Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Day 80: That you may not forget

This is part of my 100 days 'til Home series.


Dear C,

Yesterday, our country voted for new leaders. You asked me why "election" is important, and what corruption is. I owe you an explanation. This will be too difficult for you to grasp but in time, you will understand.

I was born in a period when our country was under Martial Law. For more than twenty years, people cannot speak out their minds against the government. They get severely punished or killed for minor mistakes, things they did not do, or for speaking about wrong things that are happening.

Many good people, including doctors, missionaries and priests in far places, were accused of fighting the government even if they were only trying to help the poor. Young students died as they spoke out bravely against the bad government.  When Filipinos could no longer be silent, they came together and defeated the bad guys in a peaceful way through the People Power revolution. I was barely four years old then, and do not remember anything.  But since then, we enjoyed freedom and peace as we know it now.

The government collects money from the people as tax, and leaders are expected to carefully use this money to take care of the people.  But the bad guys - Marcos and his family - stole this money to buy houses, jewellery, shoes and throw expensive parties in the Philippines and across the world. They kept huge amounts in secret bank accounts. They made themselves, their families and their friends rich while the rest of the country suffered. They kept themselves in power by instilling fear through Martial Law.

The Marcos family denies these acts up to now.

Like many Filipinos, I thought the Martial Law stories were only made up . As I was growing up, my mother and grandfather thought Marcos was some kind of hero. I was told that people were punished because they were doing wrong things, and that the rich could not benefit from Marcos so they plotted against him.  Marcos took care of the poor. Marcos built lots of roads, hospitals and schools. It was "peaceful" everywhere. Marcos supported everything beautiful and praise-worthy so that we can have pride in being Filipinos. Someone even gave me the idea that Philippine Science High School (Pisay), where I was a scholar, was one of Imelda's initiatives.

Until I heard my Pisay classmate's story of her mother and how she suffered during Martial Law. Her mother had to hide when my classmate was very young. She did not know if she will see her mother again.  I could not believe that it happened to her family.  It was my first time to hear from someone who actually suffered under the Martial Law.  This started my own quest for the truth and the realization that Martial Law was indeed scary and true. (Fast forward, I had the honor of meeting her mother during a UP College of Medicine lecture where both of us were speakers.)

Back then, it was difficult to acknowledge that my own mother and grandfather - both I deeply respect - were mistaken. (Keep this in mind, when you grow up I encourage you to validate and own your convictions on matters of ideologies, politics and even faith.) Since then, I remained quiet whenever there were political discussions at home.

I do not blame them for their glorious perception of the Martial Law days.  They did not have first-hand knowledge of terrifying accounts as many many Filipinos have access to now, thanks to the internet (and freedom of speech). Our country suffered the consequences of Marcos' bad governance after he was long gone. Also, leaders who took over after Marcos did not make it any easier for many of us.  Many of them were also corrupt, looking only after their own interests. But I wonder if Lola Loida and Nong were still alive now, would facts have changed their minds? Trusting in their character, I know they would.

Going back to the elections, we will have a new president soon. He promises to fight crime and corruption, and I am praying that he will do this in ways that respect human life and dignity.

But Mama is upset because the son of Marcos has gotten a lot of votes from our countrymen. The younger generation remains blind to the truth despite all the facts available to them. When you are old enough, be responsible for your opinions. Let them be guided by the truth, and deep respect for others.

My hope is that your generation's future will be brighter than ours. Leaders are then ones who shape the future, and this is why elections are very important. Our vote puts into power the right, or the wrong kind of leaders.

Lastly, do not take freedom and peace for granted, we owe it to the deaths and sacrifices of many.

I voted with you in mind.

May 9 elections, at the Philippine Embassy in Brussels, Belgium.



P.S. I will be focusing on my thesis in the coming days so I may not be able to write here as often as I want to.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Day 94: Seasons

This is part of my 100 days 'til Home series.

