5 Things I Love About Public Relations (#iworkinpr)

“If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.” – Bill Gates (Amen, Tito Bill! Couldn’t agree more!)

I can still remember that day when I had to choose between two course tracks: General Mass Communication or Public Relations. My friend Eric was sitting beside me, confused and half-hearted like everyone else.

Anong pipiliin mo?” he asked.

“PR na lang,” I answered.

I was part of the first batch of PR graduates from our school and looking back, I’m glad I ticked off that box.

I thought I would never fall in love with this craft. All I ever wanted to be was either a magazine writer or a journalist. Now, I get to have the best of different worlds. Here are the top 5 reasons why I love PR more than I hate it 😉

There are so many untold stories in the world.

I never thought that a small seed company has a great story about farmers and no one knows about it because no one’s telling their story. There’s this contact center that’s doing an amazing job in providing employment opportunities to underprivileged youth but only a handful of people are talking about it when in fact, the world can use positive stories like this. My job allows me to unearth the most inspiring stories in the world and tell them in a way that could touch other people’s lives; so my dream of becoming a writer and a journalist came true without me knowing it.

12734108_10207800224198058_3815524490602771936_n

No two days are the same.

This is true for someone like me working in an integrated marketing communications agency where we get to handle clients from different industries. Sure, sometimes, it becomes routinary especially when you’ve been handling the same client for years but then something suddenly pops out and you have to be on your feet again. Issues, crises, industry developments and whatnot —- you learn new things every day. And I love learning new things. I love being exposed to new brands from new industries. This profession made me realize that there are so many things to learn and so many ideas to explore.

14918769_10209851185310804_1211050285244903206_o (1).jpg

It’s really a test of passion.

If you don’t love this job (or at least fall in love with it in the process), you’re most likely to give up. Or if not, you’re most likely to ask yourself a lot of times, “What the hell am I doing with my life?” So for me, one’s passion for storytelling is the most important thing to stay in this business because it’s not easy. It’s never going to be especially with digital taking over.

Communicating stories has never been this complex and every day, we have to find ways to reinvent strategies for our brands. There will be times when you will run out of ideas or none of your media friends can help you put your story out and your client can potentially get mad at you because at the end of the day, it’s your job and you’re paid to do it. So when nothing else works, where do you go? You only have your passion, not to mention faith, and chutzpah (my favorite word!) to fall back on.

18447029_10211661628170744_1178937536860759900_n

You’re part of the breaking story.

Oh sure, this so-and-so brand is launching their most ground breaking product ever and you’re one of the first people to know about it. No biggie. This so-and-so event is happening and you’re brushing elbows and shoulders with this big star. Sure, my friends will just rave about it. This is the glamorous part of the job — being in the middle of the big events, having first dibs on new products, or knowing the latest news before everyone else knows about it. It’s a privilege but it comes with a price. When something bad cracks, you’re on the front line just like when good things happen. With this job, you’re either in front or in the middle, never at the back. You’re either dodging the bullet for your clients or acting like their lawyers. Sometimes, both.

18156579_10211521169739371_8420346535588072650_o

You cannot not know things.

I love this one. I cannot count the many times I pretended to know things even if I don’t and the many times I succeeded. I remember attending my first ever client meeting when I was an intern in FleishmanHillard and the late Ms. Cosette Romero told me to put some lipstick on, “You’re not an intern. You’re a consultant.” And boy, she asked me about my opinion in front of her client. “Fake it ‘til you make it,” then she winked at me. Up until today, I can still remember her telling me that in front of the bathroom mirror. She was right. In PR, you have to be the most knowledgeable in a meeting. Sure, there are some things you don’t know but it’s not an excuse to not know about it later.

For some people, it’s just work. But for me, it’s more than that. I wake up every day excited to listen to PR podcasts or check the latest update in PRWeek. I have my mentors to thank for that.

I guess they’re right — there are some things you just love to do and there are those you fall in love doing. And I have to thank my Cupids— my mentors — for hitting it right.

This piece is dedicated to former Public Relations Society of the Philippines President Roel S. Ramirez, APR, the late FleishmanHillard Manila General Manager Cosette Romero and Full Circle Communications President Milen de Quiros.

Time management hacks I swear by

There are 24 hours in a day and sometimes, they’re just not enough.

Oh well, I’ve been working in a PR agency for almost four years now and I can’t tell you how many times I had that “Woah! Can’t believe I did that!” moment just because there are just so many things to do.

I can’t say the same thing for other professions but I’m sure we’ve all had that moment – when you just look at your to-do list wondering how in the world you can accomplish every single task.

Well, luckily, I discovered some tricks that work for me. Here are some time management hacks I’ve proven to be effective. Try them and see if they work for you.

Just a bit of a warning though, being detail-oriented is a must because you can’t really miss any task:

My to-do list is not per day, but per hour.

Yup, that’s true. Don’t get me wrong. I still have a mother to-do list with all the items that should be done within the day but I only use that as a guide in coming up with a more special, more detailed to-do list. Once I’ve listed down all the tasks, I determine which one should be done from 9am-10am, 11am-12nn and so on and so forth.

Image result for to do list
Source

Why it works? Because with this, you can easily see if you’re using your time wisely. Are you going beyond the time allotted for a specific task? If yes, maybe it’s because you chatted with your colleague for five minutes? This to-do list also lets you see if you really have enough hours to do everything within the day or you have to render overtime. Are there items you can do the next day instead so you’ll get enough sleep tonight?

