This was written many Halloweens ago :)
I can still remember how my knees trembled as I stood on the edge, overlooking the valley, soaking it all in. The perfect gradient of pink, orange, and blue. The quiet skyline. The million-age rock formations standing still. Majestic. Wise. I was in love with Creation—how it made me finite and infinite at the same time. I remember whispering a two-word prayer in my head, over and over again: Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!Read More
Love isn’t always butterflies, and sunshine, and twirling and dancing. Love isn’t always an Instagram-worthy picture. Sometimes, love is two people crying together, holding each other’s hands, asking Jesus to take the pain away because everything is just too much to bear. It’s withstanding storms. Accepting each other’s past. Having faith to move on. Together.Read More
A poem by Hershey Neri
This is a short piece I wrote for my 2015 self—and to every woman who needs to hear this, too.
When he told me
That I wouldn’t go places without him,
But only until the next morning.
Then, I wiped my tears with the corners of my shirt, and hopped—
on a bus,
And I started my own adventure.
Chased after waterfalls and sunsets and dragonflies.
And I stood,
Stood on a cliff, in pitch black, waiting for day.
Stood on a rock atop a mountain, with my fist raised high. I am free.
When he told me
That nobody would find me,
Because I was far too difficult to love,
I was a child, looking for her mother.
But I realized that greed
Does not nurture
Nor does poison protect.
I was looking for love in all the wrong places.
I licked my wounds,
kissed my scars,
And a voice inside me whispered,
“You are not weak”.
I stared at the mirror and loved the woman I saw.
I am not his—
I am my own.
Lead photo taken in 2016 at Mt. Pamitinan
365 days ago. We were with a dozen of your friends on a Friday night, way past my bedtime, and right in the middle of a party, you leaned into my ear and whispered, “I want to see the sunset in Croatia with you.”
“Wh—what?” I stammered.
“What I mean to say is I’m really happy to be with you.”
I blinked. I thought that was a non-conventional way of telling someone you like them. But I also found it sweet. “I’m really happy with you, too.”
I’d always thought I would feel my heart race or get butterflies in my stomach when this moment would come—you know, like in the movies. But surprisingly, everything was still. There were no fireworks, no “foot-popping” moment like in Princess Diaries. But everything was peaceful. And also familiar, and calm, and safe—like everything is as it should be.
“So does that mean we’re like, ‘together’?” I asked. I wanted to stab myself with a spoon—what a way to ruin a moment.
You smiled. “Yes, I’d love that.”
I sighed. Thank God you didn’t find me awkward. “So..do you want to grab some nuggets at the Mcdonald’s nearby?”
And off we strolled, hand in hand, laughing at how silly we looked like at 2AM. And also because we were simply...happy.
It’s been 365 days, my Joshua. Thank you for this kind of love I don’t just see in the movies. Thank you for this kind of love that’s real. ❤️
All photos by our favorite third wheel, Chris Clemente (@clementegallery).
Written on March 3, 2018
The weeks after your birthday is quite a sappy period, isn't it?
With all the candles blown out, the leftover cake gone, the guests out of the door, and the confetti on the floor swept away, you look around and realize—the party has ended.
And that's when it all sinks in: 365 days have passed. You start to feel sentimental, and begin to ask yourself questions like—What significant things happened in the past year? Are you living life to the fullest? Are you living a life with purpose? Are you happier? Or perhaps, a bit wiser?
Scribbling on my journal post-birthday has become sort of a tradition for me. If you'd allow me, I'd want to share with you some of my musings:
On Staying Young
I’d always felt uncomfortable telling people my age because I didn’t want them to think that I was “too young”. (In case you're wondering: I am now 22.) I wanted to be taken seriously—the last thing I wanted was to be tagged as just another “millennial” in the workplace.
But I’ve come to realize—there’s nothing wrong with being one.
Because while “young” means reckless and naive and inexperienced to some people, it also means curious and enthusiastic and hungry. It means having courage to take risks, make mistakes, and start all over again—no matter how big, no matter how small, no matter how silly or bizarre or absurd. It means wanting to learn and learn and learn, day after day.
