Mikaius and I went to PEC for our first proper road trip together this week, and it was a beautiful cap to this summer. We got to explore an antique market, take a nap on the beach, drive around the county roads, finding lookout points every so often. There were so many little antique stores, cheese places, and fresh produce stalls that we missed out on because we forgot to factor in the 5pm closing times – which just means that we have to go back for another round, and soon!
As has been tradition since Summer 2014, Mikaius and I went exploring for more food places that we can add to our favourites list! While our busy schedules don’t allow us to write detailed reviews of each place like we used to in years past, here is a list of the new favourites that we discovered during our walks around the city. Forgive my food photography, I never did quite learn how to take fantastic pictures of food.
- Beachside Grill | Website
Mikaius and I both fell in love with the Beaches neighbourhood last year and we made it sort of a mini-mission this summer to wander around the area a little bit more. One day in early June he took me out on a date to explore the area and we started our day with brunch at the Beachside Grill. It was lovely! The lobster mac and cheese was so rich and creamy, and the corned beef hash with the poached eggs, while not as good as the pasta, was delicious! We still talk about that mac and cheese and how tasty it was. Mmm, lobster, pasta, and cheese.
- Frankie’s Diner | Website
We came upon this place in a state of real hunger, and even with that in mind, Mikaius almost couldn’t finish the pulled pork sandwich that he ordered and I also wasn’t quite able to finish my breakfast plate. The servings are massive, delicious and very filling. The service was a bit slow, though, so I was glad that we didn’t have anything urgent to hit up after that late lunch.
- The Rec Room | Website
It was a rainy day in the city when we decided to finally check out The Rec Room, and since it was so rainy out, we spent quite a bit of time in the arcade (playing, yes, but also trying to figure out how to work those bracelets). We had a light lunch at Three10, since we weren’t that hungry, and to be honest it is probably what we should be doing anyway because our eyes often want more than what our stomachs can hold. We split a pizza (the Butcher’s Daughter) and a dessert (chocolate cream pie), both of which were omg-mmm-inducing servings of deliciousness. The pizza was delightful, with all the ingredients playing in harmony together, and the dessert was something I could probably have eaten five of but shouldn’t. I would definitely go back again!
- Bang Bang Ice Cream | Website
Bang Bang is close enough to my place of work that it is dangerous to my wallet. I love ice cream, and I love that they have flavours like Totaro and Soursop, which are definitely not flavours that I see in regular ice cream places!
- Tinuno | Website
Tinuno is within a comfortable walking distance from my flat, and while we were having brunch there I was repeatedly asking myself why we hadn’t made that walk earlier in the year. Their Kamayan feast is so good, and a steal at only $15 per head! We were so full, and we even had delicious leftovers to take home from the restaurant. Oh goodness, I haven’t had squid and shrimp that good in years – it really and truly did taste like home.
- Sunnyside Café and Pavilion | Website
We came across Sunnyside when we were having a wander. We had started our day with High Park, enjoying the sun, the breeze, and Grenadier Pond. It was our second time at High Park, first time alone together, so when we inadvertently came out on the other side of the park and saw how close we were to the beaches, we just kept walking. We ordered a pizza and drinks at Sunnyside – we split the Chicken Supreme pizza, he had the Arctic Mudslide, and I ordered a piña colada smoothie. While I wasn’t too impressed with the smoothie, the pizza and the Mudslide were both big wins – we are already planning on going back to enjoy the beach with our friends!
(*Originally posted on Facebook, March 22, 2017)
I received such overwhelmingly positive reactions to my hair that I feel the need to speak about why I was moved to tears by those lovely comments, multiple times. If you’d like, come along and let me tell you why for the past few years, I have always cut my hair when it gets long enough to put up in a bun.
The Summer of 1999, the Philippines:
My little family was on a ship bound for Bacolod City from Metro Manila, my mother, my brother, and I. I remember looking at Manila getting smaller as we sailed further out, wondering where my bioDad was and why he didn’t say goodbye that day. Many years later, I would hear conflicting things from my parents: my Mom says he knew what time we were leaving but he never showed up, my bioDad says he missed it because of the famed Manila traffic. I mean, hey, they’re both right. But as a little kid, all I remember is that he didn’t make it on time to say goodbye.