Some tasks though need more than one hour to be accomplished. That’s perfectly understandable. Some need less.

I keep a COLOR-CODED MONTHLY tracker.

2222222.JPG

Take note: It’s color-coded and it’s monthly. I prepare this every end of the month. Think of this as a checklist and timeline in one.

If my to-do list shows me how busy I am going to be in a day (or in an hour for that matter), my monthly tracker shows me how busy I am going to be in a month. One is a magnifying lens; the other is a bird’s eyeview.

The good thing about having a monthly tracker is that it helps you monitor if you have big projects happening. It shows you how many days you should spend in completing a specific task. There’s also a color for deadline which is great because you can see just how much time you have left before the D-day.

Break big tasks into smaller ones.

Ever handled a project that’s just so intimidating? We usually get overwhelmed when a big project is entrusted to us. I’m telling you, learn the art of breaking large tasks to smaller, more achievable ones, and before you know it, it’s done.

Related image
Source

The key is to know  the processes involved. For example in my job, it’s usually: research, content development, and creative execution. You also have to know how much time each process requires. Then figure out, what are the requirements in each process? When it comes to research, there may be surveys, focus group discussions, etc.involved. Then allot a time for that and stick to it.

Learn to prioritize.

How many times have you forgotten a deadline? Know which tasks should be done first and prioritize them. I usually put urgent tasks in my morning to-do list – they have to be done before anything else.

Image result
Source

Deadlines are very important. I worship them and I hate myself whenever I miss them because that means I’m an inconvenience to someone. Why would I make someone else’s life miserable?

There you go: some time management tips and tricks that can help you save time which can otherwise be used for working out, bonding with your friends and family, and well getting enough sleep.

Remember, time is the only thing in the world you can never take back so use it wisely.

 Cover photo from: Pixabay

Travel lessons from our PH and Thailand trips

My boyfriend and I live 7,000+ miles away from each other.  That’s equivalent to a 19+-hour flight, insane amount of expenses every trip, and months’ worth of planning and nagging.

Like most long distance relationships, ours is built on travel. We meet roughly every three months for two weeks and spend those days exploring islands, beaches, cities, and town.

Travel has helped us learn a lot about each other, enough to compensate for the days we spent apart.  Travel has also thrown us into unexpected events and crazy mishaps that almost broke our relationship, but didn’t.

More than that, travel has helped me learn things about life – with someone. Sure, there are some things worth experiencing alone (and trust me, I had my fair share of that) but there are also things worth sharing with others. I’m glad Danny came along to share them with me.

Here are some things I learned for the past six months and a half, from trekking in Palawan to taking the Skytrain in Bangkok and exploring the temples in Chiang Mai:

You can never go wrong with El Nido, Palawan.

phl-2016_photos-95phl-2016_photos-80phl-2016_photos-121

When Danny arrived from UK, I was so excited to show him El Nido. That was actually my second time to go to the island because that’s where I spent my 23rd birthday but I didn’t mind because El Nido’s worth visiting over and over again. The first time is also not the same as the second, for me, because I was with someone else and we had done something I didn’t do during my first visit like trek to the edge of Taraw Cliff and be treated to what could be one of the most amazing views in this planet. With its warmth and breathtaking beauty, El Nido is now one of my most favorite islands in the world, alongside Bali.

phl-2016_photos-76phl-2016_photos-65phl-2016_photos-109

Our favorite beaches in El Nido are Seven Commando and Las Cabanas. Las Cabanas is just one tricycle ride from the town proper which was pretty convenient especially because Danny loves riding tricycles. Seven Commando, on the other hand, is teeming with tourists but still very picturesque. You can get to Seven Commando via Tour A, one of the tours offered in the island.

Kayaking can be a true test of a relationship.

I am not good at coordinating moves with someone else. I take my own directions even if that meant bumping into a giant boulder. Danny was a bit patient at first but he got tired when I’d constantly put us in danger. HAHA. By danger I meant, bumping into other people’s kayaks.

Not only did I not listen to his directions, I also constantly went the other way. I couldn’t count the times he yelled “Paddle the other way!” “What are you doing, Nessa?” Most of the times though, he was cool about it, “When I paddle this way, you paddle that way,” “Lean back, lean back,” “Good, you’re getting it now.” But after relaxing, I was back to bumping into yet another rock. HAHA.

Try all sorts of cocktails.

Danny and I love to try different cocktails and we’d usually make fun of their names. We had watermelon and mango daiquiri, Boracay Blue Sea, Sex on the Beach, Cosmopolitan, and Lime Mojito among others. Danny would always go for the ones that sound fancy. I’d go for the ones that sound cute and familiar like – tequila sunrise. Moral lesson, the fancier it sounds, the weirder it tastes. :’D

The best places we had our cocktails? In Boracay while sitting on bean bags under the star-filled night sky or along the shores of Corong-Corong while listening to the waves crashing to the shore.

The simpler, the better.

Our best memories come from the simplest days like the one we spent in Sky Ranch just lying on the ground, watching the roller coaster with its blinking lights. We spent a few hours just talking and listening to the park’s music. We also rode the roller coaster and had a great view of the entire Tagaytay.

