In honor of October 10, 2010, a 10-10-10 date which will not happen again for a hundred years, here’s a top ten list of life moments to celebrate (I asked for topic suggestions, and this one came from Dennis Finocchiaro of A Flash of Inspiration — thank you!) I found it interesting that in writing this, no accomplishment that I’ve earned or accolade that I’ve been given made the short list. I guess I’m discovering what truly matters to me, and I’m glad I found out before it’s too late.
So here they are, ten of the most memorable experiences of my 24 years of life, in no particular order:
- For my 23rd birthday, my friends and church mates threw me a surprise party. It was the day before my actual birthday, so I had no idea that anything was up, until I found myself being led along a candlelit path right up to a closed door, which opened to a crowd of smiling faces. There were balloons and streamers everywhere, along with a pink cake and other food. They put a crown of pink cadena de amor on my head and sat me in front, where each one of them came forward and made a birthday wish. For every wish, they would place one frangipani blossom in a bowl of water where a single candle floated, and by the time they were all done, the bowl was full. There was a whirlwind of other surprises: a birthday video, video messages from distant friends, calls from my family and other special people, and gifts. It was an excellent conspiracy and I never had a clue. Best birthday ever.
- Two of my closest girl friends, Soulmate and Angel, and I used to take a break from our busy lives every now and then to go for a girl’s day out on a secluded beach. We’d just sit and talk for hours and hours, sometimes with tears but with a lot more laughter, and I’d always leave feeling restored and refreshed, happy because of the connection I had with those two beautiful, strong, and amazing women.
- In 2001 and 2002, I joined the Teen Missions International camp in Palawan. I was part of the Backpack Team both times, and for 40 days every summer, we’d run obstacle courses, sleep in tents, hike for miles, cross rivers, climb mountains, and generally live so far outside our comfort zone we could barely remember what it looked like. We’d share our faith to anyone who was willing to listen, perform skits and puppet shows, and meet interesting people who both agreed and disagreed with us. I grew a lot spiritually and emotionally during those two summers, and the lessons I learned remain relevant until this day.
- KC and I once took off on his motorcycle and spent the afternoon drinking coffee shakes on a hillside in Mitra’s Ranch. Somehow the conversation led to the two of us tearing off a piece from a brown paper bag and writing our names, the date, and a message on it. We then decided that we wanted to put it in a bottle and throw it in the ocean. So we went back to town, found a bottle, then drove to B.M. beach. Once there, we waded out into the shallow water (the tide was low) and threw the bottle as far as we could into the waves. That done, we spent the last few hours of daylight just sitting on the sand or walking along the beach. It was completely spontaneous, fun, and unforgettable.
- In 2004, when I was still studying in Manila, my friend Legolas and I got into the habit of wandering around the UP campus from dusk until dawn on the weekends. We’d watch the street lamps light up with the sunset and listen to the silence descend on the trees, lawns, and buildings. Sometimes we’d buy marshmallows or a loaf of bread from the 24-hour convenience store and sit under the Checkpoint, a UP landmark, to eat. My favorite time was after a good rain, when mist hovered above the grass in the Sunken Garden and the lagoon, and the air was filled with a chorus of frogs. The acacia trees by the side of the road would shower us with their captured raindrops while the wet pavement reflected back the glow from the lamp posts. Once, after a storm, we found hundreds of frangipani blossoms fallen from their tree, and we gathered them up and scattered them on the street. I don’t know how we never ran out of things to talk about or got tired of the same old paths, but we didn’t. We’d just look up and realize that it was nearly dawn, the cars and the jeepneys were on the road again, and the street lights were being turned off. Only then would we start feeling sleepy and head home after stopping for some breakfast.
- I celebrated the New Year of 2008 with my family in our hometown. After the midnight festivities, my siblings and I stayed up and went on a movie marathon until dawn. In the morning, all three of us piled into my parents’ huge bed and settled in to sleep, while they got up, had breakfast, dusted off the sing-along microphone, and sang Carpenters songs with my grandmother.
- Of all the PSALM National Leadership trainings that I’ve attended, the one in 2007 was the most life changing. I was in a difficult place that year, unmotivated, uninspired, and most of all, I was struggling with yet-undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Joining the seminar was my way of calling out for help, and it was answered. Everything I heard seemed to be exactly what I needed, and the people around me created a safe environment for me to admit vulnerability. Most of all, one of the lecturers was a psychologist, and he helped me take the first steps to getting the help that I needed. I was able to share with my mentor what I was going through, and I learned that my worst fears of being judged were unfounded. That was a critical point in my life, and God met me at my place of need.
- In the summer of 2009, four friends and I spent a fun, unforgettable week in Siquijor. On one particular full moon night, we went to the children’s playground beside one of the old churches on the island. With the bright moon shining down on us and the fireflies flickering in the trees as our only light, we played on the swings, the slide, and the seesaws, climbed the church’s bell tower, and entertained each other with funny and scary stories. It was one of those nights that was so perfect and dream-like that I couldn’t believe it was actually happening, and I kept looking around trying to commit every single detail to memory. Even now I can recall the moon’s slow rise over the church roof, the creaking of the rickety stairs inside the bell tower, the leaves gilded by the silvery moonlight, and the sound of my friends’ laughter in the cool air. Part of me felt like a child again, but I was old enough to appreciate how precious that night’s uncomplicated happiness was.
- Just this summer, Niño, Rap2x, and I would wake up early in the morning and walk to Silliman farm to buy fresh milk. Once, one of the farmers even allowed us to milk the cow ourselves (it was our first time), and gave us some fruit from the nearby santol tree. We’d wander around while waiting for the milk to be pasteurized, sit on the beach and watch the morning sunlight dance on the waves, or coax the security guard (with an offer of santol) to let us inside the Silliman marine lab facilities so that we could look at the cooped up crocodiles and the whale skeleton collection. One morning, after the milk was ready, we also bought fresh eggs, fruits, and vegetables, and ended up in my apartment where I cooked a huge breakfast and texted our other friends to come over and join us. Our trio became a rowdy group of a dozen people somehow fitting into my tiny apartment and sharing scrambled eggs, eggplant omelette, and fresh milk. Great way to start the day!
- In 2007, six of us from the youth ministry packed a couple of tents and some provisions and camped on a small, uninhabited island in Port Barton. For three days, we swam in the sea, drank coconut juice, bathed in the rain, caught fish and gathered sea shells, built sand castles, and huddled around the bonfire at night. We watched the sun, the moon, and the stars chase each other across the sky and forgot about schedules, planners, and meetings. Our spirits simply rested and received nourishment from the Source of all the beauty around us. By the time we had to leave, our hearts were full and ready to face the challenges again. It was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.