Let's stay "young" forever, shall we?
On Choosing Friends
It's true what they say—the older you get, the less important it is for you to have tons of friends, simply because you've already found the ones worth keeping.
The thing with genuine friends is that they're hard to find—and it took me a long time to find mine. They're not necessarily the people you see everyday (though let's be honest, it would be pretty cool to live in apartments next to each other like in 'Friends'), but they are, however, the people you want to celebrate your milestones with, big or small. Like a promotion, or an engagement, or a graduation, or even something as simple as a birthday.
They're also the people you can be yourself with, simply because they're the ones you don't even have to please. I used to be concerned of what my "friends" would think of me all the time—but I eventually got tired. The cliché phrase rings true—you're never going to please everyone. But it doesn't matter—the 'right' people know and accept you for who you truly are.
Learn to drown out the noise. Surround yourself with love and acceptance. Cultivate genuine friendship with genuine people.
On Pursuing Happiness
When was the last time you did something for yourself?
Life is fleeting. Isn't it a waste of time when we don't do the things that give our hearts pure joy?
As much as you can, try to pursue what makes you happy, every single day. You don't have to do something drastic right away. I'm not talking about quitting your 9 to 5 or leaving everything behind to move to a far away country. Pursuing happiness can be something as simple as choosing to rest because your body needs to. Or giving in to that slice of cake. Or in my case, intentionally choosing to make time for your passion.
Blogging will always be my first love. All I ever wanted to do was write, and write, and write—but all I did was work, and work, and work. For instance, I would tell myself I'd work hard tonight so that I can blog for myself the next day—but you know what? 'Next day' never came. I eventually drowned in a never-ending cycle of work, because the truth is, I had a never-ending list of things to do.
Seven years had passed, and here I am, starting back from zero. But it's okay. I am here—dressed in my pajamas with my hair all scrunched up in a bun, typing away on one corner of my bed at 12AM—pursuing my passion even after a long day at work, just because dreamers never quit, and dreamers gotta start somewhere, even if it means starting from scratch.
Please—never give up on the things that make you feel alive.
Pursuing Happiness, typing on my keyboard, one word at a time
“Just be in the moment, darling.”
I glanced at him and smiled. I stopped pressing the shutter and looked away from the 5 inch-screen.
“All right,” I giggled as I tucked my phone under my thigh. “It’s not like I need 17 photos of the fireworks in my camera roll, right?”
We had just finished dinner (a meal good for five people, for just the two of us) when we climbed into his car and heard a loud ‘bang!’ We looked into the distance, and the sky lit up with beautiful colors: shades of red, and orange, and green—and sometimes, even magenta. We rolled down the windows and enjoyed the free show.
In our silence, I couldn’t help but wonder—How can happiness be this simple? And how can something this simple, be grand? Love. It makes us vulnerable and strong, all at the same time, doesn’t it? And it’s funny how it makes us ask questions like these in the middle of a parking lot on a Saturday night.
He nudged my elbow.
“Isn’t it beautiful?”
“Yes it is,” I smirked.
Everything felt magical, but only because everything was real.
Be in the moment, he said. I looked around—the engine purred. Passersby gathered around to watch. His hand was locked in mine. And I was happy.
One boring afternoon seven years ago, I signed up on blogspot and started my own website.
I was a high school student on her sembreak—and the first thing I wrote about was my Unforgettable Trick or Treat Experience. (Yes, I went Trick or Treating at sixteen because I was deprived of a ~childhood~) By the way, I dressed up as a Walmart version of Cruella de Ville—but that didn't matter. My teenager self thought I looked fabulous!
A lot of things happened from there, and you guys have been witnesses to these—I graduated high school, passed the UPCAT, enjoyed college to the fullest, broke up with my high school sweetheart because I was a jerk, shifted out of BS Nursing and into BA Organizational Communication, signed up for internships, got into a toxic long term relationship because I thought I could ~change people~, had my heart broken (surprise!), finished my thesis, graduated, had my heart broken again, overcame a harassment case, went soul searching for almost two years, had my heart broken yet again (I wish I could give my 19-year-old self a facepalm), worked out and loved myself more, got a job at an advertising and digital production company, went on a date with a guy I've been friends with for years, realized I liked him, fell in love with the right person at the right time, left my first job to expand my horizons, started working at a publishing company.....and the rest is history. (This is my lifestory in run-on sentences, basically).