It was simple but fun. We (him mostly) also enjoyed just walking around Boracay, catching pokemons and searching for Poke stops! Danny was so ecstatic I felt like if he had a choice, he’d stay in Boracay forever just because at that time, Pokemon is life. 😀

 Avoid Boracay in August.

phl-2016_photos-123phl-2016_photos-105

This is just a personal advice. Do not go to Boracay in August because you’d probably be shocked with the number of tourists in the island. I’m not saying I didn’t like it but it was just too crowded and too dirty. When we got there, it was teeming with Chinese and Koreans. It was also raining and flooding in some areas so the Boracay that’s etched in my head now is not the Boracay that I was hoping to see.

Language is very important.

When we went to Boracay, we booked our shuttle service from Caticlan through Southwest Tours, a partner of Cebu Pacific. We were with a family of Italian or Spanish descent, I couldn’t tell. When we got to the island, the family complained to our driver that they were missing a luggage with important documents in it. No one knew what they were saying because they kept mumbling Italian or Spanish words. Danny couldn’t tell either. They sounded a bit rude to the driver who was having a hard time understanding English until Danny asked me to translate for them. I spoke to the family in English and I spoke to the driver in Tagalog. Danny told me he was proud of me and I told him, he was the one who told me to do it in the first place.

On our last night in Boracay, while we were walking along the beach, two familiar faces approached us and yelled, “Oh! That’s you! That’s you!” It was the dad and the daughter. “Did you find the bag?” Danny and I asked them. “Oh yes, we did! Thank you so much for translating for us!” So much for that island magic.

Traveling to Thailand was also a bit of a challenge because not all Thai people speak and understand English. It also didn’t help that Asians look like each other so most Thais thought I was one of them and spoke to me in their language to which I’d reply, “I’m sorry?” They would then realize that I am not Thai.  Danny would burst out laughing, “They think you’re Thai!” The funny thing is the only Thai words we know are “Kop khun ka” and “Sawadee ka”.

Processed with VSCO with g3 presetthl-2016_photos-6thl-2016_photos-46

I also had a funny encounter with an old Thai lady who was in-charge of our hotel room. I’m used to washing our clothes by hand and that day, I needed a clothing rack for our wet clothes. I had to call the hotel and request for it but the lady on the other line couldn’t understand me. “Clothes, I will hang and dry my clothes,” I repeatedly said. “Oh, okay, wait a minute,” she responded. Few minutes after, the old lady appeared outside with a hair dryer. Ah, maybe the only word she caught was ‘dry’ so she thought I was gonna dry my hair. I had to call again and explain what I needed. “For clothes that you wear,” I had to describe clothes in any way possible. The next time she arrived, she brought with her a clothing rack. Finally! But it was the one that needed to be mounted on the wall. How in the world will I be able to use it? I went back to her and had to demonstrate that I needed the rolling one. Finally, she got it.

If you have limited time, spend more days in Chiang Mai and scrap Phuket completely.

thl-2016_photos-102thl-2016_photos-84thl-2016_photos-103

I’ve always wanted to go to Chiang Mai and Danny was curious about Phuket so we both decided to visit the two famous tourist spots in Thailand last December. I booked a flight to Phuket for February with my sister but Cebu Pacific cancelled it due to system error so I told Danny I didn’t mind going there with him in December. Unfortunately though, Phuket was a bit of a disappointment.

thl-2016_photos-128

Just a bit of advice – Philippines has the best beaches already so no need to crave for some Phuket adventure. If you want to see Ko Phi Phi, Krabi, or Railey Beach, go straight there. Forget Phuket. That is something Danny and I should have done but there’s always a lesson to learn.

Northern Thailand though, including Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, is a great place if you want to relax and immerse yourself in the Thai culture. Chiang Mai was a feast for the eye – with its Buddhist temples like Doi Suthep, one of Thailand’s most scared temples situated in a mountain. The flight from Chiang Mai to Phuket was a bit pricey too but I was with Danny so every day, wherever it’s spent, is worth it anyway.

You can’t miss Bangkok’s Skytrain.

Any authentic Bangkok experience wouldn’t be complete without riding the ever-efficient Bangkok Skytrain, especially if you come from a place like Manila where the public transport sucks (Oops! Let’s use another term – inefficient) Danny and I did our research about the ticketing system and the different train stations and intersections. I must say I looked forward to our train rides every day.

15943064_10210502074382624_2015571087_o

It isn’t hard and complicated really but Danny and I actually alighted on a wrong station after we visited the temples in Bangkok. HAHA. But we found our way back. It’s also an inexpensive way to go around the city. No need for taxi and Uber rides. We also used the train going to the airport which saved us time and loads of money.

Flight delays happen anywhere.

Nope, it isn’t just a scene in the Philippines. It happens everywhere. Our worst flight delay is on the way to El Nido via Cebu Pacific which lasted for almost five hours, I think. My flight to Thailand via Thai Airways was delayed for two hours which was annoying (all flight delays are annoying anyway). Danny’s flight from UK to Thailand was supposed to arrive 3 hours earlier than mine but because my plane was late, he had to wait for me few hours more and risked us missing our flight to Chiang Mai on the same day. Our flight from Phuket to Bangkok via AirAsia was also delayed.

So, if you’re traveling together, make sure you brought tons of patience with you and a fully-charged power bank. Yes, that one’s very important too.

There’s sunshine everywhere.

I don’t just mean the sunshine with its bright and fierce rays. I mean sunshine in different forms – in a stranger’s smile, in a newfound courage to swim, in an exhausting yet fulfilling day of adventures and new experiences, or more so, in holding someone else’s hand while you both contemplate between Japanese or Italian food.

