What I'm Thankful For, 2015

I am grateful for so many things this year has brought to my life. My Belle de Jour Power Planner 2015 had a weekly page with a small space where I could write what I am thankful for the week. If only I could elaborate the things I was thankful for everyday, that little space in there wouldn't be enough.

The first day of this year was spent cruising at 37,000 feet but I'm thankful I was able to fly out the same day to Manila and to Leyte the following day. I was home the third day of January and happy to have spent a fresh start of the year at home with family. Later on, I visited my relatives in Davao, with my aunt Tess and my younger sister. That was a sudden trip, with no advance plans. I only said I want to see Papang in Davao because it has been a long time since we last saw him. Airfare tickets were then booked and Nanay, my grandmother from father's side started making muron, a sweet delicacy from our place to bring to our relatives as 'pasalubong'. We flew to Davao via Cebu and Jeff picked us up from the pier and drove us to the airport. We saw Papang (our lolo), Tita Bibing, and our cousins from mother's side. We had some sort of a reunion. We went to a resort in Samal Island to have lunch together. We did a sightseeing tour of Davao that even my relatives themselves haven't experienced yet. I'm happy I was able to put smiles on their faces. And I knew mom was happy that we found the opportunity to see them. Back in Cebu from Davao, Jeff and his mom invited us for lunch at their place. 

During the Sinulog Festival in Cebu, I was able to bond with my two sisters, also a time spent with Jeff and his sister when the two left for Leyte. A week after, I met few of my good friends from my previous workplace. I met Pearl at Red Kimono and we finished our chats at Coffee Prince. I had dinner with Barbi at Brique and realized how much we missed our 'laags' together. He was one of my close friends in Convergys. I met Gwen, Jen and Sheena at Anzani and memories about our Royal Brunei days came back.

Upon returning to Jeddah after a month of vacation, I collected my new passport - a sign to a new set of travel adventures! ;)

First week of February, my friend and I trained for a new aircraft qualification which meant more destinations. I spent my Valentine's in Cebu with Jeff. We had our first boodle fight experience at Seafood Island with my bouquet of flowers. We headed to Mountain View Resort to have an afternoon view of Cebu. Then we had dinner at Pizzeria Michaelangelo in Escario. We spent a day in Best Western Sand Bar resort, a day after. I flew to Frankfurt in Germany for the first time. I get to see London again because the last time I did was a long time ago when I was still with my previous airline. I was able to see Stonehenge, a famous world heritage site in England. I'm happy I flew with a nice girl Mona, an Egpytian, for the whole month of February. 

I first set my foot in Africa in March. I was able to see Tunis for the first time and visit a lot of its attractions. I get to see another city in India, Cochin. I flew to Guangzhou in China. 

April was when I deactivated my Facebook and it took me a long time to reactivate it. It was a fulfilling sense in my part because I get to spend my time with more useful things than spending it on the news feed, always on the lookout for updates from people. I activated it again because I was missing a lot of updates and news from our company page in Facebook. It's also where I can view schedules and lines without having to ask my friends. But since I reactivated it, I was no longer the same person who used to spend most of the time viewing photos and status updates from friends. ;) I get to see Lucknow and Bangalore, the hub capital of India. Niyati, my flying partner was another good friend. The month of April wouldn't be much nicer without her.  

In May, Lady, Marj and I joined the World Flight Attendant night at the Valkyrie Club in Manila. I visited the city of Los Angeles in California for the first time. That was the longest flight of my life and I'm proud I succeeded the almost 17 hour flight. I was lucky to fly with a very sweet girl from India for the whole month of May. Her name is Ishita and until now, whenever we meet in the Flight Operations, we'd say how much we missed to have each other on our flights. 

Lady and I went to Istanbul in Turkey in June as passengers. We spent a day and a night there while our friend, Marj was on layover. We stayed in her hotel room and the three of us bonded together. We did a lot of eating and sightseeing. 

I spent long days off in Cebu in July. I was able to trade a round- trip flight for an open day so I could connect my days off and open days. I had my Executive Check- up from head to toe in MyHealth Clinic in Robinson's and happy about the results. I spent time with him and his family. We went to Mountain View for lunch, Temple of Leah and an art museum in Mactan, He had his house blessing. His entire family and I spent a good time at the Westown Lagoon. I flew to Geneve in Switzerland for the first time and I saw the beautiful Swiss Alps from the top. 