I feel like because I've learned so much, I've also outgrown a lot of things, and it was finally time to bid my blogspot adieu.
I am grateful I have you guys to share my life journey with. And I am even more grateful for the friendship we've made through the years—to everyone who sent me a message of support, thank you. And to everyone who struggled, overcame, and shared their own stories with me, thank you. This is what this humble blog is for, after all.
Let's keep this post short: welcome to my new website.
Let's keep sharing our stories, shall we?
Photo by Hollie Harmsworth
Have you ever been overwhelmed with so much workload, that all you can do is stare into nothingness and feel paralyzed? No, it's not an exaggeration. Work paralysis is a real thing, you guys, and it can get pretty depressing.
I've been sleeping no earlier than 4:00 AM the past few nights, trying my best to juggle 4 jobs. As I write this, I still have 7 pending articles due for submission before sunrise. I have around 10 more packages to shoot, around 30+ e-mails to read (and *actually* have to reply to), and a dozen more people to meet up with for work. My list of things to do can go on and on, and while I'm incredibly grateful for work, I can't help but feel exhausted.
I've been feeling unhappy—not just about work, but about myself. Multi-tasking has its own disadvantages, and it has greatly affected my performance. I've been feeling frustrated because I haven't been happy with my outputs the past few weeks. There's nothing more I hate than sending in half-baked work and knowing I can do better. Three days ago, I finally opened up on Instagram about struggling with perfectionism, and God knows how this week has taken a toll on me.
But after hours of reflecting, trying to find out why I've been feeling so sad and tired, I finally got to pinpoint the root cause of all this sobbing in bed, and it's as simple as this—
I haven't been saying 'no' more often.
I grew up being a 'yes' girl
A people-pleaser. A person you can always count on, even at the last minute (or at least I try to be one).
"Hey Hersh, can you go to this event?"
"Can you work on this for me?"
"Are you up for this?"
While that's not necessarily a bad thing, saying 'yes' to every. single. opportunity. that knocks on your door still isn't healthy.
Because sometimes, a 'yes' to something can also mean a 'no' to more important things in life.
Case in point—I said yes to a lot of work due this week (#RaketIsLife pa more!!), so I eventually ended up saying no to taking care of myself (I haven't been eating right and sleeping right), and even to making time for the people I love (I had to turn down dinner dates with friends and family just so I can finish all the freelance work I had already signed up for).
And because I've already made a commitment before even weighing things out, I don't have time for the things that really matter to me. Instead of consistently writing for my blog (something I've always wanted to do but don't have time for), or researching on which grad school to go to next year (whatever happened to, "I'll do this tonight when I get home, promise!"?), or Googling opportunities I can possibly grab to spend a year or two in my ultimate dream city, New York (this has been on my to-do list for two years now), or even resting, all I do in my free time is work, work, work (and occasionally go on bathroom breaks in between).
So yes, there we have it—The Curious Case on Why I've Been Feeling Shitty All Week Long has been S-O-L-V-E-D!
But we all know that identifying the problem is one thing, but actually working on it is another.
Next month, I'll start with a blank slate and vow to get my priorities straight. More importantly, I promise to finally have the courage to say 'no' to certain opportunities, so that I can say 'yes' to far greater things, to things that really matter.
I woke up this rainy morning to a WhatsApp message that said,
I didn't know work suspensions were a thing, but nonetheless, I was incredibly grateful. I went to bed at 5AM the last night, and was already feeling terrible the moment I woke up. I eventually devoted the whole day to resting and to catching up with my backlogs!
Thank you, universe, for this unexpected gift. Rest was what I really needed.
Naligo ako today, promise.
PS. Stay safe and dry, everyone!