Dear C,

The weather today was strange. The rain poured, the sun shone, and then it rained again. All within an hour. The next couple of hours, there was hail. So, this is spring? 

Spring is becoming more beautiful each day, despite the weather. Flowers and trees come back to life.

Linkeroever, Antwerp. (Thanks for the shot, Ha)

I came here in summertime, everything was vibrant. (I realize I do not have a lot of photos back then.)

In one of the Antwerp cafes. This spot looks inviting. 

Summer berries at the market.

Then I watched trees and leaves transform into deep colours of reds and browns, and everything in between.

Taken from the train, along the Belgian countryside.

At a park in Vilvoorde, Belgium.

A stunning view in Brugge, Belgium.

The Antwerp cathedral, one autumn night. 

In the old quarters of Luxembourg. 

Then, the trees surrendered their leaves to winter.

Trees lining the open space beside Stockholm's town hall.


Of course, you remember the winter trees during your visit. 
Now, I am seeing how the bare branches turn into bouquets of flowers. 

Sakura in bloom, while the other trees wait for their turn. Linkeroever, Antwerp.
White flowers and green leaves on what used to be bare branches.  

A small patch of tulips! (Thanks for the photo, Mawar!)

I have only known summer and rain all my life. I cannot wait to see spring in full bloom! I hope one day, you will get to experience all the four seasons too. Each transition reminds me that life is fleeting, but God is in control.  

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart..."                                                                                                                          - Ecclesiastes 3:11 

I am sharing one of my favourite songs, "Every Season" (I know you love to sing along with lyrics you can read!). I loved it since I was still a teenager, and it has taken on a whole new meaning for me now. It reminds me that the Lord knows every detail and season of our lives. May He give you a keen awareness of his loving presence as you grow.



Sunday, April 24, 2016

Day 96: On travel and Paris

This is part of my 100 days 'til Home series.

Dear C,

I was missing in action yesterday because Tita Kathy and I had a quick tour in Paris.

When Papa and I visited this city last autumn, we came across a young Filipina on the metro. She started a conversation when she heard us speak Tagalog. She was touring Europe alone - a graduation gift from her parents who lovingly set aside funds for her. Her mother arranged her itinerary.

Inside the metro, where we met the young lady travelling alone.
Papa and I immediately thought of you and your future. We hope we can nurture your curiosity so you would want to see the world, and help you have the opportunity to do so.

The elegant iron curves of the Eiffel.

Love locks all over the bridges of the river Seine.

An interesting experience. (We didn't try it.)

One of the imposing facades of the Louvre palace. Not the main entrance, though.

At the Notre Dame Cathedral's portal. Can you see the man carrying his head? 

The Sainte-Chapelle is simply stunning.

Papa and I endured a long queue  to get in but it was well worth it. 

Jardin du Luxembourg. Among the many beautiful sights, this caught my attention.

At the Arc deTriomphe

Over the past months, I learned a few tricks on how to travel efficiently and inexpensively. While considered as a luxury by many, it really depends on your level of comfort (as I have learned from Dr Remo), and the goals you set for each adventure.  

Going back to our trip yesterday, it had to be well-planned. We only had a day to spare and we brought a little boy along (yes, you will meet him soon when he is born!).

Enjoying the view all to ourselves.
An obligatory photo with I.M. Pei's pyramid

At the Musée de l'Orangerie with Claude Monet's Water Lilies. You can  take a virtual tour here

When I get home, I will show you more photos and tell you more stories about this beautiful city. Instead of buying little trinkets, I got coffee table books that I can bring home to you.



Friday, April 22, 2016

Day 98: Yearbook Pictorial

Day 98

Dear C,

Yesterday was a sunny day, perfect for our class pictorials for the yearbook. Being in the garden with happy people made me appreciate this community I now belong to, and the friendships that have been fostered during the past months. When we all leave Belgium by the end of the school year (for some, in two weeks), we will never be gathered this way again.

