food was excellent! Between us, we had: (1) a peameal bacon sandwich on crusty bread from Carousel Bakery, one of those things that you just have to try as a Torontonian, (2) spicy Portuguese chicken with corn bread from Churrasco at St. Lawrence, because we’re always in the mood for some chicken, and (3) Apple-Cinnamon Cheesecake from Eve’s Temptations as neither of us can resist a good cheesecake. Oh. Dear. Lord. I begin to drool when I think about that day. I think my favourite thing of what we tried that night was the cheesecake, but oh boy — that peameal bacon was succulent and flavourful, and paired great with the crusty bread, and that chicken, woof. The chicken was moist and tender, and the sauce that comes with it was so goddamned delicious that Mikaius slathered it onto the peameal bacon sandwich as well. The ginger ale we had to wash the food down with was the best palate cleanser ever.


We capped the night with Kung Fu Panda 3 at the Rainbow Cinemas fronting the Market, and it was a nice, quiet note to end our date on. How was the movie, you ask? It was beautiful. I marvelled at how good the animation was in that movie, and was often looking back at Mikaius with this incredulous look on my face going, “Did you see that?”

One of the lines that I really enjoyed came from Mr. Ping, Po’s Dad, as he spoke to Li Shan, Po’s biological Dad: “I was worried you’d steal Po from me. That was crazy. Having you in Po’s life doesn’t mean less for me. It means more for Po.” My heart. I was constantly on the verge of crying, and was enjoying myself so much I didn’t even really care that the lady in front of me was effectively blocking half of the screen with her hair.
Here we are, three years later, still madly in love. I’m going to end this post with this:

Dear Mikaius,

It’s been three years since the first date that went from 10AM to 10PM, when we kept suggesting things to do after the museum because neither of us wanted the day to end. Three crazy, wonderful, happy years. I hope we can have all of our years together, adventuring like lovestruck fools, because you’re my happy ending. 

To the prettiest man I’ll ever lay eyes on, happy 3rd anniversary, mahal ko💕💕


I want us to be the love story my parents never had the chance to be.


“And I want to know that fifty years from now when you’re in a hospital room
getting ready to die, when visiting hours are for family members only,
I want to know they’ll let me in to say goodbye.
‘Cause I’ve been fifty years memorizing how the lines beneath your eyes form rivers when you cry and I’ve held my hand like an ocean at your cheek saying, “Baby, flow to me.”
‘Cause fifty years I’ve watched you grow with me
fifty years of you never letting go of me,
through nightmares and dreams and everything in between.”
– excerpt from Andrea Gibson’s I Do

Baby, I am so in love with you. It’s been two years and then some of adventures and food and books. I love you, I love you, I love you. 

Body Image Issues

I asked the crazy talented Kenneth to take photos for my LinkedIn profile a couple of days ago, and for a while there I was feeling pretty good about myself.

So of course, I used one of the photos as my profile picture on Facebook.

In celebration of my final year at UofT, I had the photos taken on campus. Bonus points if you can guess where this is.

It was received pretty well, except that there were two comments focusing on my weight gain. They were essentially comparing me now to how I looked 5 years ago, and both were from people I was really close to back home. The first one was from a college classmate, and her comment really wasn’t bad. She has always been supportive, and I know that her comment wasn’t mean-spirited. But was the second comment that made me blow my fuse — it was from someone who used to be my best friend, and it was nothing more than, “Nanambok ang iban. hehe.” This translates to: “Someone’s gotten fat. hehe.”

It didn’t help that just a few days prior to this, my Mom had flat-out told me that my stomach was big — “I bet you don’t fit in your old clothes anymore.” This was right after we’d gone out to a 6-course dinner at an underground dinner club for a mother-daughter date. We were waiting for the streetcar, and while I was looking down the street checking to see if it was coming, she says it with such judgment in her eyes. I recognize that her parenting style has recently been improving, but I think that this is and probably always will be one of her more constant hang-ups. She doesn’t understand that it is unacceptable to continually rag on my appearance, especially since she always points out the two things I am sensitive about: my bulgy left eye and my body weight. It cuts deeper than I think she intends, and I end up resenting her for it.

