What Went Right?: How I Passed the 2014 Philippine Bar Examinations

I am one of the 1,126 fortunate souls who successfully made it through one of the toughest Bar Examinations in history. Only 18.82% passed the 2014 Bar Exams. The only question that kept on going through my head was “why?”

I am not one of the most brilliant students that you would ever meet in law school. I am also not very studious. I am usually lax, doodling in my notes and with my head on the clouds during class hours. With some miracle and a lot of prayers, I managed to graduate last year from University of the East, took the bar and passed it altogether in my first attempt. Nonetheless, seeing my name on the list was a very bittersweet experience for me. After screaming and jumping for joy with my family and went back to the computer to check on my schoolmates’, co-workers’ and friends’ names on the list, I was devastated. To tell you the truth, within minutes after seeing the full list, I had an acid reflux, my head spun around and I want to vomit. The mixture of elation knowing that you passed and the feeling of sadness, desperation and hopelessness for your colleagues was a recipe for disaster in me. Then I felt the loneliness. It really is lonely at the top. The mere fact that I was originally examinee number 599 and later bar passer number 98 clearly demonstrates the massacre of the 2014 Bar Exam Results. And as I return back to reality the next day, I learned that for the 32 Bar Exam takers in our Office, only 6 of us passed it or 18.75% which mirrors the 18.82% passing rate.

So what went wrong? For weeks, I was figuring it out on my head. Then I recalled one concept I learned back in my college days: Murphy’s Law. Everything could go wrong in the bar preparations.  Worst, everything could go wrong on the night before the bar that would lead to disastrous results. Secondly, no success story in the bar is alike. My story could be a lot different from those people who said their success story in the bar from yours. Thus, I stopped counting reasons what went wrong to my dear comrades who are part of the 81.18% who did not make it.  Hopefully, they could learn insights that would help them pass the bar. These are the seven things that went right for me and helped me pass the 2014 Philippine Bar Examinations:

First, I trusted my law school education. I thank my two law schools—University of Santo Tomas (UST) where I stayed for three semesters of law school and to University of the East (UE) where I everything else in my law school happened. I thank my law schools for providing me teachers who really pushed me to my limits and at the same time helped me develop a passion and desire to really be a full-fledged attorney. Those nine semesters in law school are made up of my blood, sweat and tears; therefore, after receiving my diploma from UE, I am certain that I learned a lot from law school and that I am just one long quiz away from being an attorney. That being said, I am befuddled with my fellow law school graduates who are returning back to our thick law text books. When I saw a fellow bar candidate then reading the infamous J.B.L. Reyes’ Book I and Book II in Criminal Law, I felt squeamish. To all law graduates, remember that you have finished your law school. You got this. You do not need to go to the fundamentals over and over again for the bar. You are definitely wasting your time with text books! Do not belittle your 4-6 years in law school! Everything is already in your brain so please; do not dumb yourself back to who you are in the first year of law the moment you graduated from law school. Have more faith in yourselves!

Second, I chose my materials wisely. My main memory aid is a copy of the 2011 UST Golden Notes which I used for years. What is great about it is you read faster because somehow you have recall on your materials. There are also some notes which I’ve written while studying all these years for clarification and updates. I suggest to those people who are still in law school to do this. Do not worry about the updates, your review centers would provide you hand-outs on that and even if you would not enrol in one, for sure, good souls would offer it to you or you could ask them for it. It is hard to be a clueless law student who would invest money on several sets of reviewers then get frustrated that he cannot read them all. There is no use in hoarding a lot of reviewers if you would not have time in reading it. After the bar, they would simply be scraps of paper anyway.

Third, I strategized. My unorthodox material was the UP Law Center Bar Questions and Answers from 2000-2013. The mindset that was instilled to me as an Economics major is that there is a trend for everything. I was right about the Bar. Through the years, the chief difficult issues that would be resolved in the Bar Exams are more or less the same especially when it comes to Taxation. Taxation is believed to be one of the most difficult subjects in the Bar but believe me, just read the aforementioned material and you would realize that the examiners kept on repeating the same questions again. I also read San Beda Red Book which also highlight the mostly asked bar questions as well as their predicted bar questions. Of course, I used other materials for the bar (mostly from the handouts that was given from my review center, UP Law Center and the law books that I’ve used as a fourth year law student) but I relied on these two materials for all the eight Bar subjects.