Dee-ann and I met in Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates in August. She is one of my high-school and college buddies. We never had the chance to see each other in Leyte but we were both glad I was able to visit her on a weekend so she toured me around the city and we chatted non- stop, recalling our school days and talking about anything. I was called up to fly to Washington DC and luckier when I was upgraded to operate a Manila flight where I get to stay in our layover hotel in Sofitel. But I could have been the luckiest if my family were able to join me in my stay. It was such a short notice and I was sure the airfare from Tacloban to Manila was soaring high. 

In the whole month of September, I get to fly with Lady. I'm thankful I had a close friend with me every time I flew especially on layovers. I visited another city in India, Madras. We discovered the place together. On my days off, I bravely traveled Cairo in Egypt on a solo trip. That was my first international solo journey. I will write a separate post about my experience there. Lastly for this month, we flew to Jakarta in Indonesia. This time Marj used her free ticket to fly to Jakarta while Lady and I had our layover.

In October, I was upgraded for Los Angeles flight. During the layover, I was with a Filipina and we both visited Disneyland California. I am lucky to have visited Disneyland in Hong Kong, Paris and this time in the United States. Next time should be in Japan. :) Jeff and I visited Vigan in Ilocos Sur for our 5th year anniversary.

November was when I reunited with my family in Leyte again. I didn't want to risk flying to Manila this month of December when all flights will be full of people going home for the holidays. I first get to spend a night with some of my high school batchmates at home. The following morning, our family and Jeff headed to Caluwayan Palm Beach Resort in Samar for a weekend escape.

I spent my pre- birthday celebration in London with my Aunt Janet. I get to see a theater for the first time, playing Miss Saigon. Upon returning back to Jeddah, I was surprised by a birthday cake, balloons, a birthday card and bouquet of roses. It was his surprise with the help of Lady. December was indeed full of surprises. I get to see Gwen who was having her layover here in Jeddah. I get to spend Christmas with lady with a lunch out and dinner at home.

Those are good things that remind me how God has blessed me so much. It really isn't about the place or the length of time I've spent with my friends and loved ones. It's all about the fulfillment, happiness and inner peace that come with the moments. It really isn't about the number of times I've been to a certain place. It's all about the people I'm with and the unique experiences I try each time. I thank God for new days.. surprises and thoughtfulness through wonderful presents from people I care about.. the grace and kindness bestowed on me by others.. the thank you responses from thank you's I've said.. the smiles I got back.. relationships that have gone further.. expectations met and exceeded.. the presence of my close friends when I felt like needing to cry.. the ears that listened.. the strangers who took their time to help.. the hi's and hello's from people I saw again.. the 'that will pass' from people who I first met but shared comfortably my stories with.. the fun and laughter.. the sweet kisses and hugs.. the good- byes which meant looking forward to's..

And there were also 'not so good things' that remind me how God has blessed me with so much MORE. There have been the lowest of lows, sadness, sacrifices, enemies, humiliations, doubts, arguments, unanswered questions, fears, heartaches, confusions, and even points of crying out so loud and giving up. And that's about it because I don't want to dwell on bad feelings and experiences anymore. The reason I said God has blessed me with so much more is He made greater things out of bad ones like turning broken relationships into healthier ones. He made me realized how more beautiful life is with downs and challenges. He made my goals and focus a lot much clearer this time. Yes, I still cry but that doesn't mean I'm not a stronger person.

I can still be more specific with everything I wrote in here but that means this post will never come to an end. :) There are just so many things I'm thankful for- every second, every minute. Thank you Lord for everything! I appreciate everything You did to my life and to this year of 2015.. the abundance of things, good or bad and the lessons that come with them- I will forever be grateful. 

Growing Up Without Christmas

My sister and I were always home on weekends and summer vacations. On weekdays and school months, we lived with our aunt and grandma. That means on holidays like Christmas and New Year, we were with our parents. My grandma doesn't allow any celebrations like Christmas, feast days of saints, birthdays, etc., because of her religious beliefs.