April 26 last year, when I found out that I wouldn’t be able to march together with my batchmates, I was devastated. It had been a long, terrible week—just days before, I was rushed out of a room in a squeaky wheelchair after fainting during a hearing in Manila City Hall; I broke down during our 8:30AM Speech class when my professor and classmates asked me how my case was doing; I had also just lost my 11-year-old terrier Yuki (who took her last breath on a Monday, which proves that Mondays suck and always will).
I literally had to step back and ask myself if all of this was real-life or some episode from that Saturday night show Ate Charo hosted. There was just too much drama. And when I thought that I couldn’t handle any more of this, I picked my phone up at a very ungodly hour to dial my friend Jana on FaceTime—who, prior to this, agreed to direct our cameras to the ceiling so she wouldn’t have to witness my ugly crying (nor see my post-sobbing “tomato face”).
I told her how frustrated I was—how much I wanted to leave the university just so I can finally take an exit from everything that reminded me of the past. I felt stuck. Disheartened. Angry. I wanted to go far, far away and start anew. Fast. But she reminded me of this: “You weren’t meant to leave UP this way. Not like this.”
She was right. UP was so much more than a place that reminded me of hurt. It was where I formed my principles. Met my friends. And eventually, learned to soar. It was home. And nobody should choose to leave home like that. Especially not like that.
“I’m looking forward to FaceTimes that aren’t directed towards our bedroom ceilings, crying tears of joy, and the morning after all of this,” Jana told me.
True enough, tomorrow came, and days have become better.
The journey hasn’t been smooth-sailing all throughout, and though I may still be in the process of healing—days have indeed become better.
Photo by Pauline Disuanco
I had recently switched my sablay to the left, which means that (hurrah!), I’ve officially graduated! My family’s become closer than we were before. I just started my second job in publishing—as a kid, it has always been my dream to become a writer, and it still feels surreal living it. I met true friends who continue to shower me with so much understanding and support, and finally got to let go of toxic people in my life. I also met someone who showed me that love is patient and never self-seeking. And most of all, I learned to love and accept myself—without having to apologize, without having to feel ashamed.
To all the Janas in this world: Thank you. Not all heroes wear capes—sometimes, they just say the right words at the right time. As cliche as it is, love, patience, and selflessness do save lives.
And of course, to every woman who has ever been emotionally or physically harassed: You are not alone. You are braver and stronger, and heck, even smarter than you think.
Your harasser may have hurt you. He/she may have even wounded you with words, saying that you’re stupid, or that you’re a slut, or that you’re some-other-hurtful-thing-you-know- you’re not. Remember: You’re not.
This is not the end. You will break free. And you will also heal.
You may be shaped by your past, but you will NEVER be defined by it.
And finally, remember that you don’t have to fight your battle all by yourself—after all, Jesus already won your battle for you. Don’t be afraid to talk to your parents, a counselor, a psych, and of course, to your Jana.
Photo by Pauline Disuanco
This story isn’t about my past anymore, but of my redemption. Through Jesus, I am free.
Now on to better things. Here’s to having hope in every tomorrow!
A year and 2 months later—
"The morning after all of this."
June 22, 2017
We’re always in a hurry, aren’t we?
We rush to get things done, and hope to get to places sooner.
We’re too busy working and hustling and planning, often pushing away family, and being too busy to meet with friends, living in high hopes that life will be better, one day.
But life isn’t a rehearsal for something later. Life is happening, now.
Stasi Eldredge once said, “Life is a tenuous thing—fragile, fleeting. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Be here now! Be here now! Be here now!”
So take a pause. Breathe. Look around. Listen. Smell the flowers. Or smell the pages of a worn out book. Laugh. Linger over coffee. Sing. Sing even if you can’t sing. Dance. Run. Write to a loved one. Don't forget to say the magic words I love you, and thank you, and I'm sorry. Remember. Be kind. Appreciate the beauty around you.
And above all things,
Love, and be grateful.
Be here now.
Photo of a 6PM sunset, on my walk back home from work. Just figured out that I take this same route everyday (with the same old houses and the same old crappy road), yet I just noticed the beauty of it all tonight.