Someone once said, “Wherever you go, no matter the weather, always bring your own sunshine.” Danny gives me my daily dose of sunshine.

phl-2016_photos-79

So, yes, traveling together brings out the best and worst in people. Find someone you can travel with for two weeks or more. When you explore a new place with that person, it will be a series of compromises and agreements. It becomes even more fun when choosing where to stay, what to eat, and which activity to try is a decision you make as one.

The most rewarding part is knowing that whatever happens, you’re never going to be alone because it’s no longer just you who have to jump on that boat or trek that cliff, it’s the two of you.

15934285_10210501846336923_758044781_oWatch a video of our trips here.

Cover photo from: Pixabay

A year to believe

I grew up reading fairy tale books of my sister. I would say fictional characters shaped some of my ideas about life.

Growing up though I learned that the princess doesn’t always get her happily-ever-after or dreams don’t always come true. But if there is one thing that I learned from princesses, fairy tales, and godmothers, it will be to never stop believing.

Believe that things will happen to you at the right time. Sometimes, they happen when you least expect them to like when you land your dream job, when you get that scholarship, or when you fall in love with someone.

Believe that everything happens for a reason; that things don’t go your way because a better plan is in place; that a lost love leads to a better one; or that failure creates room for more opportunities.

Believe that you’re the one creating your story and you have the power to make it a better, bolder one each year. Believe that your story is part of something bigger and that you can make it matter every day.

Believe that the universe is constantly doing its best to make you happy and all you need to do is to smile right back at it and say, “We’ll do this together.” Believe that the universe is your friend – a friend you can dance with, sing with, and laugh with. Move with it. Embrace it.

Believe that where you are now is not permanent. If you’re feeling stuck or lost or sad, know that it won’t last. Better days will come. It may be raining now but the sun will shine very, very soon. The good thing is, a rainbow might also show up.

Believe in every thing around you – the good and the bad, the happy and the sad. Believe that every time the clock strikes twelve, you don’t have to go back to being the helpless princess that you are. It only means a new day is about to begin, a new day to conquer the world with your glass slippers.

Believe in castles and unicorns; in magic lamps and golden carriages; in fairies and nymphs.

And for whatever it’s worth, believe in true love’s kiss.

Cover photo from: Google Images

The world does not need healing, we do

I’ve recently listened to a podcast concluding that the world is in so much pain right now. People fight here and there. Countries claim what they think they own. Children wash up ashore and die like homeless kittens.

Then a question popped into my head: Is the world really hurting? Or are we? Because the world will continue to shelter us for as long as it can. Countries will continue to exist so long as there is a system, no matter how crooked that system can be. Humanity will continue to live as long as the world can provide for us.

The one who’s hurting is US and it’s because of our own doing.

Funny how we got all the technology to stay connected and yet, we’re disconnected more than ever. Families live under one roof but rarely talk. Friends refer to people who don’t even know each other personally for as long as they’re connected virtually. Friends who disagree on political matters jokingly say, “FO!”

What has happened to us?

What have we done to ourselves?

We log on our Facebook account, scroll through our Newsfeed, click a news item, form our own belief about it, share something on our own wall, and wait until someone likes, comments, or shares it. When someone says something that’s totally against us, we either respond to that person or block him/her. No big deal.

In the end, no one wins because the truth is, no one is ever gonna be right in this world.

It’s always gonna be trial and error. It’s always gonna be a learning experience. It’s always gonna be an exchange – of ideas, of practices, of beliefs. And it’s just a cycle that keeps repeating and turning and it’s NEVER gonna end.

In the process of trying to prove something instead of just accepting things that we have no control over or things that we cannot change, we are constantly hurting one another; hurling insults here and there. We are constantly going back to where it all started – as if we never really learned.

We need to heal. Not just collectively but individually.

Yes, WE. Not the WORLD.

Because the world is okay. The world is fine. It will continue to rotate 24 hours a day even without us.

But US? We’re not fine. We’re all sick. Because we all clamor for attention.

We all want to be great.

We all want to be the most amazing thing this world has ever seen.

We all want to be validated.

We all want to be right.

We don’t want to listen. We just want to be heard.

We all want to prove something.

In this day and age, we all want to sound and look smart but trust me, there’s a big difference between sounding and looking smart from actually BEING smart.

And it’s okay. It’s our nature as human beings. We want to belong and for most of us, belonging means doing something that the majority does.

But we have a responsibility too. We have the responsibility to be kind to one another; to be critical and open but not judgmental; to nourish and not to kill one another.

Have you ever thought that maybe, there’s just too much noise already to the point that no one’s actually contributing anything new anymore? To be honest, we’re all just saying the same things now. They’re only told in different versions. That’s good though. It means you care.

Though maybe, we need to pause. Maybe we need to look at our inner self first and ask, are we really contributing something because what the world needs to hear is more than just a complaint or a rant or a shameless joke.

Maybe the world needs to hear more loving words from you or words that actually inspire people to be better or even more so, words that provide solutions to problems, not just added noise.

So if you have the time, just think about it. At the end of the day, you can say whatever you want to say, sound however you want to sound, believe whatever you want to believe.

But next time, the least that you can do is to pause and ask yourself: Would I rather be hurt or be healed?

Cover photo from: Google Images

Befriending My Emotions Over a Glass of Wine

I was walking down the road on a cold Friday night when I bumped into my old friend Happiness. Happiness looked like her usual self – young, vibrant, edgy – and she’s always wearing that big smile on her face. She asked me how I was and wanted to know what keeps me busy these days.

