Life outside the semicircle

I moved abroad seven years ago, after Marlon and I were married. In those seven years, I’ve missed many things from abundant sunshine and ripe mangoes, to good restaurants and sharing wardrobes with my mom and sister. But the biggest hole in my heart was the one I made when I left the Ateneo Chamber Singers.

With ACS in Riga

Before the competition in Riga

Since I left, my ACS family—because that’s what it is, really, a family—has changed. Many of my closest friends have moved overseas and moved on to other things, replaced by many people I don’t know very well. Still, I jumped at the chance to be reunited with them in Vienna and Riga. Sitting in the audience, face to face with what I had given up to pursue this life, I felt quite confronted—by loss, reality, I don’t know what to call it. It’s more than nostalgia, and more than I could ever recreate by joining another choir or making new friends.

Ateneo Chamber Singers at the World Choir Games Riga 2014

Sitting in the audience at the World Choir Games

I wondered why I was sitting outside the semicircle, listening to beauty instead of creating it. I wondered why I wasn’t singing anymore. I wondered: what is my song? What am I an instrument of? Listening to my friends’ voices soaring, I wondered if I had maybe, somehow, over the years, lost the part of me that could soar. (There are very few experiences that allow one to soar. So if you find one, seize it.)

ACS wins Musica Sacra at the World Choir Games

Victory!

Yes, it was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster— a contemplative, almost spiritual experience. The sound of ACS singing tends to do that to people. After all that wondering (and quite a few tears), the answers came. There were no words, only pictures—images of everything I love about living here.

ACS in Riga

I’ve been away from home a long time. I don’t hide from the sun anymore.

Life requires different things of us at different times. Once it demanded me to let my voice soar in packed churches and concert halls, together with the voices of friends I knew so well that I literally knew when they would breathe. Now life asks me to hush and sing softly to my baby in the silence of her room, for an audience of one.

Seeing what I’ve been missing out on was confronting for me. But confronting the result of my choices made me realize that that’s what being an adult is all about. We live with the choices we make; we make the most of them; and we make a life we love out of them.

With Tala and Marlon at the World Choir Games

Keeping Tala quiet (and occupied) during the competition

So this is what my life as a choir groupie was like. It inspired me to return to my “real” life—to Marlon, Tala, Amsterdam, Europe—with a renewed commitment to what I’ve chosen, and a deeper determination to make it truly worth what I’ve given up.

Related reading: For an insider’s perspective, check out this blog post by ACS alto Trina Belamide.

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Happy Father’s Day!

Fathers Day 2014

Happy Father’s Day to all the amazing dads out there!

Marlon is in Stockholm for a speaking engagement, and we started missing him even before he left (yes, that’s possible). He hasn’t had to be away for more than five or six days for work, but it’s still difficult when he’s away. Even when it’s easy, it’s just… not as fun. I don’t know how the families whose dads travel frequently or are based abroad do it.

I’m lucky to have had a mom who was both mother and father to me, but this time of year I’m also filled with a nostalgia for something I never really had. It seems everyone is changing their Facebook profile photos to show fathers walking them down the aisle or playing the doting grandfather; in my photos, Dad is eternally young, and I’m still a chubby, curly-haired baby.

I guess by now you’ve seen Dove’s sniffle-inducing Father’s Day ad? It doesn’t have to be Father’s Day to make me grateful for Tala to have a chance at all of that. And isn’t that all parents want for their children—to give them something they never had?

Okay, enough sentimental jibber-jabber. I hope you’re showing the dads in your life how special they are today. Time to think up something fun for the dad in our life when he gets back from Stockholm!

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Lambanog cocktail with homemade ginger ale

Friday night is cocktail night!

At least it is in our home. After putting Tala to bed, Marlon and I like to celebrate the weekend by firing up a movie and sharing cocktails on the couch. This helps compensate for all those dates we don’t go on anymore, and is an easy and affordable way to make couples’ night in a bit more special.

Missing the flavors of home, I sought the help of a bartender friend to whip up a Filipino-inspired cocktail. This friend also happens to be the owner of The Curator, a coffee and cocktail bar back home that’s gotten rave reviews for its third wave brews and specialty cocktails. A good friend to have, right?

