2020






To say that 2020 has been a strange year would be an understatement.

I wouldn't want to remember it for its big, world events, though. Instead, I'd like to remember it in the context of my own, little bubble, and the events that happened in my life, irrelevant to the rest of the world, in the last twelve months. 

All things considered, I feel very fortunate. So much tragedy took place in the world this year, yet my friends,  family and I came out of it fairly unscathed, and for that I am so thankful. I am thankful that I write this year-end post not in sadness, but in gratitude. I am thankful that I write this year-end post hopeful for 2021, albeit a little jaded from 2020, too. 

An explosive January (literally)

We live relatively near Taal Volcano and had to leave our home when it erupted. Thankfully there was no damage, just ash fall, and while we went through a stressful couple of days, everything was eventually sorted. 


A second chance at Melbourne

Rissee, Ics and I travelled to Melbourne on what would be my only trip for the year. And what a trip it was! We met with Tiff to eat a lot of good food, visit her house, go on a road trip, go on a wine tour, but most importantly, we watched the Australian Open! 

It was my second grand slam (went to Wimbledon in 2018) but it was the first time I actually got to watch matches. We saw Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff, Simona Halep, Gael Monfils, Garbine Muguruza, but the highlights of the tournament were getting to see Roger Federer play an epic 5-setter vs. John Millman (which turned out to be his 100th match win at the AO) AND Dominic Thiem (who would eventually be in the AO final AND win the US Open!). 

I loved our Australia trip because other than watching the Australian Open we had a fairly relaxed itinerary. And I loved exploring Melbourne with Ics, Ris and Tiff. My first visit to Melbourne was nothing to write about, really, but this time around, it was really special. Of course, it wasn't without its shenanigans, from a fire alarm going off in the middle of the night at the hotel which forced us to evacuate but thankfully ended up being a false alarm to trying vegemite at Tiff and Carl's wonderful home, to Ics having a meltdown because "we didn't come to Australia to have samgyupsal", to Ris and I being judged by the proprietor of Grain because of our massive brunch bill. Oh! And searching for penguins in St. Kilda! And trying to figure out which borough of Melbourne we'd like to live in, given the option. 

Even if I knew then that it was going to be the last trip I would take in a really long time, I wouldn't  have changed anything about that Melbourne trip. I have nothing but great memories.







Elio

Because of the pandemic, I made the decision before the lockdowns to move back to our home in Batangas. Suddenly, the conditions were just right for me to finally get a dog, so I did! Elio has been a great source of joy (but also worry and headaches, sometimes) not only for me but also my parents (for my brother, not so much. LOL.) I look forward to many more years bonding with him. Look how cute he is!









My first book and the start of my publishing journey

In August of 2020, I published my first book! But before I could even publish, it was a great experience working with an editor and an artist to polish the manuscript and give it a book cover. This wasn't just a milestone for 2020, but a milestone of my life, and I'm truly thankful for everyone who supported me through this journey!


A few days ago, on Christmas Day I also published my second book, and while the book wasn't as perfect and launch-ready as I had hoped (it's taught me never to be too optimistic about Kindle upload deadlines again!), I have many more projects I hope to accomplish in 2021.



Love Monday Cafe ver. 2

Finally, somewhat unexpectedly, another great moment of 2020 was being able to revive my old passion project, Love Monday Cafe, but in a different format. We've only just begun revamping it (and now I have the entire family to work on it as well!) but I'm so excited for how far we can take it in 2021!








I'd like to remember 2020 for its blessings disguised as bad news; for things found to replace things lost; for new habits formed out of ruined routines; for Zoom calls with friends in the absence of overstaying at cafes with friends; for new projects in place of postponed plans. Because despite the shitstorm that was 2020, despite the standstill that we seemed to have been in, life actually moved forward. And for that, I am thankful. 

Here's to a better 2021 - is that a big ask? I don't know anymore. But I will remain hopeful. I will write my goals and try to achieve them. I will continue to pray for my family's, my friends', and my health and happiness. I will continue to push forward to move forward, but when time requires it, to stay still and take a step back. Because everything happens for a reason and they happen all in good time. 

2019




 And just like that, it's a new year and a new decade.

2019 flew by so quickly and now I find myself refreshed and recharged from the holidays, starting a new planner with a new resolution, and getting the year wrong when I have to write down the date (you can't imagine the number of times I've written "2019" when it should already be 2020. Haha.)

I got to take a long break over the holidays (read: 2 weeks) and it's done me a lot of good. But maybe it's also because all in all, this year has been relatively chill.

NO BIG TRIPS - just lots of repeat visits to Japan and Korea (twice each). Slow travel for healing. They were great, memorable trips and were exactly what I needed.

LOTS OF FANGIRLING. I rarely mention my fangirling in my year-end posts, but after many years I've come to terms with the fact that it is a big part of my life, and I should talk about it more! For 2019 it was mostly, almost entirely fangirling for iKON, a continuation of last year. I owe my second trip to Osaka for the year to iKON, because we went to watch their concert - our first time to see them as just six members. I will only say this: I never thought I would get myself a concert ticket and book myself a flight to a foreign country just to be made to cry so much. It was a crazy emotional experience. But it's okay - iKON is still OT7 for me!