I noticed that I was mirroring Happiness while she talked about her recent encounters with all her other friends. I was… smiling too. I was laughing hard when she told me about this birthday party she went to where everyone got drunk and was literally just dancing to loud music. “It was full of life there! Like they didn’t care what’s happening outside. They were ah, what do you call this? Living in the moment,” she told me. Her voice mixed with the cold wind that night and all I could see was how beautiful Happiness was. She’s the most beautiful friend I have.

Out of nowhere, she asked: “You ever came across Love again? I’m sure you have a lot to tell him.” Happiness’ voice trailed off. I sensed her hesitation in asking me that question.

Love is one of my closest best friends. I know he’s there but we just don’t keep in touch very often. You know that kind of friend whose presence you can feel even if he’s thousands of miles away from you? That’s the kind of relationship I have with Love – always together but distance apart.

“Nope, I haven’t really talked to Love for quite a long time now. We’re both very busy these days.” I said. Happiness just shrugged her shoulder. She knows when not to push it.

When Happiness was about to end her stories, I found myself wishing she wouldn’t. I didn’t want her to leave. I needed her more than anyone else that night.

“So I hope I see you again?” Happiness asked. I nodded reluctantly. I didn’t want to say goodbye because I knew what was going to happen next. With Happiness gone, I knew that I was left with no choice but to talk to my other friends.

“I hope so too.” I told her.

“I’m just here,” she said as she pointed to my heart. “Whenever you need me.”

I stared at her as she danced her way around town, letting her flowy skirt get blown by the wind. She looked at me one last time and winked. She had more friends to meet. It’s kind of hard to get hold of Happiness. She’s so elusive. She’s everywhere and nowhere at the same time. We all think that we should make the most of our time with Happiness because before we know it, she’s gone.

I thought about Love and how Happiness wanted me to get in touch with him. “Just try to call him. All it takes is for one of you to try to get closer to the other,” I remember her saying. I looked for a coffee shop and decided to sit outside. I ordered brewed coffee – something to keep me up all night. I gave Love a call.

I dialed his number and waited for several seconds. “Hi, this is Love. Sorry I am currently on the road. Leave me a message.”

That didn’t surprise me. Love was always on the road. He was always going somewhere but unlike Happiness who only stays for a short time, Love likes to stay a little longer in a certain place. He likes to get to know people in a more personal level – deeper even. So goodbyes with Love are always harder. I remember he decided to stay in my place for months. He wanted to get to know me and spend time with me. I almost begged him to stay when he finally decided to leave.

“But you know at some point, I have to leave,” he once told me.

“So why stay in the first place?” I asked him.

“People come and go. You’ve got to accept that and we’re friends – we’ll always find a way to be together. If you want, you can come with me.”

It was an offer I wanted to accept but I ended up saying no.

We kept in touch even after he left town but slowly, the daily calls became weekly until it never happened at all. I knew then that Love found someone new to get to know more and spend time with. But I didn’t take it against him. We learned a lot from each other although I would say it was too painful at the moment. That feeling of being replaced by someone new was dreadful. But Love taught me one of the most valuable things I know now – people are never really gone. Love is just out there, somewhere.

So even though he didn’t pick up his phone that night, I know he was out there, somewhere, probably whistling some old country music while driving down a rocky road. I know it because I can feel it. At least I tried to call him because with Love, trying and failing is so much better than not trying at all.

I decided to go home after I finished my cup of coffee. I saw these blinding lights scattered all around town and I realized I had another round of phone calls to make. I decided to call all my other friends who are always, always, so available and accessible even if no one needs them at all. They like to bother other people. They show up at your doorstep even if they’re not wanted. And they’re never wanted, trust me.

But that night was different. I needed to meet them.

I called Sadness, Regret, and Anger.

As expected, they all squealed in excitement when I told them I had to see them.

“See yah!!!!!” The three of them said exactly in the same way as a kid who just bought a new toy set would.

I opened the door to my house and started preparing. I uncorked a bottle of red wine and waited for my friends to show up. After almost an hour, I heard a loud knock on the door. They arrived.

“It’s so nice to see you!” Sadness blurted out first.

I wished I could say the same.

Regret gave me a peck on the cheek and Anger gave me a tight hug.

I needed to talk to them. But someone had to help me confront these three without provoking them to be the worse version of themselves. I’ve seen it happen before, not to me, but to our other friends. They tried confronting Sadness, Regret, and Anger too and it turned out so badly. So I invited yet another friend and I knew this friend of mine has my best interests at heart.

It’s Honesty. Everyone wants to hate her but they just can’t hate her because they know what Honesty can do for her friends. She can be rude but she’s saved so many people by simply being herself.

When Honesty arrived, I saw the expression of my three other guests. They didn’t expect her presence tonight.

“Hey, guys, anyone wants a glass of wine?” Everyone raised their hand.

“Thanks for inviting me over!” Honesty said while trying to sound casual and conversational.

“No, thank you all for coming.” I cleared my throat. “I… ah… called you over because I needed to talk to all of you tonight. I bumped into Happiness on my way home tonight. How cool is that?” I trailed off.

“But you know Happiness. She can’t really stay that long. She’s always needed somewhere.” I suppressed a smile.

Sadness didn’t like Happiness that much. They’re each other’s opposite. Happiness tried to befriend Sadness before but Sadness turned her down every single time.

“So what does Little Miss Sunshine had to say?” Sadness asked me.

“Well, she asked me to call Love.” I looked at Honesty. She had that encouraging look on her face. She wanted me to go on and say the truth.