Holiday preparations were made at home when December approaches. Chairs, sofa beds and other furniture were relocated. Christmas tree was built. The house became filled with decorations. There were wreaths on doors, lanterns, and Christmas lights. I believed about Santa Claus visiting the night and left gifts for me and my sister. We gathered for Noche Buena. Colors, sounds and the spirit of Christmas were everywhere.

When mom passed away, we started staying at grandma's which we later called our home, too. I turned ten when Christmas was no longer recognized and celebrated. We would sleep through Christmas Eve and wake up like any normal days. Even when the whole world seemed to have this magical holiday, we don't, up until these days. 

I started working and most of my Christmas days were spent at work or somewhere else with colleagues over dinner or other get- together's. This Christmas Eve, I will spend it with one of my closest friends here, since it's both our days off. I may not be able to celebrate it with my family who also wouldn't be able to celebrate it at home any way, I might as well gather with my friend, enjoy each other's company, and celebrate the holiday. I will reconnect with my family by simply greeting them. 

I don't want Christmas day celebrated any other way at home because this is what we grew up on- respecting our grandma's beliefs. But personally, if I were given the chance, I want to create my own tradition of celebrating Christmas in my own home soon- one that I can start with my own family in the future and my children passing down that tradition to their own set of families in the next generation to come. 

At the end of the day, though, it's up to me on how I would welcome the Christmas spirit in my life. I believe that there is no amount of decorating and preparing can make a house filled with Christmas spirit when you don't reflect on the reason and true meaning of Christmas. No matter how this day is celebrated, we should invite God to be with us, making Him a part of our day.

Lord, thank You, for the gift of Jesus to our world- the greatest gift we have ever received. 

Merry Christmas! 

A Date With God's Beautiful Sea Creatures

Having been to the Manila Ocean Park, Ocean Park Hong Kong, Australia's Melbourne Aquarium, didn't stop me from visiting Ripley's Aquarium of Canada in the city of Toronto today. It is Canada's largest indoor aquarium, an awe- inspiring attraction highlighting marine life from different parts of the world. 

One of my colleagues didn't want to come with me. She reasoned out that it will be the same aquarium like all the other aquariums she has seen. 

But for me, stepping there again was like stepping for the first time. It was like stepping into another world. 

There was Canadian Waters where habitats and treasures that lurk beneath the surface of the Great Lakes are found. I first heard about the Great Lakes when I had my live guided tour to Niagara Falls last year, that I didn't pay much attention on. (Wikipedia: The Great Lakes are a series of interconnected freshwater lakes located in the northeastern North America, on the Canada- United States border, connecting to the Atlantic Ocean.) There was Rainbow Reef where tropical fishes were found in their vibrant colors. As I began my journey to the lower level, that was when I noticed that it was an underwater tunnel. The area is called the Dangerous Lagoon where I saw many different species of sharks swimming above me. Among them were tiny and bigger fishes swimming in the same water. I wondered if the sharks eat them. :D Then I watched with wonder as I saw the stingrays gracefully glide through the water in Ray Bay. There were many of them like they were almost bumping into each other. :) Lastly, there was Planet Jellies. It featured beautiful and different kinds of jellyfishes. The backlight and color- changing displays made them even more mesmerizing.

I was swept away by every living creature there. Merely looking at them was a remarkable adventure. It was a date with God's beautiful sea creatures, indeed!

Water

Four days of successive flying with layovers inside the kingdom isn't new to me. The recent one I got wasn't bad, though maybe the original flyer found it difficult that's why she called in sick and I was upgraded from standby.

I was thankful I was given something. Who doesn't want flying hours?

Second day of that pairing, we flew into one of the cities in Pakistan. The flight coming back was full and it always surprises me why passengers on this flight always want to drink water. The meal trays we distributed had water cups on them. The moment we collected those trays, we again, distributed water. After the service and collection, they still want to have some more glasses of water. We had to go to the cabin every time carrying a tray full of glasses of water. And they kept on asking for the entire duration of the flight until the seatbelt sign was on. I had to tell some of them that we also needed to sit down for landing and if they really needed some more before they leave the plane, I told them to go to the galley and I'll have the water ready for them when the seatbelt sign comes off again. Too excited to leave, they never came for the water.