Fourth, I know myself. I know that group studies would be a disaster for me so I stayed alone in our old house for five months in order for to study well. I also know that cutting me off from the rest of the world would make me nuts so while I deactivated my Facebook, I retained my Instagram. I also watched all games in UAAP where UE is playing (yeah, last season broke my heart into a million pieces) and I watch 24 Oras almost every day. The thing is, I know that being a little distracted and taking a lot of breaks in between my readings is the key for me to retain the things that I am reading. The only difference that I made in studying in law school compared to me studying for the bar is that I usually wake up early to study for the bar and do not any more study at night. This is simply because the Bar Exam is from 8AM to 6PM, thus, these are the time where my mind must work best and not any more during 5:30PM to 1AM back in law school. Of course, I do not impose what I have done in my Bar preparations to anyone. I’ve told how I’ve studied to a lot of people and they thought that I was so relaxed. But my point is, this is how I managed through law school and eventually the Bar. I cannot just lock myself in a room and study for like 300 pages a day, seven days a week like some people who passed the bar claim that they’ve been through. I would surely fail because it would dry out my sanity and every brain cell I have. What I am pointing out to future bar takers is to remember how they made it through their law school and do it again.

Fifth, I learned how to answer the bar properly. My favorite law school professor would always be Atty. Manuel R. Riguera. I just love and respect him so much. He was my teacher in Remedial Law Review and he was an outstanding and passionate teacher. But besides teaching me Remedial Law, he also taught my classmates and I the now infamous Jurists Three-Paragraph Method. I would not go into details on how to construct the said way on answering the bar exams. I would just provide the link here. I understand that it feels that this method is too laborious if followed strictly. Nonetheless, this is the best way for you to really show that you know your law and you could argue like a lawyer. Also do not sound like a layman in your answer. It could really turn off your examiners. You must answer simply yet you must answer like a full-fledged attorney.

Sixth, I do not compare anything to my fellow bar takers. Do not ask me on how many readings I made. There is no definite answer. I made a schedule based on the schedule of the UP Law Center’s series of review session yet I did not follow it too religiously. For example, I finished Civil Law about five days from the calendar of UPLC so I went back reading Labor Law which I feel unconfident with. The same happened with my excess hours for Remedial Law which went to my weakest subject, Mercantile Law. I know that I am confident with a subject when I start feeling bored reading the same thing over and over again. I know that I do not know much about a subject when whenever I see new materials on the said topic, I feel like I am reading the topic for the first time. Do not be too rigid on the schedule that you have made and go address the areas wherein you need more help with. Also do not get pressured whenever your friends are telling you that they are already on their third reading when you hardly finish your first reading. Remember that the Bar preparation is a marathon and not a race. The tendency of those who read too much is that they would burnout easily come Bar Examination month.

Lastly, I have a great faith in God. I actually allotted time during my Bar Exam preparations to read the Holy Bible, read about the lives of some saints, attend the mass even during weekdays and lift everything to Him. I am telling you this, almost all the time while I am answering the Bar Exams with my right hand, my left hand is inside my the pocket of my red jacket, clenching into a Rosary given to me by my fellow church-goer in the Sacred Heart Chapel in FEU-NRMF which she claims was blessed by now saint, Saint Pope John Paul II. But to me, it does not matter if St. Pope John Paul indeed blessed the said Rosary or not. What matters to me is that I know that every word I had written in my Bar Examination booklets, I had written it with Him. And in the end, I am just His handmaid and that everything that I would be doing as an attorney would all be for His greater glory.

(One last thing: I do not know if this will help you but my family, especially my father, was on full support for me during the night before the Bar Exams. So much so that they would come with me to Manila Pavilion, where the Bar Examinees of UE were housed, and would stay there until the next day. I think it helped me in the sense that sleeping beside them helped me sleep faster. It is just difficult to me to sleep in a place where I am unfamiliar with like hotels. Having some good five-hour sleep made me refreshed for the Bar Exams the next day. I highly recommend, no, MANDATE all bar examinees to SLEEP the night before the bar. Eight hours of non-stop writing and thinking no joke!)

That’s it. Sorry for this lengthy post. I just want to cover everything that happened to me during the Bar preparations which lead to my victory. I just want more and more law students to achieve their dreams of becoming a lawyer. Being part of the 1,126 persons who had passed the bar might seemed so cool from the start but when you realized how many of your friends and comrades had fallen to desperation, uncertainty and shame that people are thinking that they are not smart enough to become a lawyer, then you would lose the joy that you are feeling for yourself knowing that these people also worked their asses off just to finish the four Sundays of the Bar Exams.

To all people who did not make it, if you are still up for your dream on becoming a lawyer and still go for it. Identify your mistakes in taking the bar and humble yourself enough to make changes. You can do it. Just go on trusting God and trusting yourself. To my fellow 2014 Bar Exam passers, please keep your idealism alive and let us help our country for its betterment through the workings of justice. We are 1,126 new lawyers who are called to make a difference to our country and we must stand up for that challenge. With all that being said, see you all in PICC on Friday.