“You called Love?” It was Anger. Anger hated Love for leaving me. It was Anger who broke some of my most important relationships. His excuse? “I just want to protect you. You can’t be nice all the time or else, people will take advantage of you.”

“Why would you do that?” he continued.

“I guess I just needed to try.”

But I didn’t call them to talk about Love. That night was a whirlwind of emotions but I needed to let it out. When Honesty noticed just how hard it was for me to express myself, she gulped her red wine and talked on my behalf. She always knows the right words to say.

“Our friend here called us tonight because she wanted to know what you’re up to. Sadness, Regret, Anger, why are you always bothering her? Calling her every night just to talk about painful things – things she should have forgotten by now; things that happened in the past; things that, if you think about it, shouldn’t matter now. Our friend here cries herself to sleep to forget but one of you would always give her a phone call to remind her of those dreadful days.” Honesty breathed deeply.

“Sadness, you always remind her of that day when Happiness didn’t show up on her birthday party. Anger, you always talk to her about Love and why she should never trust Love again. And you, Regret, you always ask her why she had to turn down a really good job offer from Success even though she’s answered that question a thousand times. You’re all reminding her of the mistakes she made and it’s not doing her any good. When she’s not picking up the phone, because for goodness sake, she gets tired too, you’d show up at her doorstep, banging the door until she wakes up. Why can’t you just leave her alone?”

At first, Sadness, Regret, and Anger, had nothing to say but I know better. I knew they were just thinking of the best way to save their ass. I was thankful Honesty was there because I felt tears trickling down my face the moment she asked them why they can’t leave me alone. Because I’ve been friends with these people for a long time, I knew what they were going to say.

Sadness looked at me, dismissing Honesty. “Look at me. Do you really want us to leave you alone? Do you really want to be alone? You know that when we do that, you’re left with no choice but to deal with another friend. And honey, you don’t want to deal with that friend.”

I knew who he was talking about.

Regret held my face closely to her. “That friend has more power over you than any of us. We’re your real friends because we keep you grounded but once we’re gone and once you stop recognizing our presence and stop talking to us, she’ll come and get you. We are your real friends – we see you through the tough time. We make you stronger. We let you confront your deepest, darkest self. We let you get to know yourself better.”

I turned to Anger who was looking out the window. “As I always tell you, I’m here to protect you and I’m sorry if I turned many people away from you but Sadness and Regret are right – we’re here to help you free your monster. We all have monsters inside us. If we don’t accept that part of ourselves, then I don’t know why Honesty is still here.”

Honesty wiped the tears off my face. “I’m sorry but I wanted you to hear that straight from them. They’re your friends but they won’t bother you if they don’t have to. There’s a bigger monster out there – nobody wants to be friends with her because she’s ruthless. She doesn’t care. All of us are products of something but this person – she’s got no beginning and no end.”

“Fear can eat you up, you know?” I remember Fear sat beside me in the school cafeteria and told me some things. Everyone turns to Fear when they have no one else left.

“I saw you talking to Fear that day. You know why you didn’t accept Love’s offer to go on the road with him when he told you he was leaving? Because you got scared and thought you’re not good enough for him. You know why you refuse to call Happiness most of the time and just let her show up whenever she can? Because you’re scared it won’t last; that sooner or later, she has to leave again. You know why you didn’t accept that job offer from Success? Because you got scared of failure. You thought you weren’t ready yet. That’s how Fear works. She sits beside you and talks to you like a real friend. You think Fear is helping you? She’s not. She’s only preventing you from knowing yourself fully. She keeps you from Love, Happiness, and Success. Do you know what Sadness, Regret, and Anger do? They help you confront your feelings. You need to recognize them and once you’ve recognized them…” Honesty paused.

“We’re ready to go.” Sadness ended her sentence.

Regret poured more wine to her glass. “Because once you’ve overcome us, Fear will have nothing on you. She can sit beside you again and give you some sort of pep talk no matter how many times she wants but we know you’ll be fine.”

Anger gathered his things and turned to the door, about to open it. “Because of us, you’re knowing yourself more.”

I tried stopping him but Sadness stopped me. Anger was gone.

“Don’t worry. We’ll be back not to torture you – but to make you stronger.” Sadness was gone.

“Me too. I’m coming back to ask you about your what ifs so that next time, you’ll make better decisions.” Regret, too, was gone.

Honesty was the only one left in my room that night.

In between tears, I uttered a silent ‘thank you.’ “It’s good to have them as friends. Friends like them make you human, someone capable of feeling and knowing. I have to go now too. Lock your door, okay? Fear likes to visit when you feel so alone.”

I kissed Honesty and bade her goodbye. I don’t know what to do without her. I uncorked yet another bottle of wine and minutes later, there was a knock on my door. Cold sweat enveloped me.

“Not tonight,” I told myself. If Honesty was right, it could be Fear. If it was Fear, I wouldn’t know how to turn her away. But I remembered what Sadness, Regret, and Anger said that night – I had to free my monster.

Then I was reminded of what Happiness said before saying goodbye, when she pointed her finger to my heart, “I’m just here… Whenever you need me.” Sadness was right. Happiness didn’t fail to show up on my birthday party, I just didn’t invite her. It’s all making sense now.

I walked to my door and breathed deeply. I placed my hand on my heart.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t Fear who paid me a visit that night. It was Courage.

I opened the door. “Thought you could use some company,” Courage said.