My family and I were in the ship’s economy class, which at the time consisted of a hall of bunk beds spaced a few feet apart on one of the ship’s upper decks. I remember loving those accommodations because you could see and hear the ocean constantly, and I could look down into the water and daydream. One of our fellow passengers told me that the patches of darker water that we occasionally spotted in the lighter green sea meant that those parts were deeper than others, and I could never make sense of that.
My hair on that trip was already long – from old photos, it looks as if it draped a few inches below my shoulders – and I was blissfully unaware that my arrival in the city I would eventually call home heralded a twelve-year period in my life when that hair would go uncut. Why would I be thinking of my hair back then, you know? I was nine, moving from Manila to a city located in Western Visayas, starting a new school that June. There were other things to think about, other things to be excited for.
It was hot but breezy, and the pier was chaotic and bustling. My family finally arrived at Bacolod City after a three-day trip by a passenger ship.
A few weeks later, when we were settled in at my aunt’s place, my Mom left for Hong Kong to continue her work as a nanny for a wealthy family, and my brother and I, ages 5 and 9 respectively, were left in the care of our aunt with the agreement that she would take care of us. In return, my Mom would send money to cover living expenses, tuition fees, and some extra leftover.
My tita and her family were religious, their lives deeply embedded in the fabric of the church. Their particular brand of Christianity is called Pentecostalism. For those of you who don’t know what that means, it’s a sect of Christianity where women are not allowed to cut their hair, amongst other restrictions, and Acts 2:38 was the defining Bible verse of the organization. I was never asked if I wanted to attend this church. I was made to, by dint of being young, and more importantly, because I was living under her roof – and so, by her and the church she worshipped at, my life was shaped and moulded.
::Please keep in mind that I am speaking to my own experience. Your encounter with religion might have been different – and I certainly know people who are happy in it, who find comfort in the community, and who are good people. I am not writing this to defame or criticize religious beliefs or practices, but to speak about how my upbringing has led to my complicated relationship with my hair.::
So for years, from when I was 9 to when I was 21, I was made to grow my hair out as a sign of obedience to God’s will. I often kept it pulled back in a bun. But as I got older, and began to read more, I began to notice that I was part of a community that didn’t encourage critical thinking beyond parsing what Bible stories meant, nor did the people in charge take critique easily. One of my favourite little anecdotes to illustrate this is how my pastor used “humans use 10% of their brain” in his preaching one Sunday, and when I went to speak to him after the service (I was a student nurse at the time) about how that’s just not true biologically, he shrugged it off and said, in a very lofty tone, “if we all used 100% of our brains, we would have accomplished more as a church.”
I need you to understand this from my perspective – for the entirety of my youth, I belonged to a church of fewer than 100 people. My life, both socially and spiritually, was caught up in a net of restrictions, of disapproval, of people who were distrustful of my love of books that weren’t biblical.
Simultaneously, for twelve years, I was in a household where the matriarch doled out emotional and psychological abuse almost on the daily. I was repeatedly told I would get pregnant early and never become successful, in a voice intentionally raised so that the next-door neighbours heard it. The situation exploded to the point that the church elders attempted to stage an intervention – and the pastor did not believe me when I expressed how bad my aunt was behind closed doors. Perhaps it had to do with the rumours she had spread amongst the congregation saying that I was a liar and not to be trusted. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that she and the pastor were close friends, and he was among the first people she would gift things to whenever my mother send home balikbayan boxes. But my aunt, dear reader, was manipulative in ways I can’t even begin to describe, and perhaps in ways I can’t really imagine. All I know is that I felt so alone and so helpless. I began to question how godly my pastor really was, and how genuine his relationship with God could be, if he couldn’t even tell that I was telling the truth.
This is not to say that there weren’t good people in that church. I know there were at least four to six people who believed me. But all of them were women – who did not really have positions of authority within that church’s hierarchy – and while some of them were willing to listen, none of them stood up for myself and my younger brother.
It was hell.
I hope you see where I’m going with this.
The Winter of 2017, Toronto:
When I turned twenty-three, I decided, this is it. I’m in Canada now, and I have no reason to keep this charade going. I am going to cut my hair. I am going to cut it, and it is going to feel so good. I am going to feel so free. And so I did. I cut it to shoulder length, having it cut shorter and shorter every few months until I finally took the plunge and got a super short pixie in March 2017.