– 98. AYUYAO, Maris Angelica C

vff
Bannered. This is my tarpaulin back into my father’s hometown in Magalang, Pampanga. I am proud to continue my father’s as well as my grandfather’s legacy as lawyers who passed the bar at first take! Nonetheless, seeing this banner showing my big face in public so humiliating for me. Ahhh…in passing the bar, you win some…you also lose some.

Nang Biglang Natapos ang 2014

The Politician
The Politician Smile. Naalala ko na tawa ako ng tawa nung una kong nakita ang larawan kong ito. Nung bata ako, pinangarap ko maging politiko. Presidente pa nga ng bansa eh! Pero nung nakita ko ito…naisip ko, parang hindi naman bagay. Haha! Pero hindi pa ako nagsasalita ng tapos. Abangan ang mga susunod na kabanata.

Dahil 2015 na…marami na namang ‘magpaparamdam’ for 2016 Elections. Kaya eto…for the sake of wala lang, nilalatag ko na ang picture ko na malamang nasa 2016 na kalendaryo niyo.

Seriously, no. Wala po akong balak takbuhan na posisyon kahit sa pagiging Tanod. At utang na loob, WAG niyo iboboto sa 2016 ang mga nagpaparamdam na mga taong ganito. Hindi nila mahal talaga ang bayan. Papasok lang sila sa politika dahil at gagawin itong negosyo. Inilagay ko lang ang larawan ito dahil napansin ko lang na never ko pala inilagay ang grad pic ko dito sa Facebook. So sa mga taong naghahanap ng grad pic ko, here you go…

Ang bilis lang. Patapos na ang 2014. Sa totoo lang, wala ako masyadong alala sa taon na ito. Wala eh. Boring talaga. More than half siguro ng taon, nagtatago ako dahil sa Bar. Maliban sa pagtatapos ko ng kurso ko, pagkuha ko ng Bar at pagkakaroon ko ng isang tunay na trabaho, wala na akong maituturing na “highlight” ng taon ko. Boring, ‘no? Kaya naman puro tanong lang ang naiwan sa akin.

Gayunpaman, nagpapasalamat ako sa taon na ito lalong-lalo na sa pamilya ko na binigyan ako ng walang hanggan na suporta; mga kaibigan ko sa pag-intindi na wala akong gaanong magawa sa kanila ngayong taon; sa Pamantasan ng Silangan sa pagtuturo ng lahat ng kinakailangan ko para sa bar; at sa mga katrabaho ko sa Kagawaran ng Repormang Pansakahan sa pagtulong niyo sa akin.

Isa na lang talaga ang hinihiling ko ngayon: hindi na sana muli mangyari ang 2014 sa buhay ko. Ayoko na danasin ang lahat ng sakripisyong iyon. Ayoko na ng pakiramdam na pinuputol ko ang sarili ko sa mundo para lamang sa pag-aaral. Gusto ko na ng pagbabago. Gusto ko na makatulong sa bansa para sa ikabubuti ng sistemang panghustisya. Gusto ko na rin na tumulong ng malaki para sa aking pamilya.

Kaya naman sa lahat ng Bagong Taon, ngayon ako pinakanasasabik. Sana nga lahat ng pagbabago na hinihingi ko ay matupad sa 2015. Hindi na rin ako bumabata. Sa darating na taon ay dalawampu’t pitong taong gulang na ako. Kaya naman parang awa niyo na…isama niyo lagi sa dasal niyo na maipasa ko ang Bar Exams.

Bago ako matapos ay sana, wag lang pansariling bagay ang ihiling natin ngayong taon tulad ng sana magkapera o pumayat. Hilingin natin ang mga bagay na magiging kapaki-pakinabang tayo sa kapwa natin tulad ng sana mas masigasig ako sa pagtatrabaho, mas habaan ko ang pasensya ko sa pamilya ko o sana mas galingan ko sa pag-aaral ko o sana mas maging mabuting Pilipino ako. Ito rin ang taon para laliman natin ang pananampalataya natin sa Maykapal. May nabasa ako na iniisip ng tao na magiging masaya lang siya kung siya ay magiging matagumpay. Pero ayon sa isa pag-aaral sa larangan ng sikolohiya, baligtad raw dapat. Magiging matagumpay lamang ang isang tao kung maligaya siya sa ginagawa niya. Kaya para sa lahat, ipinagdadasal ko ang kaligayahan niyo ngayong taon. Manigong Bagong Taon sa Lahat!

P.S. Hindi ko ito inilagay sa Facebook account ko pero may isa akong resolusyon: na makapagsulat ako ng marami pa sa susunod na taon. Patawarin niyo ako sa hindi pagsulat halos. Maliban sa abala ako ay hindi ko alam kung saan magsisimula pagkatapos ng Bar Exams. Hanggang sa susunod na taon!

What’s the Fuss with #Thinspiration?

