Five years

Has it really been five years?

I sometimes joke that we haven’t “achieved” anything in five years, when many of our peers already have families, businesses, cars, homes. But the life we’ve lived together for the last five years is a life that we wanted—one of our own choosing and making.

We’re figuring things out as we go along, and that flexibility is one of the things I love most about our marriage. We are not perfect by a long shot, but we are perfect for each other. And we are happy.

On December 29, five years ago, I hadn’t the vaguest idea how to be a wife. Five years later I’m still stumbling and learning. I am so blessed to have a husband who loves me and accepts me for the wife I am. It gives me the confidence to face becoming a mother, yet another thing I’m going into without having a clue.

Happy anniversary, my love. We’ve had five wonderful years of “just the two of us.” The best is yet to come.

Wedding photos by Mango Red

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Birthday dinner: Brasserie Witteveen

One of the places that I like to go to in the Pijp is Brasserie Witteveen. My friends with kids like it because unlike the typical Dutch cafe, Witteveen’s wide aisles have lots of room for strollers. I just think it’s a really good-looking place to meet someone for lunch or a drink, thanks to the combination of sleek design with cozy elements like the seamless, 16-meter leather Chesterfield couch.

Brasserie Witteveen

I’ve always been curious about the private dining area at the back of the restaurant. Since Friday was my birthday, I thought it was a good excuse to finally check it out for myself.

Witteveen private dining area

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Just as things should be

Last week’s ultrasound scan came at the perfect time. After struggling with mixed feelings about my changing body (a hormonally-enhanced struggle, no doubt!), I really needed to see what was going on in there. At times, it’s one thing for people (well-meaning, sweet people) to tell you “Embrace your pregnant self! Your body is a miracle! It’s doing amazing things! Everything is beautiful and perfect! Blah blah blah”… and quite another to believe it yourself.

Getting to see my daughter (daughter!!!) was like taking a big eraser and wiping all these feelings clean. All that was left was a contented stillness in my formerly noisy head… a blank space ready for wonderful things to show up.

It was as complete a medical checkup as you can get at the age of 19 weeks. Marlon and I cycled through fascination, excitement and relief as the ob-gynecologist took us through organs and systems that, eight weeks ago, were not yet visible or not functional. Although the echopraktijk made it clear that this scan is limited and doesn’t guarantee a 100% healthy, normal baby (they only check for visible abnormalities), every pronouncement of “normal”—for her heart, head, bones, weight, among others—made my heart swell just a little bit more.

As an able-bodied person, I was reminded of the many little miracles I’ve taken for granted: that my mouth can open and my esophagus can swallow, allowing my stomach and bladder to fill and empty; that the part of my brain that controls my limbs is normal and functioning; that the vertebrae of my spine are fully closed, having formed in my mother’s womb without any holes or openings.

I never thought about these things… until I saw them taking place in another body right inside my very own body. There’s just no other way to describe it than… amazing.

Suddenly, things made sense. Weeks of drinking 2-3 glasses of milk a day were crystallized into a perfectly formed spine and the tiniest ribcage, not to mention a femur—the long bone in the upper leg—described by our Dutch gynecologist as “small,” indicating a small baby. Take note: this is the Netherlands, where babies and adults are huge. I’m pretty sure for a Filipino baby, her size is okay.

The scan also revealed why I can feel our daughter moving, but Marlon can’t when he puts his hand on my belly. It’s because the placenta, the baby’s food source, lies along the front of my belly (it’s the thick white thing at the top of the photo). And I thought Marlon couldn’t feel the movements because I was too fat! I can stop kicking myself now.

What I took away from it all was this: somewhere, somehow, things are unfolding exactly as they should. What needs to be happening is happening… whether you see it, or understand it, or not.

This is something I need to remember now and then; maybe you do, too. I couldn’t be more thankful for the reminder.

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Nine weeks

When Marlon and I moved to Amsterdam, we knew that we wanted this to be the place where the next chapter in our lives would unfold. And now that it’s really happening, I can hardly believe it.

Say hello to our little mango, the nine week-old adventurer who has already traveled to Iceland (without us knowing it!), the baby who will come into the world in March 2013, and the reason why Marlon and I are so, so happy.

At this point, our baby is not really a mango… more like a grape, actually. But when we saw her for the first time during the first ultrasound last week, she (and I’m just going to use “he” and “she” interchangeably here, I don’t really like “it”) already had discernible legs, arms, a head, an umbilical cord, and a beating heart—a whole, entire person in less than an inch.

And when she moved… suddenly she wasn’t an idea, a plan, or a picture on a screen anymore, but a real living miracle inside my body. It’s simply amazing. I still have difficulty wrapping my head around it sometimes.

More to come soon, including how I’ve been feeling, what it’s like to be pregnant in the Netherlands, and a veritable buffet of yummy comfort food care of my amazing husband. There’s much to share, but don’t worry… this blog isn’t going to turn into a pregnancy diary overnight. Life goes on… but it just got a whole lot better.