I’ve been fighting body image issues forever, even when I was 17 and skinnier than a rail. Telling me that I’m fat now compared to when I was a stick-thin 97 lbs on a 5’ frame is not helpful, nor is it a good frame of reference. During my late teens and early twenties, I was sick and (and undiagnosed) with Grave’s Disease, which is essentially hyperthyroidism. The reason I was skinny was because my thyroid hormones were running sky-high, unregulated.

I had to go through several years of monthly blood tests and continuous tweaking of my medication to get me back to a healthy state. At my sickest, my family doctor exclaimed, “How are you still walking?!” I’m now in remission, and thankful for it. This is the healthiest I have ever been.

Honestly, Mom, 123 lbs on 5’ isn’t fat. I’m so sick of having to deal with body image issues and people pointing out that I’ve gained weight because I am so much more than a number on a fucking scale.

This ended up being my LinkedIn photo because, well, I think I look trustworthy in it.

I might be terrified, but I’m not alone.

At around noon on August 9th, at Yonge-Dundas Square, I found myself scanning the crowd for Kenneth, my best friend. I had been given the chance to be the Lead Festival Coordinator for the 10th Annual Kultura Filipino Arts Festival, and today was the day that all of my hard (and sometimes clumsy) work would pay off: it was the Festival Finale, and so far, so good. Things were going well.

I was looking around and feeling good about the morning — the Marketplace was bustling, the Kain Kalye lines were loooong, and the volunteers were all in motion — when all of a sudden, I was seized by a terrible feeling that I needed to apologize to someone for feeling remotely proud of myself. And so I did. I went to Kenneth, and to one or two other people close to me and apologized. They all had the same core reaction: to engulf me in a hug, and remind my damaged self that there was nothing wrong with being proud of yourself for doing well. And they reminded me that they were proud of me, too.

Photo by Romeo Candido

It’s a bit hard to reconcile how I feel about myself right now with how I used to feel about myself from age 11 to about 22 or 23. So much has changed in the way I treat myself, and yet some things have stayed the same. One of my defining characteristics is that I don’t think I’ve achieved anything of note, and I never will. This is partly because I was brought up to think like this: a decade or so in an extremely religious, conservative household, with a woman whose sole purpose in life seems to be to make people feel bad so she can feel better. Also partly because I am a perfectionist.

This was taken super early in the morning — the lines were already incredibly long, and it didn’t stop until we ended!

In the past year or two, however, I’d come to make decisions on my own, for myself. I chose to major in something I wanted. I chose to take the summer off last year to intern for Kapisanan. I chose to cut my hair really short last Spring. I chose to make a majority of my life decisions based on whether it’d end with me being happy. I chose to leap, so many times, and the net has always appeared. But I still can’t quite shake off the feeling that I’m not doing enough.


About a month ago I posted this on my Facebook page:

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 4.11.34 PM
I’m not very popular, so 25 people interacting with a status is pretty good. :p

And while I wrote that out of a really honest, if terrified, place in my heart, what stunned me was the response. It’s not a solitary thing to be immersed in, this inadequacy. And although many of my friends and I may have arrived at the same dark crossroads of feeling useless and inadequate through very different paths, we are all familiar with the venom of ineptitude.

These are my closest friends. And the pretty man is Mikaius, who is the prettiest man that I ever did see.

So when the festival had wrapped up and the team and I were at the K headquarters sprawled on the floor and exhaustedly laughing about the day’s events, I allowed myself a few long seconds to feel proud of myself.

And I felt so happy, because I’m finally letting myself heal. I think it also helps that the way I think of myself isn’t one-dimensional anymore. I wasn’t just Danielle, a member of x-church. I was Dani, UofT student, community member, Kapisanan staff, lover, friend. To remember that I wasn’t merely one, but a sum of many things, helped me stay grounded.


Most of all, though, I want to thank Kapisanan for finally allowing me to feel good about myself, for the first time since I was a child. Being trusted with helping Kultura come together means hell of a lot more than I have the ability to express, with what few words I have. I was on my way to healing, but being in the presence of this warm, loving, supportive community broke a wall. I finally permitted myself to heal, and more importantly, to succeed, not running on white-hot rage as I have for the past few years, but running on the hope of working towards a better future for the community and the next generation.