I posted this image in my social networking sites with the caption: My realistic #thinspiration, ♥ ;). Good morning, my puffballs! :) Credits goes to Marbee's owner. Follow her in Instagram as @bunnymama
I posted this image in my social networking sites with the caption: My realistic #thinspiration, ♥ ;). Good morning, my puffballs! :)
Credits goes to Marbee’s owner. Follow her in Instagram as @bunnymama

Now, I posted that image above in my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter just for laughs. I mean, for the past months, I see my girl friends in those social network accounts posting about their #thinspiration which were composed by the almost unclad Ellen Adarna doing exercise and a bunch of super thin girls with their ribcages saying, “how do you do?” Then I realized on thing: #thinspiration cannot be searched in Instagram and Facebook as well as in another social network, Tumblr.

When I searched ‘thinspiration’ in Google, everything was so clear to me. There are so many images of girls that are so thin they are obviously anorexic with captions such as, “Because the pain of looking in the mirror hurts more than starving” or “Everything looks good on skinny” or the hilarious, “Pizza or hip bones?”

Mind-boggling Choices. Here are the images I've seen in Google/Tumblr. Somebody in 9gag clevery stitched them together.
Mind-boggling Choices. Here are the images I’ve seen in Google/Tumblr. Somebody in 9gag clevery stitched them together.

(Any normal person would say, “Pizza, duh.”)

I cannot be the spokesperson of both being fit because obviously, I’m overweight or some body-loving warrior because there are days wherein I loathe my body. My weight just yo-yoed for years. I’m just a girl who struggled with weight all her life. I was born chubby. When I was in my preschool days I was sickly, hence, a thin child. My parents got worried and they made me drink a medicine that boosted my appetite. When I was about the age of Ryzza Mae Dizon, I had exactly the same body as she does. When I was in middle school, I grew faster than girls my age that people called me fat. I believed that until after college where I stuffed everything in my mouth not caring what other people think only to realize years later that I wasn’t really fat until before college based on my pictures. In law school, I immediately gained 20 pounds just after two semesters from stress eating. I lost everything when I went to gym for two months and eventually gained everything plus some more as the years go by. I was in my heaviest about a year ago and hit the obesity mark for the first time in my life. Because of my gynaecologist’s advice, I took everything in moderation and today I weighed 20 pounds lighter than the year before.

And yes, I do want to lessen my weight so much more because come on…I’m ageing. I’ll be 26 years old in a month’s time and while those chronic, deadly diseases caused by being overweight have not become a threat yet for me, they might suddenly come knocking on my doorstep soon if I don’t change my lifestyle. But probably I’d concentrate on that after the bar. I’m sorry that I have no heart to post exactly what my weight is today but to give you an idea, my BMI is 27.6.

So, I understand almost every girl’s wish to eat without gaining anything. What I do not understand is why you need to starve yourself for something that cannot be usually seen in normal clothes like hip bones, collar bones…and come on, I have never heard of a man saying, “Hey, I dig that chick. She has gap between her legs!” We, women, are our worst critics. But believing and wanting these things for your body is very unhealthy for you. While obesity kills, these pro-ana or pro-mia (short for pro-anorexic or pro-bulimic) equally does the same thing which is to kill you eventually. I cannot really judge girls who still believe in these pro-ana or pro-mia beliefs. But if you are not loving and accepting yourself for who you are, chances are no one else will. Also, recognize the fact that anorexia and bulimia is not only characterized as an eating disorder but also a mental disorder. With everything that we do, always ask yourself the question, “Why am I doing this?

We all cannot be those women in the glossy pages of the magazines. As a matter of fact, those women cannot be those women they perceive as they are in real life. They are airbrushed heavily and any more imperfections like their body shapes could be resolved by Adobe Photoshop. They aren’t real but you, my reader, are. In life we had no choice to be but one person, ourselves per se. Anything less than that would not make you happy. Somebody would be thinner, prettier, smarter or kinder than you. But nobody in the world is like you.

There is nothing wrong with trying to lose weight. But losing yourself is.

Heart to Heart: My Open Letter to the Single People this Valentine’s Day

LOVE. A simple, one-syllable and four-letter word had a multitude of meanings for all of us. It seems like a word of abstractions yet we could all attest how real and how solid it feels to all of us. We also have many stories about love. There are stories that have some with passion and happy endings. There are stories about getting back together. There are stories with bitterness and pain. There are stories who mistook it for obsession or complete submission.

And then here comes Valentine’s Day.

What actually dreaded me is that after Chinese New Year, single people started posting on how sad and sappy they will be on Valentine’s Day. Others curse that day. Others are just overemphasizing that Valentine’s Day will just be an ordinary date in their calendar. In short, bitterness overloads.

Photo credits from: http://rubyanjel.tumblr.com
Looks familiar?

For the love of God, just stop this.