I used to ask why and complain about this when I started flying. Some of the crew said it's because of the spicy food they eat. I was thinking they are deprived of this basic necessity as I've seen in the news one time. Then I came to realize I really shouldn't know the reason and most importantly, I really shouldn't complain. I don't know what went through in their lives to make an opinion.

I remember my first few days of flying. We were serving hot and cold beverages and I spilled a glass of water over a passenger's dress. I overly apologized, afraid that he will make a bad report. Instead he smiled and said, “it's fine, water is a blessing," then he went to the lavatory to dry himself up. He was wearing a traditional white dress. Thank God it wasn't some orange juice.

When it rains on a special day like a birthday, a Christmas, a new day of the year, or even Sundays, etc, old men and women and even the younger ones often view it as being a blessing and bringing good luck.

Indeed, water is a blessing. It is a gift from God. It is a blessing to mankind. We use water to do the dishes, to take a shower, to flush the toilet, to cook foods, and in many other ways. And we use water to drink.

It is my job to give them what they ask for. Beyond that reason, water is something that I shouldn't refuse giving. Since water is available for me and the passengers, I must be ready and willing to share them.

Thank God for water! :)

Blowing Candles on my Day

A video taken while I was blowing the candles of my surprise birthday chocolate ice cream cake. Thank you so much!

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The Moment I Stepped Out

My aunt and I went inside one of the world's most famous department stores of designer clothing's and luxury gifts in London's Knightbridge, only to admire items on sale. Then I found myself being scrutinized by the security personnel since the alarm went on. That was embarrassing! We didn't have a clue where it was coming from. But, we went on. It was a relief that I was released. We saw different luxury brands, even others I heard for the first time in my life. Inside, we saw the memorial built for Diana, the Princess of Wales and her partner Dodi Fayed after a car crash killed them in 1997. Then, when we were ready to leave to catch Miss Saigon, the same thing happened on our way out of course. I didn't find the security intimidating this time so I was able to collect myself and found the fault myself. A hard tag which I forgot to cut was still on the blouse I was using underneath my winter coat. I bought it a long time ago and wore it for the first time. He cut it himself to save me from future troubles. :)

And I was like thank God the moment I stepped out there. 

I Miss You, Mom!

The moment I saw my Aunt Janet waiting for me at the hotel's lobby, my tears 
started and so did hers. It was pure happiness. It was like seeing my mom through my aunt who was her friend, family and co- nurse. It was also like hugging her. 

I didn't grow up with mom's presence and I was too young to remember things with her but it is enough to know her through my family and other people whom she had also spent her life with.

I miss you, mom! I know you were glad to see Auntie Janet and I together even for a short period of time.


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A Message From Jasmine

Thank you Lord for giving me such a wonderful sister and this sweetest message coming from her heart. She may not be expressive like me but I know she has a very good heart deep within her that's shown in many ways I can't. And yes, mom is proud of us both. She's very happy about how we've turned into such independent and strong women. She's proud of who we have become today. I love you, too!

Home Sweet Home

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Home Sweet Home

When I sleep alone in my room
I think of sweet memories of a home.
Tears drop from my eyes,
When voices echo inside my mind
And when I hear the lullabies.
I try to close my eyes
Memories do not dissolve in time.

Counting the days and nights
Makes me miss life so great and bright
Of a life away from home,
My feelings moving on.
Times are changing
And the world is moving.
But nothing compares to a home I am seeking.

Here comes again
Repeated whispers I keep on hearing
And memories become more unfading.
Remembered time spent together
As I get a little older and wind, colder.
Time passes in chain
However the fragrance of home remains.

Family and friends
Blooms and trees
Music and laughter
All I miss.
I tried to escape
But I was defeated.
The night has quickly flown away to start another day.

Will I go or will I stay?
Though my heart is crying
I have to work with full trying.
The time will keep on turning
And feel a love with no ending.
Time and again, I have to hold on
To go back to a home sweet home.

(This is a poem I made when we were asked to create one about family or hometown in one of my summer classes.)