It doesn't hurt to take a pause and thank creation for the beauty it selflessly offers :)
Fifteen seconds after the waitress took our family photo, the table next to us started screaming.
Then came the commotion. An old man was choking—and his daughter, who was around my age, was helplessly crying for help.
"Dad? Dad!! Someone please, please help Dad!"
My brother-in-law rushed in and started performing the Heimlich maneuver. My dad rushed in to assist him. After a few seconds, a young woman from the other side of the room ran to the table to help, too. Someone shouted, "Mga doktor sila, tabi tayo, tabi!", and the crowd parted like the Red Sea.
All eyes were on the four of them. Kuya, thrusting; dad and the woman, helping.
My baby nephew started crying. People were holding on to each other. And I was standing in the corner, whispering a quiet prayer.
Finally, the man was rescued. The restaurant fell silent. Then, from his chair, he stood beside his three heroes and looked up to them. Grinning.
Someone from the room started clapping slowly. Then followed a chorus of applause. And as if that wasn't enough, a standing ovation.
Tonight, I witnessed three selfless heroes save a stranger's life. And I was reminded that amidst all the selfishness and violence in this world,
Love and kindness,
like the roots of a tree slowly winning its battle against concrete sidewalk,
love and kindness still prevail.
August 4, 2016
May 14, 2016
HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA. How do I even begin to tell this story??
(HAHHAA late na pero of course may time pang magpa picture???)
I know this is crazy and all, but it's not every day you find an excuse to ride a kalesa in Manila on a random day, right? Some people in school who saw me asked /why/ I did it, but I told them sometimes, a little crazy is good for you.
You can never really please everyone, and you will always get judged by people no matter what, but you know what?
Just do what you wanna do, and enjoy life!!! :)
Life is beautiful, after all. :) Have fun!
"But when was the last time you did something for the first time?" asked my friend, 7 months back. Speechless, I didn't get to answer him then, but I have to admit, his question just stuck with me. I admit it, I was done with routine. I was tired of sheltered. I'm done with just comfortable.
We meet around 80,000 people in our whole lives. And a lot of us do not realize that our words and actions, how small of an act we think they may be, could create a huge impact in the lives of others. And you know what? That holds true. Every day since my friend threw me The Question, I would always wake up in the morning and ask, "What new thing can I do and learn and experience today? What new lesson can I share and pass on to others today?"
10 years from now, I'd remember the year 2016 as The Year I Turned 20. Aka The Year I Made Sure I Lived Out the Teenage Dream Before It was Too Late. (Jeez. I'm a walking cliche, huh?) Hence, on one quiet night at the backseat of my dad's car, this little life journey of a project was born.
There is always this unexplainable, exhilarating feeling you get from A First. We may not remember it then, but our First Walk, for example. Or fast forward to high school and our memories flash back to our First Kiss. A few years after, and BAM. We meet our First Love. And then experience our First Heartache. And our First
Uno and our First Singko and our First Road Trip Adventure and our First Solo Flight and our First Job and our First Pay Day Family Dinner and everything in between.
Our Firsts, either blessings or lessons, would always
hold a special place in our hearts. Our Firsts help keep us going; they help us get up from bed and look forward to what adventures await us.
So here's to experiencing new things every day.
And most of all, here's to enjoying our own personal journeys, and learning the lessons from the Best Teacher Out There—Life.
2015 was one hell of a year: had my heart broken three times, had my first job, had so much realizations on life (and on what to do, or rather, what not to do, after graduation), had been physically, mentally, and emotionally hurt by someone who I least expected to. Long story short, I just badly needed a fresh start.
You know how cutting your hair short is the kind of thing that girls-moving-on-from-a-bad-breakup do in the movies? Well yeah, I needed some moving on, all right. Not just from my previous relationship, but just from the negativities in general. I needed to move on from a dark and heavy past, and if cutting your hair is one way to make you feel lighter (literally AND figuratively), then why not give it a go, right?
So here goes my First Number 1 on my #The20FirstsProject bucketlist!