I understand where the bitterness is coming from. Again you will go on thinking what the hell is wrong with you being so alone amidst the couples whispering sweet nothings, the bouquets and the red hearts on the street. There are questions on whether you are unattractive or not. You would also have that hatred in your past love or how show-off these happy couples are in social media. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to your poor self-esteem.

English writer, John Lyly, famously said these words, “All is fair in love and war.” True, there are some girls who have countless of admirers because of their beauty and there are also some guys which the girls dream about because of how handsome they are. However, that is not love. Probably, it is some sort of sexual appeal or lust. The best love stories do not origin from the most attractive persons. In fact, there are a lot of stories on divorce or annulment of marriages from our celebrities. If having a beautiful face or an attractive body is what you think the key to an everlasting love, then please do think again. Also, I know of someone who is not attractive at all by at least in my country’s standard. He is dark-skinned and a short man. However, he has a fantastic sense of humor and he seemed to be kind to all. Then we discovered that he have six kids from six different women. I can’t really react after hearing that especially because he is my friend.

Then, what is the key to love? I honestly do not know. If it would all boil down to attitude, I really do not understand why men love bitches and women love jerks. If it would boil down to one’s wealth, why do I hear polygamous relationship among the poor? I really do not know what makes one, well, loveable. All I know is that love is the most powerful force in the world. It transcends age, race, religion and anything else under the sun.

Thus, there is no reason to be bitter. I know that in one point of our lives, love will come, as long as we will be true to ourselves and will leave an open heart for it. But in the meantime, can’t we be happy for the people in love? In this great vast world, having someone who will love you for you is a miracle. It is something worth celebrating. And also, just like you, my single friend, they were also once single people, but look how love changes them.

In the meantime, love yourself first. If you cannot do that, what are the chances that someone else will love you first? Engage in activities. Meet new people. Make yourself a better person every single day. And who knows, maybe by April, you will be some love-struck idiot who can’t wait for next year’s Valentine’s Day.

The “Chinita” Problems

I have a problem that should not even be a problem: Ever since I was in college, somebody often greets me “Happy Chinese New Year!”

You would probably reply, “So, what?”

The problem is how do you exactly respond to such question properly?

You see, it is true that I have Chinese blood. I think it is obvious with my physical traits: almond eyes, round face,  sallow complexion and thin lips. But to how much am I Chinese, the answer is I don’t know. My grandparents from both side of the family are all mestizos or mixed blooded.

That is why I could say “Thank you very much! Same to you!” However, that would also feel so wrong. The reason: I grew up not practicing any Chinese tradition except eating tikoy or nian gao in Chinese New Year. I think all Filipinos are now doing it now, though. Worst, I do not know of any relative who could actually speak and read Chinese.

However, if I said, “No, I’m not a Chinese.” A part of me feels like I’m lying. It is like I’m denying my Chinese ancestors who probably braved through the stormy seas on the West Philippine Sea from China just to be here. Also, how can I explain my physical Chinese traits? How would I also explain my surname which sounds like a decent from the Chinese.

But of course, my body has some other stories to tell because of my other bloodline coming from Spain. First, I am considered a tall girl in the Philippines. I am only 5’5 but you see, most girls here are only 5’0. Also, my body frame is unusually large if you compare my bone structure to other girls. However, the weird thing about having a large frame is having unproportioned hands and feet. People I know wouldn’t believe that my shoe size is only 7! My face is round but you could also notice how prominent my cheekbones are. I have this wavy hair that has a mind of its own. I colored my hair into creamy, light brown now but my original hair color is chestnut brown, another unusual trait for a Filipina. Also, my eye color is almost in the shade of honey; however, regular Filipinas have black to very dark brown eyes.

So who am I?

I am a Filipina.

I don’t think that we are still living in an era where the true Filipina beauty are solely confined to those ladies who are brown-skinned and large expressive eyes.  The Philippines now are considered one of the biggest melting pots in the world. We can now see people that are seemingly from different parts of the world in our school or neighborhood.

Also, we must not discriminate others. Nobody now has the right to look down on others just because one looks different from the others. We must embrace our uniqueness. We are the colors of the rainbow if only we could be one.

I am indeed happy living in an era where we are having this openness in the subcultures of our society. We no longer have classes during the end of Ramadan to give respect to our Muslim brothers and sisters. And now, we are also in vacation for Chinese New Year for us to join them in their most joyous occasion.

Yes, it doesn’t bother me any more being called Chinese or looking like a foreigner in general. I am like a product of the Philippine history by my mixed genes. I am a Filipina purely under these unique traits. And I’ll forever be proud as one.

So, tikoy, anyone?

Cheong
In Red. My mother used to like some Chinese-inspired clothing like the one I’m wearing above. This was taken some years ago. That top was unfortunately destroyed by the typhoon. It does suit me well or does it? 