This post is part of the August Post of the Month Club over at Life on Planet Baby

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A wedding in the South of France

The highlight of my summer was a trip to the south of France for Mimi and Pete’s wedding. They were married civilly in Manila more than a year ago, a simple but moving ceremony they thoughtfully put on live streaming for the benefit of family and friends abroad, such as myself. I was thrilled to receive the invitation from Mimi last year, after we found out we were moving to Europe. For friends flying in from Manila and Singapore, this trip was almost a year in the making!
Ever the tour organizer, super-efficient but amazingly relaxed bride Mimi welcomed us at the Etap hotel in Caissargues, Pete’s hometown, with a card, a jar of locally made confitures, and a handful of brochures on the Languedoc-Roussillon region (and its popular neighbor, Aix-en-Provence). Can’t start a proper Glee Club tour without a tour kit!
A tour wouldn’t be complete without singing, which we were requested to do by Pete’s relatives literally the moment we stepped into his mom’s house. Pleased to realize we had a member of the original touring prod staff to take our photos (the original adventurer-turned-doctor Ross, who took a break from her residency in the States to attend the wedding), we launched into a bass-less rendition of (what else?) the tried-and-tested Rosas Pandan, a song I haven’t sung in eons. Never fails to bring down the house!
Dinner was an al fresco meal care of the amazing Agbay women, Mimi’s sister-doppelgangers May and Meng. Marlon and I were especially excited to see Filipino food on the table, complemented with the requisite French baguettes, or as Mimi’s mom calls them, pambugbog.
After dinner, we rehearsed around the dinner table for the Mass, and did some light prep work like separating confetti and folding menu cards for the reception.
The day of the wedding was everything we sun-starved Netherlanders had hoped for: abundant sunshine and a temperature of 32℃. (As you can guess, the Manila contingent was not as happy.) We spent the morning in the charming town of Arles, with its gorgeous farmers’ market and Roman ruins (more on which later). Then it was off to the hotel to prettify ourselves, and from there on to Eglise Saint-Sauveur, just a hop and skip away from Pete’s mom’s house, to rehearse.
Close to 5pm, Pete pulled up wearing his dapper gray suit and a huge smile, and guests began to trickle in, dressed in what would be considered shockingly casual clothing in Manila, but seemed just right for summer in the south of France. The Pinoys were definitely the dressier guests at this wedding. I was glad to finally debut a vintage floral-print maxi dress I got in San Francisco last year, with a polka-dot scarf from Uniqlo and tangerine wedges. God knows when I’m going to get to wear this again!
As soon as we stepped into the church, events took off at warp speed. I didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked (the choir never does!), but I can clearly remember my first glimpse of Mimi in her elegant bridal whites. She was holding her bouquet and her mom’s hand, and crying openly all the way down the aisle. Naturally, I choked up. I think all the girls just stopped singing the wedding march (L’important c’est la rose), except for Trina who was not a girl, but a bass that day. Seeing wonderful things happen to the equally wonderful people who deserve them is one of the best feelings in the world.
And just like that, it was over: the Duhamels were kissing, people were cheering, and lavender and white confetti was falling everywhere, like a dream.
The not-so-newlyweds piled into an adorable yellow pickup truck, Pete’s first car, to roar off to the reception with horns blaring all the way there. I don’t know what was cuter, the truck itself or Mimi’s giant skirt and petticoat sticking out of it.

Being so close to Spain (just three hours by car to Barcelona!), Spanish touches such as paella and bullfights have seeped into the unmistakable Frenchness of the region. Thus, a reception at a manade, or bull ranch.

It was such a picturesque place, with wide open grounds, tall grass, a lovely little plaza, of sorts grapevines hanging around trellises. The grapes looked so luscious that we all thought they were fake. Duh, south of France nga pala to, not some tacky restaurant in Manila. 

We felt very chi-chi with our champagne and canapes before dinner…

… while the French seem to have downed bottomless shots of Red Bull. Seriously, they danced their asses off in the three hours leading up to dinner. And then they kicked their chairs back and danced all the way up to FIVE FREAKING A.M. the next day. Spell S-A-B-I-K.

In the meantime, we were just happy to finally spend time with our beautiful bride, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over all the details of her dress, a labor of love by our friend (and my entourage designer!) Tria…

And of course, we were just happy to take lots of pictures. 
Lots of them. Sayang ang damit!

Especially when we went out into the ranch grounds in the setting sun, champagne flutes and DSLRs in hand, for our very own de buena familia/Emperador Brandy photo shoots. Based on these two print ads, whose wine would you buy: mine or Pia’s?

The French may have had their dancing, but we Pinoys had our camwhoring. Kung saan ka masaya, suportahan ta ka. Ika nga nila, walang basagan ng trip!

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