Lambanog cocktail with homemade ginger ale

My sister gave us a bottle of Dona Juliana lambanog for Christmas (don’t you just love the tropical kitsch of that bottle?), so I thought: “What about a lambanog cocktail?”

A few things you should know about lambanog:

  • It’s a coconut-based liquor, like vodka or rum, made from the sap of coconut flowers collected before they bloom
  • Coconut sap is fermented into tuba, which is itself a potent and popular liquor, then distilled into lambanog
  • It’s known as a poor man’s drink—it costs almost nothing to make, and coconut farmers have been drinking it for generations

One last thing. It’s pretty damn strong—we’re talking 80 to 90 proof, or 40-45 percent alcohol.

Lambanog cocktail alcohol content

As the mom of a toddler, that’s exactly what I need at the end of the week. Those coconut farmers know how to roll.

Homemade salabat soda, or ginger ale, makes a perfect mixer for this potent coconut liquor. We tried it with store-bought ginger beer, but the canned stuff just doesn’t have the same kick as fresh ginger. Here’s how to make it at home.

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(Late) Springtime rituals

While we were traveling, everyone at home in Amsterdam was working on their balconies, beautifying their gardens, and giving spring a proper welcome. Here at Palazzo Plazo, well, we’ve had some catching up to do. Springtime isn’t all flowers and sunshine—it also means a fair bit of work!

While our neighbors are already hosting backyard barbecues, we’ve spent the last couple of weekends catching up on springtime chores… although maybe “rituals” would be a sunnier way to put those tasks in perspective.

A lot of our yearly springtime “rituals” involve the balcony: clearing away the herbs that I killed Nature took over the winter, replacing them with new ones, and adding some colorful flowers to the mix. I’m taking a lot of inspiration from the Urban Jungle Bloggers and hoping I can join them soon!

New herbs on the balcony

Springtime also means scrubbing our wooden deck with a chemical cleaner to zap the mossy gunk that accumulated over the cold months. Now the deck is clean enough for Tala to play on. It’s like we’ve gained an entire room of unexplored crawl space! Yay.

Tala on the balcony

We also hung up a second-hand baby swing (thank you, Peggy!), which Tala absolutely loves.

Tala in her balcony baby swing

It’s our new favorite activity on sunny mornings—Tala swings and squeals while I enjoy a cup of coffee in (relative) peace and quiet. Baby laughter doesn’t count as noise.

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This man

… has been a revelation to me in the past year as a husband, friend, lover, partner, and most of all, as a father. I knew he was going to be good, but I never knew he was going to be this good.

Marlon and Tala bath

This man has been hands-on literally from day one. He holds his daughter with as much loving tenderness today as he did when she was a few days old.

Marlon and Tala in Greece

This man is always happy to see her and eager to take her in his arms. He adores her, dotes on her, gives his weekends to her, and she knows it. He has to be told, sometimes, actually many times, to put her down and let her play and learn by herself.

Marlon and Tala

This man swoops to my rescue when the last grains of my energy and sanity have fallen through the hourglass. His strong arms have carried his daughter up and down endless flights of stairs in airports, train stations, museums, our home.

Marlon and Tala in Paris

This man takes his daughter to the market every Saturday to give me precious time for myself. He occasionally returns with a new discovery—wild mushrooms, carob syrup, a lobster, how to shuck oysters—that fills him with an infectious delight. This man truly loves to cook for his family, and always makes sure I have a matching fork and spoon (because he knows I care about weird things like that). Marlon and lobster

This man has seen me at my worst in every possible way, especially in the past year. Yet he is still here, my fan and friend, my confidante and champion. He makes me laugh, forgives me and believes in me. He always has a good answer for my stupid questions like “Does this make me look like a wrestler/pillowcase/hooker?” He loves me in a way I know I will never be loved by anyone else, ever.

Marlon and me in El Nido

This man is the reason my family lives this life, why it’s so much fun, why we have so much beer in the fridge, why Tala has beautiful eyes, why I am a wife and mother, and why I want to be a better one.

Family selfie

This man turns 33 today, and I can’t wait for him to get off that plane from London and come home to his girls who love him very, very much. Happy birthday, my Googly!

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