But at the home stretch I discovered a new fandom to get into: The Untamed, or CQL, or MDZS. Or two super handsome men who are each other's soulmates in magical ancient China. Haha.

I mean, look!



WORK IS WELL. There were some changes in my role but it's not work I don't know how to do. So far, it's going well. I think I can stay in this company and in this role for a while. I'm not too stressed, I am able to live comfortably, and most importantly, I have time to pursue my passion. For the first time in my corporate life, I am at peace with the fact that I am in corporate. No more angst, no more sarcasm, no more anxiety. Instead, a certain kind of calm and comfort, an inner peace.

MY PASSION. I say this year has been pretty chill but actually, I had a pretty amazing personal milestone happen this year! I finished two manuscripts - one I've decided to set aside for now, another I've been able to share with the world for free under a pen name, and the reception has been great! If there's one thing I'll take away from this year, it's the motivation I got from the fact that other people - people who don't know me, actual strangers - took the time to read my work, provide feedback, and even get to know me after. It feels like one big step in the right direction. Like this really is what I'm supposed to be doing. Building worlds and characters, telling stories, and sharing them with others.

So maybe it's not exactly a chill year, it's just that it wasn't a difficult one - pretty easygoing, single-minded in my goals, and definitely less drama compared to last year.

FRIENDSHIP AND FAMILY. This year I learned to step back from friendships in the hope that giving them breathing room will make them stronger in the future, while keeping and building on other friendships I know are for keeps. I also got to make new ones, and it's opened up my world a little bit more and made my bubble bigger, which I am so thankful for!

Also, family is everything. And I know now for sure how I want my family to be in the future. Again, that gives a certain kind of calm and comfort, an inner peace.

What do I hope for in 2020? I hope and pray for health and happiness, for myself and everyone I care about. That whatever comes our way, we will be able to come to terms with it.

I also hope and will strive to to achieve more life-long goals. Actually, just the one: to finally, FINALLY publish my books. For real this time. I am claiming it, owning it, and committing to working towards it. This year, I will publish at least one book. Four, if everything goes according to plan.

Wish me luck! Here's to an amazing 2020. :)



iKONIC Places to Visit in Seoul (A Guide to a DIY iKON Tour in Korea)





Get ready? TRAVEL!

Early this year, I went on a DIY iKON-inspired tour and visited iKONIC places in Seoul with a friend. We had so much fun and made so many memories!
  • We visited Cafe Platte, shopped at Colorful Title and met Jinhwan's noona
  • We ate at the Song Family Restaurant (twice) and met Yunhyeong's mom
  • We randomly saw Bobby's mom at our favorite bakery/cafe in Yeonnmadong
  • We saw iKON at a fansign event!
Here's a list of the places we visited and directions on how to get there + photos from the iKON Mexicana fansign event!

Where we stayed in Hongdae / Yeonnamdong

Hongdae Family Guesthouse

The place is affordable, strategically located (the closest station is Hongik University, exit 3), has very clean rooms, provides breakfast, and has friendly staff.

Three places we visited below (Bobby's favorite soondaeguk restaurant, Cafe Platte, and Fave Bakery) are all walking distance from this guest house! I strongly recommend you stay here if you want to experience Yeonnamdong.

Click here to check for available rooms on your travel dates.

Around the area:
Fave Bakery
This was our favorite bakery and went there everyday for coffee, the chocolate-covered Madelines, the biscuits and the Mont Blanc!

More importantly, this is where we ran into Bobby's mom! She was out hanging out with her friends. 

Find this location on Google Maps here.




Must-Visit iKONIC Places and Spots around Seoul!

BobDong’s Soondaeguk Restaurant from iKON TV Episode 2
(aka Tobaki Sundaekuk Kamjatang)

Find this location on Google Maps here.

Directions / How to Get There:
  • Get off at Hongik University Station and take Exit 3.
  • Walk straight parallel to Yeonnamdong park.
  • Turn left on the third corner (you will see Innis Free to your left).
  • Walk Straight until you get to the large intersection (you will see a chicken restaurant called The Chicken Specialists to your right).
  • Cross the road and turn left on the main road.
  • Walk straight, and turn right when you find Olive Young in the corner.
  • Walk straight until you see the FNC Academy building to your right (it has an Ediya Coffee at the ground floor).
  • You will see the restaurant after you walk past Ediya Coffee (the restaurant will be right next to it).  



Café Platte (Jinhwan's Noona's Cafe)

Find this location on Google Maps here.

Directions / How to Get There:
  • Get off at Hongik University Station and take Exit 3.
  • Walk straight parallel to Yeonnamdong park (this will be a VERY LONG walk. Brace yourselves).
  • When you get to the 2nd intersection (you will see the Apartment Buildings numbered 103 in front of you), turn left. 
  • Walk straight (another slightly long walk) until you see Cafe Platte to your right). 





Colorful Title (Jinhwan's Noona's Boutique)

Find this location on Google Maps here.