My Five Guidelines for a Happier Year

Happy 2014, everyone! Sorry this greeting and post are weeks late.  Life has been complicated for me this 2014 and this is just the thirtieth day.

How are your resolutions going? This year, I did not make any concrete resolutions, only guidelines. Nonetheless, I am sharing these because I believe that it is beneficial for everybody. Also, tomorrow is Chinese New Year. I do not consider myself as Chinoy or Chinese-Filipino though I have Chinese blood. Then again, this is a great day to do some changes in your life.

 

WHAT WE DO EVERY DAY MATTERS MORE THAN WE DO EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE

Face it. We think that our lives are a bore or some people live better lives than ours. This is especially true now when a lot of us record happy aspects of our lives in the social networks. But you see, those are the highlights of our lives. We do not usually post things that make us upset or our argument with our parents or our significant other or days where we practically did not do anything special at all.

That’s why if you’re a law student or medical student or taking up other courses which requires a long period of staying in school and feel that you are missing out so much in your lives, stop feeling that way. “Living to the fullest” does not mean frequent travels or having romantic relationships or giving in to that pressure of having a family by mid-twenties. Living to the fullest is giving your best every day in the path you choose so that someday you will be able to fully share the world your purpose. Besides, you can never be overdressed or over-educated.

Then again, it doesn’t hurt to reward yourself every once in a while. There is a time for everything. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 reminds us that,

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

 

INVEST IN YOURSELF

Well, of course, we could all agree that vanity is a sin. I seriously started giving in to makeup and skincare products on about the last quarter of 2012. I’m practically broke every single week because I spend them mostly in Korean beauty products. I also do not return the changes in the bills of my parents because I malverse them as extra money for the said products. Yes, do not dare do this, ladies. The rule of thumb is act your wage or in my case, act according to my allowance.

I’m wiser now. I do not buy new makeup until I almost fully consumed it. I also stopped shopping for skincare products and this act rewarded me. When I went back to the simple cleanse-tone-moisturize routine, my skin became visibly healthier. I hardly had any new zits.

Yes, I will still continue in investing myself. After all, I only have one body and I need to maintain my health because I have so many dreams to concretize. By the way, this is the year I’ve been waiting for all of my life. I’ll take the bar this year. Nevertheless, I will keep it simpler this year. Cleanse-Tone-Moisturize. Add some makeup. Do not forget some sun protection to prevent wrinkles. That’s it. Also, do not forget…

 

MEDIA CALL US UGLY TO SELL US SOME SHIT

There are so many ways of media that tells us we are not pretty and that we are not good enough. They tell petite people to wear higher heels. They make fun of every acne and scars we have. They convince everyone that they are fat by keeping their models unhealthily thin. They also tell us that we do not have enough clothes, shoes and makeup. But the truth and in fact, every one of us is made uniquely beautiful in our own ways. We do not need any validation from others. Feel free to express yourself. Do not wear shoes and clothes that do not feel comfortable to you.

You do not need to be in the trend. You just have to be you.

 

LISTEN TO OTHERS…AND DO NOT FORGET TO LISTEN TO YOUR OWN WORDS, TOO.

True, the ‘selfie’ generation had become a part of us. I love how it made some people in a way empowered to face the camera and share a part of them in the world. Honestly, this wasn’t easy for me in puberty years and pretty much the whole high school. I have looked at myself as a very, very, very ugly person. I hardly look at the mirror and when a person brings a camera with them, I immediately volunteer myself to take the picture. That is how disgusted I am with myself.

However, this ‘selfie’ generation also made some people too self-centered. I hate people who always begin speaking with “I” and end their paragraphs with “me”. Sometimes, I hate reunions or meet ups with some people I know who are so self-centered. They often complained about how stressing their work are, how their bosses bully them, how their co-workers gang up on them, how their family suck and basically how they play as the victim to every aspect of their lives. It’s almost they are implying that the people who are listening to them have no problems of their own. On the other hand, if we are not talking about how life ‘victimizes’ them, they are starting to badmouth some people we know and often gossip on their matters which details they do not know firsthand themselves.

I admit that sometimes I am guilty of saying those things, too. And when I started hearing myself saying nothing but complaints about my life or badmouthing some persons, I know that something is so wrong with me. It’s either I am tired of my life or I am very insecure or jealous of some people I know. That’s why I learned to listen to myself in order to assess the person I am becoming into. Always reassess your words to reassess the person that you are evolving into.

No matter how hurt you are, do not turn into a person you hate.

Always remember the wise words of my favorite Chinese philosopher, Lao Tze:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habit.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

 

WHEN YOU ARE LOST, REMEMBER YOUR CHILDHOOD DREAMS

It’s generally easier being a child. We have adults to take care of our money and ourselves. We have our innocence to easily identify the right from wrong. We are beginning our lives that is why it is easy to build a dream.