Happiness was right. Everything I needed was just right there, at the exact same spot she pointed. All I had to was to make a choice.

“Of course.” I let Courage in.

Cover photo from: Weheartit

Lessons I learned all year long

Another year has passed and another set of memories will soon be long gone but never forgotten. That’s for sure.

To cap my year, I always write a celebratory article – a trip-down-memory lane, sometimes in the form of an apology letter (for all the wrong things I’ve done for the year). Other times, it’s in the form of a hopeful story – a rundown of all things I wished and hoped to achieve.

This time though, I want it to be in the form of a timeline – a list of my milestone for each month. I also want to share what I learned from each of them. This year is not just a collection of memories. It’s a collection of seconds, minutes, hours, and days – numbers that are more than just numbers. They’re an infinite stretch of stories, words, flowers, sunshines and sunsets. They’re an infinite stretch of mistakes and successes, what ifs and buts. Most importantly, they’re an infinite stretch of the people I loved and met along the way.

JANUARY: Embrace the universe with your passion.

As sad as it was to remember it, this was the month when 44 PNP SAF officers were killed in the tragic Mamasapano clash. As a peace advocate, I vividly remembered the sadness that enveloped me which also led me to write my own tribute to the 44 fallen heroes.

The article was featured on both Rappler and Young Blood section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and I was glad that it sparked conversation among those who were able to read it. This story was originally published in my fictional blog, The Unwritten Melody, but deciding that it was more than just a fiction, I submitted the story in the hopes to inspire more. And it did not disappoint.

The story served its purpose and at that very moment, I was glad to call myself a “writer.” Here I learned that emotions spur the best in people. I remember writing this story before going home from work. I felt an unspoken sadness seeing how cruel the world can be. I needed to let it out. And I did through my writing.

When we use our passion, in my case it’s my passion for telling stories, we give the world a part of ourselves and it makes the world a little less sad, a little less hopeless. We participate in the making of the universe, in its movement. And what a beautiful movement it is when we all share our passion, whatever it may be. I could see a swirling of colors, an endless weaving of shapes, letters, and words.

FEBRUARY: Welcome change when it comes.

This month, I quit my first job in the hopes that I would find more in a new home, in a new place. I worked there for almost one year and a half and it felt sad to say goodbye to my colleagues and friends. But I was also relieved to know that I was capable of moving on.

16464_10205357396288887_7360342176511306334_n

It was the first adult decision I’ve ever made. An opportunity came and I jumped to it without knowing what lies ahead. All I know is that when people feel the urge to move, they must make that move because life is a cycle of movements. You’re not supposed to stay where you are especially if you’re like me – restless, ambitious, and in a constant pursuit of evolution.

I didn’t know then that there was a much more important lesson I had to learn and I learned it the hard way.

MARCH: Be happy on your own.

Oh, music! I love music. Music inspired The Unwritten Melody and every day, it inspires me. And one of my favorite artists is Ed Sheeran. He had a concert here last March 12 and that was the first time I watched a concert alone.

I remember being sandwiched between lovers and boy, it felt good to listen to him sing Kiss Me without holding anybody’s hands. I remember singing to Thinking Out Loud without having to whisper to anyone’s ear. See a sad picture there? Nope. It was liberating. Girls are capable of having fun on their own. Our happiness doesn’t have to rely on somebody else.

And watching a concert of one of the most romantic artists out there doesn’t have to be depressing when you’re single. I actually made a new friend, if you may ask 😉

11045316_10205406826044600_206028398914885223_n

APRIL: Make sure you’re ready to succeed and grow up too fast. If not, then breathe.

This is one of the busiest months of my year having moved to my new job and being given responsibilities I never had before. I wouldn’t say I didn’t like it. I loved every minute of it – flying from one place to another, meeting people from different ranks, mentoring someone. My career was fast-tracked. It was launched like a rocket, I almost forgot to breathe.

1012988_10206207697385883_5581539864040027262_n
I must have grown too fast.

I guess when you want to be successful and it happens to you early on, the question is not whether you can do it or not. The question is, are you ready?

MAY: Quit a toxic relationship.

Even though I was quite busy with work, I made time to nourish my heart by dating people. And this was the month when I quit a really toxic almost-relationship. For those of you who have read my dating story with CJ, the basketball player, you know exactly what I meant. He wasn’t my boyfriend but we were steadily seeing each other.

This was the time when my values were tested; most importantly, my self-worth. Having dated different guys in the past, I know exactly what I want in a relationship and if I think that I’m not getting what I deserve, I nip it in the bud. That’s what happened with us.

Amidst the sugarcoating and the flowery words, girls should not be fooled. We should not be swayed. We must stick with our values. It will hurt us at first but looking back, it was worth it. I definitely do not want to feel like shit in a relationship. I just wasn’t raised that way.

JUNE: Birthdays happen every day.

It’s my birthday month and I am not really big on celebrating birthdays. I turned 22 this year but I never really cared about the number, I just cared about what 22-year olds should do which is to figure out her life. I also didn’t get the chance to celebrate it so much because I was so busy and a lot was going on. It was a whirlwind of one thing over another – getting confused with my job, moving on from a shitty relationship, missing my sister.

I guess I learned that birthdays happen every day. You get to be born again every time you open your eyes in the morning and each time, you realize your life doesn’t unfold in a one-year sort of thing. It unfolds every time a single molecule in your body moves; every time a tear is shed, a smile is drawn, a breath is let go.

JULY: Quit if you may. Then start again and never look back.