Directions / How to Get There:
  • Get off at Sangsu Station and take Exit 2. As soon as you exit, make a U-turn, then turn right. 
  • Walk straight until you get to an intersection with Dongmak-ro 19-gil Street (you will see It's Skin and GS25 on your left). Turn right at the intersection.
  • On the second corner, turn left. 
  • Walk straight until you find Colorful Title on your left. 


Around the area:
Club Gabbia
Find this location on Google Maps here.

Pinkage (as seen on iKON TV)
Find this location on Google Maps here.

X Academy
Find this location on Google Maps here.



Yunhyeong’s Family Restaurant

Find this location on Google Maps here.

Directions / How to Get There:
  • Get off at Jamsil Station and take Exit 8. Walk straight and you will immediately come upon a bus stop. 
  • Take Bus Number 30-5. 
  • Get off at the 12th bus station (counting Jamsil Station Exit 8 Bus Stop as your first). As an alternative (or if you lose count of how many bus stops you have passed), after you stop at Olympic Park station, get off at the 4th station, counting Olympic Park Station as the first. The bus station is called "Baedari Seohanam Nadeulmok".
  • Keep on the lookout to the left side of the road to try and spot the restaurant so you know when to get off the bus if you lose count of the stops.
  • Once you're off the bus at Baedari Seohanam Nadeulmok station, cross the wide pedestrian lane and you will reach the restaurant. 



Finally, some photos from the Mexicana fansign event!





Six Instagram-worthy Locations Loved by Hong Kong Locals





The drone of your daily routine getting to you, but don’t have the time or money to spare for a long holiday? For a quick escape, I recommend a long weekend getaway in a city like Hong Kong.

It’s a compact city that packs a punch. What it lacks in land mass (at just 2,700 square kilometers), it makes up for in a plethora of things to do, attractions to visit, and food to eat. And everything is within reach a quick walk, MRT ride, or Uber away, which makes it the perfect destination for a short getaway!

You’ll also have plenty of content for your social media feed after a trip to Hong Kong, with its many picture-perfect destinations hidden in the most non-descript locations. So here’s a pro tip: if you’re short on time for planning and want to make the most out of your trip, booking a Hong Kong private tour with an expert local guide is the way to go.

Here are a few Instagram-worthy destinations to visit on your next trip to Hong Kong!

1. Choi Hung Estate

Everyone who’s spent an inordinate amount of time on Instagram (and let’s be real, who hasn’t?) would’ve seen the aesthetically inspiring photos taken at this unexpected location. The pastel-colored backdrop of the basketball court at Hong Kong’s oldest public housing estate makes for a great shot for your Instagram profile photo.

It’s a little ways away from the Hong Kong regular tourist route, so it’ll be good to have a local show you around.

Choi Hung Estate, Wong Tai Sin, Kowloon East, Hong Kong

2. PMQ

Hong Kong’s coolest new creative hub is a great place to shop, eat, and take Instagram-worthy photos in. The site used to be the location of Queen’s College, the first school to offer a Western education to Chinese students. After the war, it became a dormitory for police officers (hence the name PMQ, which stands for “Police Married Quarters”).
Now the area is home to numerous cafes and shops selling local, handmade products. Our faves include G.O.D. (Goods of Desire) for the coolest and sometimes irreverent Hong Kong souvenirs you can take home, The HK room for home goods and other trinkets, and for food, visit Levain Bakery for their amazing sourdoughs and the PMG Taste Library where you can attend various food-related workshops and events.
pmq.org.hk

3. 65 Peel

Not far from PMQ is a great lowkey bar serving local craft beer in a beautiful space. If you like the aesthetic and visual mood of the movie “In the Mood for Love”, you’ll love 65 Peel. Try one (or two, or three!) of the twelve local brews they always have on hand, sourced from various microbreweries around Hong Kong.  

65 Peel St, Central, Hong Kong

4. Ho Lee Fook

Let’s face it, you really need to go to Ho Lee Fook for the food, first and foremost. But their wall of lucky cats and the local artwork that dot the restaurant’s interior are definitely worthy of space on your Instagram stories.

A self-proclaimed “funky Chinese restaurant”, you can’t leave Ho Lee Fook without trying the roast Wagyu short ribs and the grilled pork belly with Taiwanese caper salsa.

holeefook.com.hk

5. Quinary

Hong Kong is known as one of the cities with the best nightlife spots in Asia, sporting a number of bars that serve award-winning craft cocktails. Among them, a locals’ favorite is Quinary. Their imaginative cocktails are as pretty and visually pleasing as they are delicious. Don’t forget to snap a photo or a story before taking a sip!

My go-to cocktail is a whisky sour, so any place that serves an amazing whisky sour gets a check on my book. I’m happy to report that the Quinary Sour, their own unique take on the classic, gets my approval!

If you want something a little more fun and flirty, try the Lavender Meringue Pie, and if you want something a little more adventurous, try their seasonal cocktails!

6. Yumcha

Hong Kong is also a city that thrives on cuteness, no better demonstrated anywhere else than in Yumcha. Not only are their food delicious and a great introduction to Hong Kong cuisine, they’re also so adorably pretty! The dimsum are particularly overflowing in cuteness, they’re almost too cute to eat!

yumchahk.com

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