However, when adulthood creeps in, we realize that the world is not that huge playground that we first thought it was. We get frustrated. We are told we are not good enough. We are told that we are not talented enough or smart enough. Then, we just see ourselves just battling every day to exist and not anymore to live.

I am not saying that you cannot change your dreams. You can. But the beauty of childhood dreams is that they give a mission and vision right away in our heads because back then our innocence is there and our intention for the world is always pure and good. For example, a lot of children want to be a doctor in order to help people. Maybe you have thought that you are not suited to become a doctor but the reason why you feel so empty now is because you are spending everything you own to yourself and not in helping people which you initially perceived as you mission here on earth. Or as a child, you could dream that you want to become rich in order to buy a house for your parents because you were living on the streets before. But now that you achieve your dream to be materially rich, where are your parents? Did you fulfill your promise or are you wasting your life in vices and practically isolating yourself from everyone you know?

When I want to give up on law, I remember my first year high school math teacher who defended me from the person who bullied me. I always thought that for thirteen years, I’ve been battling my bullies alone. It feels so good to be defended by someone that is why when I grow up I will do everything in my power to protect the suppressed through the power of their rights vested in them. Unfortunately, my math teacher died in 2012 at a tender age of thirty-five because of esophageal cancer. But I will offer to him my license to practice law as soon as I get it next year.

 

Well, there you have it. Have a great 2014 and life ahead. Feel free to share some life guidelines to me as well!

ggg
Sky Lanterns. I edited this photo of mine in an App called Moment Cam and used it to greet my Chinese-Filipino best friend a Happy Chinese New Year. It turns out that the Chinese do not make Sky Lanterns fly in their new year; there is a separate festival for that. Nonetheless, I am always fascinated with sky lanterns (as if it is not obvious in my blog’s name). It reminds us that in letting go, beautiful things are coming ahead of us. That is why, let go of all the heartaches, the past, the what ifs and embrace the life’s surprises coming for us. :)

2013 in review

(Wow…thank you for all the people who viewed my blog. I know that majority of my viewers come from the Philippines and United States but I was surprised that after those countries, I have many visitors from FRANCE. Merci beaucoup!

Happy 2014 to all of us!)

WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,200 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

2013: A Year of Life Lessons

I had high expectations in 2013 mainly because this is my “silver year”. Yes, folks…this girl grew from that awkward teenager to that still awkward, twenty-five years old adult. (It both amuses and baffles me whenever someone still thinks I’m still halfway through college). Anyway, there was a trending topic in Twitter a few days ago, #My2013InFiveWords. I described mine as ‘a damned roller coaster ride’. But now I thought that how I described it has a negative undertone to it with the word ‘damned’. Sure, 2013 had a lot of downs but it also has a lot of ups that cannot be compared to yesteryears.

So, I’m changing it. My 2013 in five words would be: A year of life lessons.

Definitely, if I have to enumerate everything what has happened to me this year, I would not be finished before the New Year starts. So, instead of doing that, I will share the top five lessons that 2013 taught me.

 

LIFE IS SHORTER THAN WE THINK.

Cherish every moment you have with your loved ones. This year, I said goodbye to a close aunt of mine. She was sickly all her life and this year, she was bitten by an insect which made her bedridden for weeks. When we thought she was about to recover, we received a news that she had died.

There are two more deaths that affected me although I personally do not know these people. First, my father’s former boss died days before Christmas. My father used to be a medical representative when he was in law school. That boss of his is like a father to him. His boss was obese and diabetic for years so we all expected that the cause of his death was diabetes or some sort of heart attack. But, no…that did not kill him. What causes his death is a canker sore aggravated by some sort of virus. For my Filipino friends here, canker sore is our regular singaw. According to my parents, who were there yesterday in his burial rights, his wife, who is with him every single day after his retirement, is still in shock and could not accept the fact that her husband already left her.

Second, the fifteen-year old brother of my twin school bus mates back in high school died. Actually, I don’t know the cause of his death because her sisters refused to talk about it on-line. Nonetheless, I know that it was a very sudden death based on the tweets and statuses of her sisters. At fifteen years old, that boy is about to graduate high school. I also know that he was a CAT Officer, a violinist and a very smart boy. I really have no words for the twins because just thinking that my younger brother is hurt breaks my heart.

I just know one thing. This is the day for you to express love, say sorry, kiss, embrace and laugh with the people that matter to you the most. Tomorrow may be too late.

 

BURN BRIDGES IF NECESSARY.

My Facebook account was deactivated for almost half a year and I only reactivated it a month ago because the holidays are coming and I want to see all my tagged pictures in Christmas parties. Anyhow, I just realized that I have 843 friends but only a handful really matters.