There is a photo on my Instagram account somewhere that shows me with my head tilted to one side, my hair tied up in a bun. I’m in my McDonald’s crew uniform in that photo, and I took it while I was on break. It’s captioned, “This is the last week I’ll be wearing a bun.”
Hair, for me, is never just about my hair. My hair is a symbol: of a past life that I loved and lost, of emotional abuse by an authority figure, of being in a church where life was controlled in more ways than just spiritually. I tried living what was their biblical interpretation of an “acceptable” woman – non-confrontational, submissive, not too ambitious. It is a problematic environment when the highest position a man can aspire to is a pastor, and a woman, a pastor’s wife.
My twenties have been a whirlwind of self-discovery. It’s still happening. I’m still changing. For the better, I hope. But right now, as a young woman of twenty-six – I’ve made conscious decisions to change, drastically. I am ambitious, and as the people who know me will say, I am so fucking stubborn. I have a tendency to choose life paths I know are going to be difficult adventures. It’s been great fun, this whole figuring-out-who-I-am thing, especially with the love and guidance of friends and family.
And I will never wear a bun again.
I love podcasts. I grew up listening to serials on radio, and I have fond memories of lazy, sticky summer afternoons in the Philippines when my cousins and I were kids and would be forced to nap, falling asleep to scary stories or advice shows. There were a lot of dramatic retellings with equally dramatic voice acting and sound effects – cups of rice being poured into a bowl as rain, for instance. It therefore seemed quite natural that I veered towards podcasts in my early twenties, and now that I’m twenty-six, my list of favourites is absolutely a peek at who I am and what I love, which is basically food, scary stories, urban settings, and Filipinx culture.
Here is the list of five podcasts that I love and listen to regularly – plus a shoutout to my favourite podcast app! I’ve included links to their websites and Patreon pages if you wanted to check them out.
- Dear Hank & John
Soundcloud | Patreon
Mikaius was actually the person who introduced me to the Brothers Green via their Youtube series Crash Course back in 2012 before we even started dating, and I’ve been a fan since. I love listening to Dear Hank & John in the mornings on my walk to campus because they are so funny together, and their hilariously bad advice is the best dubious advice. In past times when I’ve been in a funk, such as when Mondays are particularly Monday-y in the dead of winter, Dear Hank & John lifts my spirits and makes me laugh as I walk across Queen’s Park trying not to slip on black ice or slush.
I have always loved food, and discussions centred on the history of food has always been of particular interest to me. When I was a child, I moved from Metro Manila to Bacolod City and learned that every province makes their adobo a different way, and I’m pretty sure that’s where the fascination began. I have been listening to Gastropod for about two or three years now – the “Extreme Salad and Crazy Potatoes” episode was the one that got me hooked. Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley are such good hosts, and have given me so many wonderful hours of learning new things about food and food history, and the science behind it!
- Just A Story
Website | Patreon
I love scary stories – Stephen King is my fave, especially his short story collections! When I happened upon Just A Story, I was immediately won over. I’m the type of person who prefers two-person podcasts because something about the back-and-forth makes the experience that much more enjoyable to me, and Jake and Sam have such good chemistry and are great storytellers. On days when I’m cleaning house or thrifting (or some similar activity that takes hours to do) I’m usually binging on Just A Story episodes.
- Spacing Radio
Soundcloud | Website
I love Spacing’s physical brick and mortar store at 401 Richmond, and when I found out that they had a podcast it was inevitable that I was going to be a subscriber. As someone whose biggest problematic fave is Toronto, and is in a master’s program for Urban Planning, Spacing Radio is so up my alley.
- Exploring Filipino Kitchens
If you’ve tried this before, you know that searching for Filipino-themed podcasts using the keyword “Filipino” is a rather dangerous endeavour, and the only good thing that came out of that was that I found Exploring Filipino Kitchens. It’s not very often that you find a podcast that is the intersection of things you adore (in my case, Filipino culture and food with a Filipinx host), but here it was! Nastasha Alli puts in so much work into this podcast, and it absolutely shows.
My favourite podcast app is Pocket Casts for Android. I’ve been using the app for ages and have seen no reason to switch over to a different one. I love it so much I even sprang for the $9 web player. If you’re curious as to why I got the web player when the Android app is perfectly usable, well, there are days when I need to switch my phone off to disconnect and get my work done. The web player lets me still access my podcasts, and they’re synced, too. For something that I use almost daily, $9 as a one time fee was not bad at all! I absolutely recommend Pocket Casts if you’re in the market for a podcast app – they’re available on both Android and iOS.