I asked Papa to get you a world map so you will know where my friends live, some of them you have already met over Skype. And our hope is that when you grow up, you will be able to see the world through the eyes of others too while remaining true to your identity as a Filipino.

Here are some photos before my phone ran out of battery.



Mama proudly wore a skirt from ANTHILL, a social enterprise that promotes Philippine weaving  traditions. (Thanks for the photo, Chandani.) 

Tita Kathy and I are representing the Philippines. She is my classmate in one course, before the little baby comes out! 

With friends from Indonesia, India, Cuba and Uganda. You have already met Sandip, my floor mate and the one who taught me how to make chapati. Isabel is the first person I met from Cuba :) Amy, my Indonesian friend works for the Ministry of Health.

These beautiful doctors were Mama's travel buddies in Spain .
You've met Patricia already, from Kenya and Kidist from Ethiopa.  

Chandani is the first classmate I met in person. She is from Nepal and she has already been to Boracay! Bindu is from India, a dentist who shifted into public health, and she is like a sister. Kirsten is Belgian midwife who bravely worked for Medicin Sans Frontiers in sensitive areas like Afghanistan.    

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Day 99: Beautiful and Strange Sights

DAY 99

Dear C,

Counting the days will now be easier because I am just 99 sleeps away! I thank the Lord for keeping you and Papa strong.

Waking up to your photos and voice messages makes me smile :)

Mama's first weekend in Belgium coincided with a culture fair. It was fun, and it made me look forward to the many things, places and experiences I have yet to discover.  

Mama wearing your Lola Loida's blouse from the '80s. (I always carry her in my heart.) I brought my colorful bag from the Philippines, made by community artisans from cloth scraps and traditional fabrics.

This is the town hall of Antwerp, a UNESCO world heritage site. Can you spot the Philippine flag proudly displayed?

This photo fascinated you because they converted the container van into a stage!

Little girls lined up for a free hairdo fix (mess). Stylists use air compressors, and clients wear ear muffs for safety. 

This young couple collected money for their honeymoon. Every time a coin was dropped, they mimed gestures of gratitude. Against the background of workmen sculptures, the amusement they provide is beauty, and work in itself. 

I still have hundreds of photos and stories I cannot wait to share!

Until tomorrow,



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

100 days 'til Home

It's been three years since I last visited this page!

In between, I pursued what the Lord has put in my heart in the best way I know how. This led me to advocacy and health system work related to maternal and child health. The deeper I got into it, the more I realize the complexity of hurdles for mothers and families who want to breastfeed.

Long story short, I felt the need to study again. I was granted a scholarship to study in Belgium. It was a tough decision to leave behind my boys.

Spending time in Bohol, Philippines just days before I left.

Alone on my second day in Belgium, 9pm view from my balcony.  The building shown used to be a monastery, but now this is where we have classes.

Student again! First day of classes. I am doing a graduate course in public health, focusing on strategic management of health systems.

I have been living in the beautiful city of Antwerp for 8 months now. (What are the chances of me even making it to the city's promotional video! 1:40)

But today, I realized I only have 100 days left here!

To mark this, I will attempt to write short tales of the mundane, and not so mundane aspects of my life as an expatriate. I also need this creative outlet, so I can break from writing serious academic stuff.

My stories will be addressed to my little boy so when he is older, he will know I always carried him in my heart every single day we were apart. I know he won't mind that I am sharing this with you.

Let me start tomorrow :)

Until then,


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Closing Doors, New Opportunities

The recent months have been crazy. Mommy's cancer found its way back and I had to drop everything for her. She was a fierce fighter - battling it on her own until she can't anymore. She had a beautiful death, dying peacefully in my Daddy's arms when all of us have unintentionally fallen asleep. And just like that, she is gone. 

She had a beautiful life of faith. Her life revolved around us. She reminded me of important things and how fleeting life can be.