Of course, I had it done at Azta Urban Salon in Eastwoord, by the only hair stylist I trust when it comes to cutting my hair- Sir Jo Tubato.
(Really cool how they shampoo your hair while you sit on your chair lol)
Bye-bye, 5 inches!
Just in case you're wondering, these are Azta Urban Salon's rates.
I feel so fresh!! Wahaha. Thank you, Sir Jo! And thank you, as always, for the excellent service, Azta Urban Salon :)
The Sentimental Freak inside of me decided to bring this home for safekeeping.
(Is this what you would call "normal"?)
(Am i still ur friend lol)
"Just chop it off already. It'll grow back anyway."
Join the movement! Create your own #The20FirstsProject, too! :)
"I love you, that's why I'm trying to change you."
You used to ask me how my day went.
You used to be interested in listening to what I would say,
even when—especially when— I started talking about my weirdest, most bizarre ideas.
You used to tell me stories. Wonderful stories. Stories worth laughing to or learning from.
You used to share me your secrets.
(I still keep your secrets.)
You used to talk about your plans, your dreams, your principles.
You used to like me.
You used to like us.
January 16, 2015
I tried. And I'm tired.
Dawn: a beautiful reminder that each day, you could start anew.
January 6, 2016
It was a dark night when the doorbell rang. We had an unexpected visitor, an unwelcomed guest. And the next thing we knew, the night was filled with even darker lies.
I could distinctly remember how we all felt then: scared and angry and brave, all at the same time. It is a depressing truth that some people go out of their ways for power, for money, for ego.
But still—isn't it divine? That just when you're about to give up because everything seems hopeless and the world tells you that you can't do anything about the situation, you are reminded of one thing: that you have a choice.
That you can choose to set things right and start anew,
That you don't have to lose this battle.
Earlier today, a notification flashed on my phone screen. It was a timely quote sent by my sorority sister, Meriel.
It was a quote by Edmund Burke. I read:
"The only thing required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
In an endless pursuit of our Whys in Life, my sibling flashed a TEDx video entitled "Draw Your Future" on our computer screen, and made me watch it.
Inspirational speaker-author-strategic illustrator Patti Dobrowolsi encourages us to transform our fantasies into our own realities by, yep you've guesed it, drawing—and you don't even have to be good at it!
When we draw and dream, our brains emit serotonin and oxytocin so we feel "happy, capable, and creative". She creates a template—a representation of our desired state and our current state—to help us think of three bold steps we can do to make a change in our lives. Watch her TEDx talk
to learn more about this :)
Doing this exercise at dusk over hot tea was very therapeutic—a wonderful way to spend the second to the last day of 2015, actually. We encourage you guys to jumpstart the new year by doing this empowering activity, too! What better time to reflect on life, dreams, and passion than today?
Here's to actualizing our dreams; to seeing them, believing in them, and acting on them!
Have a wonderful year ahead!
"In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself."
The first weeks of October was a huge burn out. In an attempt to distract myself from the hurt and betrayal, I allowed work to drown me. I signed up for so many things, committed to different projects, and attempted to finish a long list of tasks, only to be left feeling insecure and unaccomplished in the end, just because I couldn't deliver. My flames of passion were slowly extinguishing. I was looking for an escape; I was searching for happiness and inspiration in all the wrong places. I was lost. Worse, empty.
But just when I was about to give up one night (the millennial inside me decided to take a break from everything by deactivating all her social media accounts and not showing up to people for days), I'm thankful to have found a ray of sunshine during an inconvenient 2AM phone call, my own tiny little secret metaphor of hope and better days, that made long nights a whole lot tolerable, and sometimes, better.
So I choose to get back up. To relax. To take a deep breath, a break, and a cup of tea this beautiful Sunday afternoon. There is so much beauty in this life and it is a waste to let bitterness and hurt get in the way of appreciating the now. And even though it hurts to think that I will never get the apology I've long been waiting for, I choose to let go. And in the process, find happiness, inner peace, and eventually, myself.
As the old saying goes, it is when you let go that you are finally free.
All photos were taken by April Baldovino (IG: @aprilbaldovinoo)