For a few months now, I’ve wanted to try and work through my complicated relationship with my name. I couldn’t manage to find a way of writing about it that felt honest but not too naked, and so, like many others, that particular writing prompt will go on the back burner.
Last night, my younger brother and I were having a conversation about what we wanted to do with our lives, and how that has impacted all the choices we’ve made. I like to think that my “vague” goal is pretty clear, and has been ever since I started working at Kapisanan: I ultimately want to help make Toronto a better place for immigrant youth.
I think, for now, that I am content with the specifics of my life goal being nebulous. There are still so many avenues that I haven’t explored, and so many fields that I can cross into. Not to say that I’m just sitting on my bum waiting for opportunities to fall into my lap – certainly not. This is a time in my life when the weeks and months and years are flying by so fast, I can hardly believe that it’s already month seven of twelve. Where did the months go? How am I already halfway through my masters?
Still, happy to report that I seem to be sailing relatively smooth seas, mental health-wise, and am in a better spot than I was for most of the past ten months. Wish me luck, cross your fingers and toes for me, send me good vibes.
I waited for a while before posting this, hoping that I wasn’t deluding myself.
I think that while I’m still not yet healed, I might finally be on my way back. After months of feeling like this heavy grief would be a constant companion, there are now moments in my days when I look up from a book or an article I’m reading, and there is a twinge that feels like an echo of the old fire burning in my chest.
I feel hopeful. And this is something I am so, so glad to feel again after the wildfire that decimated me last year.
I am not well. I am aware of this. I ponder my unwell-ness so constantly, so frequently, that it’s become a low song that constantly plays in the back of my mind. I think about it in bed, late at night when the light from the streetlamps dapple the walls of my room, quiet and unobtrusive. Unlike my thoughts.
I am afraid. I am afraid of who I have become, and I am afraid that I may not be able to get back to the person that I was before. I know that people change with time, and I get that. But my change in nature has been so drastic and so unexpected that I am overcome with fear.
I used to be one of those annoying twenty-somethings who dream of changing the world – in a small way, of course. I wasn’t entirely overcome with the delusions of youth. Encountering death in my family changed that.
All of a sudden I was blanketed in this thick miasma of “who cares”? Why strive to help change the world? What matters when a person you love is dead? I don’t know. I have no answers. Right now I’m in this program, and I’m going to finish it because that’s what I’m supposed to do. But I have been disappointed with my work as a student, and it is not a pleasant feeling. It’s a feeling that bubbles over and simmers and sticks to the sides of the pot. Can’t scrub it away, really.
To be honest, I’m not back yet. It’s been months, but I haven’t made it back. It’s been a terrible battle. I don’t know if I’ll ever be back. Most days I think I’ve peaked and I’m just hurtling downwards. And it’s a terrible thing to be lost when you’ve been convinced for the past few years that you’ve found your path.
I officially moved out of my Mom’s place in September of 2016, but that apartment in North York will always be my first home. When I’m alone in my flat, I usually begin thinking about the times that I walked in from school or work to find my Tito cooking in the kitchen, my brother tucked away behind his desktop, and my Mom doing the ironing while watching her shows. I remember Tito, sitting on the couch, sitting upright and snoring with his chin slumped into his chest and his hands holding his phone and the remote.
That apartment is a space filled with memories of past Christmases and birthdays and fights and dinner table conversations, echoes and whispers of laughter and love floating in the air, snagged on the leaves of one of my Mom’s many houseplants. This past December, we put his photo in an ornament to hang on the tree so he could celebrate the Yuletide with us, and when we packed everything away we put the ornament on the fridge, in the kitchen. He always used to smell of food. He loved to cook, giant pots of stews and soups and deep-fried delicious things.
Sometimes when I catch a whiff of Filipino food in random spots in the city, I like to imagine that his ghost is a food smell, instead of an apparition or a disembodied cloud that holds none of his depth and complicated nature. This thought gives me comfort: that he is around wherever good Filipino good can be had – in my kitchen, in my Mom’s kitchen, anywhere and everywhere in Toronto where Filipino food is.
I miss him.
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!
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.