I was there. I was already at the top of my game, handling two of the best brands a PR practitioner would ever wish to handle. But I gave up way too soon and I quit my new job because I lost time for myself and for my other passion and interests.

A lot of people asked me why. A lot of people questioned my decision. A lot of people told me that I was making a huge mistake. I even questioned myself. But when I want to do something, I do it and I don’t listen to anyone. That’s how stubborn I can be. I got the support that I needed – from my family and friends. I consulted my sister, brother, and my parents – and once and for all, I decided to quit. I’m glad though to have learned what I learned. I learned that I wasn’t the superwoman everyone thought I was.

I was vulnerable. I was fearful. And those are things that I didn’t recognize before. I’ve always been the confident, capable one. When I’m asked to do something, I do it and I exceed expectations but this time around, I allowed myself to crumble and feel tired. And cry. And give up.

What a loser I was but a strong loser at that one.

(More of this story here: ON SLOWING DOWN AND GROWING: WHY QUITTING MY JOB BEFORE MY BIRTHDAY IS THE BEST BIRTHDAY GIFT EVER)

AUGUST: Go back to your core.

Having quit my job, I started to go back to writing. For four months that I stayed there, I didn’t get to write a single piece. Yeah, not even a draft. Imagine the pain a writer feels when there’s so much you want to write but couldn’t find the time. I didn’t want to deprive myself of the opportunity to follow my passion so I started writing again.

In August, I created this blog, Musings of Nessa, my own creative portal with stories that I love to share. I don’t care if a single soul is reading my articles. I just want to write.

12036723_10206914573337340_8902796799613757947_n

When you feel like you lost it all, always, always go back to your core – the one thing that defines you. Oftentimes, it’ not your job; it’s not what pays the bill. That thing is your sanctuary, your safe place. You keep coming back to it when things go wrong. And when you do it, you feel like things start to fall into their proper places again.

That’s what writing does to me. At the end of every day, no matter how shitty it was or how hard it was to deal with people outside, I crawl to my bed and start weaving words and I feel safe again.

SEPTEMBER: Be grateful.

This could be the most unforgettable month of my 2015, the month that I visited the Land of the Gods – Bali, Indonesia. If you want to know a detailed account of my Balinese holiday, read this:  Chasing Happiness in Bali.

In Bali, I learned the power of gratitude. I learned that wherever your feet stand, every single thing in your body should be there too. That’s how you cultivate gratitude – when you appreciate what you have at the moment and hope for, but not expect, the best. Chances are life will disappoint you but it is gratitude that will help us retain happiness.

11149503_10206811830648837_7295123517549482172_n

I am still in the process of cultivating it because it’s not easy. Sometimes, your wishes and dreams overpower the present, making it difficult to appreciate what we have right now. Human beings could be greedy. We want more than what we have and we strive to get it. Our endless quest for satisfaction hinders us from living in the present. We want to know what will happen instead of appreciating what’s happening.

And we keep looking forward that we fail to look around.

(More of this story here: Chasing Happiness in Bali, Indonesia #eatpraylove)

OCTOBER: Be generous.

This was the month that I went to Cebu with a high school friend and basked in the Cebuano sunset. I got a chance to think things through and I kinda got used to attaching a theme to every place that I go to. I attached gratitude to Bali and I attached generosity to Cebu not because of any particular experience in the island. It just popped to mind while we were on a motorcycle ride to Oslob. Like a lightbulb moment, Cebu wanted me to recognize the existence of a new friend – Generosity.

d

This applies not only with your relationship with other people although that is important too. What I meant here is to be generous to yourself. Do whatever that makes you happy without feeling guilty about it.

NOVEMBER: Challenge yourself.

This is my most favorite month as a writer. Last November, I joined the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2015, an online challenge for writers. Those who signed-up should complete a 50,000-word novel in one month.

What seemed like a daunting task turned out to be an enriching and rewarding experience. I challenged myself to be the novelist I’ve always wanted to be and in 29 days, I proved to myself that I was capable of doing it. I wrote 53,518 words to be exact and although I know the book is not perfect, it will always remind me of those daily commutes lost in deep thought, silly work breaks spent on unraveling my plot, and night shifts with a cup coffee in one hand.

11217668_10207238535996204_1884403787299052036_n

I divided 50,000 words into 30 days and on the days that I wasn’t able to write, I made sure to double my numbers the next day. It was hard, I’m telling you, with a full-time job and writing gigs on the side. But I learned that a magnanimous goal can be achieved when you strip it into pieces. It didn’t just become a one-month achievement for me, it became a daily one. While completing the novel at the end of November was amazing, it’s the everyday journey to get there that mattered to me the most.

DECEMBER: Be hopeful and strategize.

Before I made this piece, I revisited my yearend article last year only to realize that I didn’t have one. But I came across my Facebook post that declared 2015 as a year of happy accidents and chance encounters. I would say that I pretty much achieved it.

This year though, I have a new plan. I am re-strategizing. Anyway, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to life. I’m not going to detail everything that I plan to do next year because chances are, plans don’t actually work. But I love having them because they give me a sort of direction in what we want to do and what we hope to achieve.

Speaking of hope, it’s the time to be hopeful because for me, the one thing that makes us human beings is our unfaltering hope – our belief that no matter what happens and after all those fireworks burst into myriad of colors, things will look up and we are born anew again.

12188951_10207079231013679_6789637818981754454_n (1)
This 2016, I will kiss more flowers.
Cover photo from: Google Images