A week after her death, I was scheduled to attend a week-long leadership journey for doctors. I almost didn't want to go but was reminded that Mommy was happy to receive the news that I was chosen for the program.

So for her, I went. The journey was life-changing and it allowed me to think deeper about my life purpose. In one word, the experience is Affirmation.

Beholding the beauty of Siargao. As one of my batchmates asked, "What did I do to deserve this?"

On to a healthier Philippines! My Leadership Journey Family.

The inventure was just what I needed. I have made the following resolutions:

1. I will stick with my own standards of success. 
2. I will not doubt my self, as I have surrendered my course to God. 
3. I will be jealous of my time. (Ate Kathy, I borrow the phrase from you!)
4. I will write my stories.

Let me share a story. Something I have to let go of, with some sadness but full of hope.

I built an online store from scratch. I didn't have the capital, I didn't have the connections. I was just a stay at home mom who wanted to share a new found lifestyle that became an increasingly popular option. Along the way, I found friends and like-minded people. I felt the connection with mothers and the people who would entrust their brands with me. I found a niche. It was amazing. I thought the store was headed towards the right direction. I convinced my sister to take over with plans of expanding it.

Multiply (the e-commerce platform) shut down, and then my sister had to go back to the province for Mommy. It was difficult to keep up with the demands of work and family. It happened in almost a rapid sequence, so I thought it was best to temporarily close down the store.  

Between that time and now, I had to evaluate why the store exists. 

The first reason is to influence. Around 2 years ago, there were just a few of us pioneering a similar trend so we were quite easy to spot. Then we got featured on TV and on magazines and I got to talk in cool places like Rockwell Tent and ADB. The network also grew to 3,500 followers. Some influence must be there.  It delights me that stores of the same theme are now flourishing. I can only hope that I was able to contribute to this awareness.

I volunteered my time in a hospital to help new moms breastfeed. I work for an NGO that promotes maternal and child health. I decided not to do full time medical practice for a living and the store has become a source of extra income so I can continue doing things I really love.

With change-makers at the ADB No Impact Week early this year.
Here with Jen Horn of  Muni,  Reese Ruiz of  Rags 2 Riches and Anna Oposa of Save Philippine Seas

During an Unang Yakap lay forum. The Medical City.

In one of our many Unang Yakap workshops for health care providers. 

These benefits from the store also come with some personal costs.

The routine of running the store has taken a toll on me. For example, I want responses to inquiries to be prompt. I usually don't give direct answers but guide the moms through the process of decision making. (I started this blog to just direct them here but of course, I was too lazy to write). Orders should be with clients the next day or two. Reports and payments should be with suppliers on the dot. It bothers me if any of these things are not served. Oh, and I have been having backlogs since July so that's not a pretty good shape. The most crucial factor is not having somebody else to oversee the store and my household. It is all just me. 

There are also other opportunity costs. How time flies, Caleb turned 3 years old! While most mompreneurs can multi-task (my friend Jenny is the epitome of a multi-tasker), I want to start simplifying my life in order to do more and do what really counts. I dream of helping improve health outcomes for Filipino babies and I want this dream to take off. So I have resolved to be with Arvin and Caleb when I can, and be all there for them while I pursue my dream with undivided passion. 

My inspiration, a 3 year-old toddler.

Therefore, I am turning a page and letting go of the store. 

Thank you for transacting with me, it has been a joy to serve you and to be your friend. You know who you are. 

Thank you to all the suppliers who trusted and supported me. May the Lord repay your kindness and bless all the good intentions you have through your meaningful enterprises.  

Now, what will I do with a page that has 3,500 followers? Hmm...

Caleb's Closet will always be a testimony of the Lord's enabling and providence.

Will you still stick around as I close this door and start anew? I am not prolific nor eloquent. But maybe, I have some stories to share.

Thanks for listening, 


" Leap! And the net will appear." 
- John Borroughs