2017: Of Places, People and Dreams

This is how my 2017 ended: a couple hundred pesos in my pocket, bloating bills, three clients lost (all due to financial constraints, so I am now left with just two), personal issues, a body that just won't stop acquiring new disorders. All of those in just one month.

There is one word to describe my 2017: bipolar. Sometimes moneyed, sometimes dirt-poor. Sometimes perplexing, sometimes crystal clear. Sometimes unforgiving, sometimes too generous. Sometimes happy, often a rollercoaster. 2017 was all that life could ever be: chaos and light in alternating moments.

It's not easy to look back at a year that had many wrongs in it. Too many that sometimes if there was another option, I'd take the one where I'd just lie on the couch for days, stuffing myself with bad movies and happy pills. But the more that I leaf through photos of journeys I've made with my daughter, the more I realize that I may be the luckiest woman alive.

I have a kid who can sometimes be a pain in the ass but who also gives me unparalleled joy and inspiration. One who wipes my tears when I'm sad and who loves me more than she loves cartoons and fried chicken. I have a family who surprises me with a birthday cake on the eve of a lonely travel assignment. I've gained more friends this year than I've ever had my entire life - people who don't judge and bullshit you; people you only once looked up to.

I've seen suns and moons in lands outside my own and experienced strangely beautiful things a first time through new eyes. I have a job that I love and that takes me - us - to places beyond what I imagined. It's a job I pined and fought for decades. Now I am here, with an empty pocket and a full spirit. How many people can say they are living a life they've only dreamed of?

I wish that your 2018 will be one that's like my 2017: rough and suspenseful at times but mostly imperfectly perfect.

Last year's highlights:


A scary one-hour boat ride to the northernmost tip of Palaui, courtesy of the annual Lakbay Norte tour. New friends. Late afternoon hike in Biak na Bato. The Malolos Congress celebration. One of the first out-of-town assignments where Lia tagged along.


First hot air balloon fest in Clark - and I'm probably not going back. Discovered Mt. Arayat during an eight-hour hike. Ilocos two times over: one, spent on a full day in northern Ilocos Norte, and another paragliding in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur. Both were assignments. Did I say I love my job?


Hiked Gulugod Baboy in Anilao with hiking buddies Dennis and Celine. Conquered fear of heights with old classmates at Masungi Georeserve. #HindiNaAkoUUlit


Saw the President in Bataan and dined with fellow bloggers like there's no tomorrow. First snow. First cable car ride. First introduction into trademark Japanese politeness. First taste of a weird dish of raw octopus, gelatin and matcha. One word: Japan. #kilig


Fulfilled one of me travel dreams: to go 'round Eastern Visayas by ferry. Did the Cebu - Siquijor - Dumaguete route with Lia. It was her and my first time to swim with sea turtles. Hiked Osmena Peak with amazing Cebuano bloggers, Doi and Issa. Swam in Siquijor's beaches and hiked its mystical mountain, then learned a life-changing lesson along the way.


Spent a night on assignment at The Ascott Makati. And holy cannoli, did Myron's pasta, desserts and steak take my breath away.


Food, food and more food in Antipolo! Hiked Mt. Gola in Bulacan during a particularly depressing week. Couldn't finish it - physically than mentally. I stopped hiking for months and decided to stop delaying hyperthyroidism treatment.


Gorged on Taal Vista's best-selling dishes. Drunken videoke night with fellow bloggers until 2 freaking am. Went to Indonesia to cover the ASEAN Summit in Jakarta. Made friends with other Asians. First time to be so close to an active volcano (Bandung). AndOhMyGodICan'tBreathe (partly because of the sulfur, partly because of the awesomeness).


Overnight at Seda Vertis North (one of the best buffets I've had ever). Alaminos wedding trip slash Bolinao trip. Experienced the lifelong dream of setting foot in Mindanao (South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani) while on assignment. Smitten by the T'boli of Lake Sebu and that gorgeous view of the Seven Falls from a zipline.


A month into treatment, I did a test hike in Mt. Oro and was rewarded with a larger-than-life view of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range against misty air. I'm definitely back, bitches.


Pre-birthday shindig in Bakas River, Norzagaray. Birthday hike in Mt. Kalugong in Benguet, then a sidetrip to La Union. We spent my birthday with Lia's tantrums ruining the "party" (party of two, that is). As an extra birthday gift to myself, we took an overnight budget trip to Burias Island, Masbate. We camped out on the beach. And it was awesome.


Explored Ilocos Norte on assignment for Northbound Magazine - as its editor-in-chief! Editor of a travel magazine..who would've thought? I certainly didn't. Probably the biggest surprise of the year. Also, the biggest proof that dreams do come true.

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