I used to comment on significant moments on the life of those 843 ‘friends’ and make sure to greet them in their birthdays. I also kept in touch with some people I do not like and secretly labelling them as my ‘frenemies’. But now, I do not care with those excess people in my life. They do not do me good. I just waste so much time and energy with those people. I do not ‘unfriend’ people though. I simply ‘hide’ them from my timeline. Out of sight, out of mind. I now keep things easy for myself and do not take hurtful comments personally now. I only put my time and energy to the people that really matter.

 

MOTIVATE YOURSELF—AT ALL COSTS.

There are so many times in this year where I feel depress and I had no motivation to do work or anything at all. I simply stare on my tablet or computer monitor for hours tirelessly and let the time pass. But really, for 2014, this is the lesson that I must keep on remembering. The bar exams would probably be on October and I feel like there are still so many pieces of law unclear to me or is not yet interlocked with many concepts. That spells trouble for me. Anyway, UE cursed/blessed me to stay in class for this semester. It was compulsory yet it was free of charge. I really cannot explain much the details because it was also a clear as mud why I’m still in school but I’m taking it as free bar review for me.

 

TIME WORKS DIFFERENTLY FOR ALL OF US.

When we were still in school, life was simple to us. If we are in first grade this year, next year, we are looking forward to become second graders next year. But starting college, life does not go on as planned. Sometimes, you have to stop school because of lack of funds. Or you have to transfer schools because you did not reach the maintaining grade.

However, after college, it is worst. Those classmates of yours in college and high school are now earning big while you are still in school. They are also having their dream-like weddings and starting their family. You, on the other hand, just gawk their happy pictures in social media while taking a break from your long readings for school.

But I realized that I could not afford to have a relationship now, much less a family. Again, there is a bar exam waiting for me next year. Also, with all those jerks running around the world victimizing one girl after the other, I thank God for saving me from them. I have faith that someday, I will marry the man God planned for me. I will bear our beautiful children and live in a big house while at the same time being a successful career woman.

I remember nine to ten years ago, our teachers in high school repeatedly asked us to draw what we vision ourselves ten years from now. I just thought that if all my classmates’ dream came true and I could see almost every one of my classmates as nurses abroad earning dollars. Fortunately for some, halfway through their nursing courses, their parents gave in and let them choose their preferred course. Unfortunately, some stayed in limbo here in the country, having very little opportunities for them.

Life does not turn out how we plan it, especially if you let others decide the dream for you. But even at this age, do not hesitate to start again.

 

HAVING A LEGAL DISPUTE, EVEN A CIVIL CASE ONE, IS MADDENING.

When people ask me what kind of lawyer I want to be, I always answer that I want to be a family court lawyer or at least a lawyer who handles civil cases only. I really do not want to be stressed dealing with criminals. Also, I thought, handling a civil case is ‘easier’.

But then before the year ends, my parents decided to buy a new house. After having a deal with the price, my parents and the vendor executed a deed of conditional sale and my parents gave their down payment. In the deed, full payment would only come after she leaves the house in two weeks. However, it turns out that the vendor is one with the worst personality in the world. She spent all the money we gave her and she demanded for the full amount before leaving the premises. She also made my parents look bad to her father, who is my father’s friend, and her ex-husband. She made stories of us harassing her. These cause sleepless nights to my parents, especially my father. The amount paid to her is huge and without it, we just could not buy a house anymore most especially because my sister is just starting medical school. Also, my father retired from work this July. I would not go into details anymore because somehow, they had an agreement in the barangay level. Let us hope for the best. I do not want to take this to court any more.

Nevertheless, this taught me empathy to my future clients. I now know the feeling of losing such a big amount of money and therefore, I will do all legal remedies in order to protect my future clients’ interest.

 

So, that wraps up my 2013. I am not looking forward to anything in 2014 except the bar exams and perhaps moving in to the house we are trying to buy. Also, hopefully, I could get a job right away after the bar exams. After all, I passed my Civil Service Exam this year.

Goodbye 2013 and hello to the biggest and boldest stepping stone of my career, 2014. Yes, I’m ready for you.

Yolanda Aftermath: Where to Go from Here?

When September 26, 2009 happened in my life, I really thought that my world was crushed big time. Residents of Metro Manila and the nearby provinces will never forget that day because that is the day when the typhoon, Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) submerged parts of the Luzon island in the Philippines.

Our house never experienced flood prior to Ondoy. However, that typhoon brought so many rains that it made La Mesa Dam overflow. It overflowed so much that it sank our two-storey house up to my neck in our second floor. It forced my mom, my brother and our house helper to climb the roof of our house. For seven hours they stayed there helplessly. We only rescued them that night. The next day, when we returned to our house, we cannot enter it. Debris of everything, mostly the ruins of the informal settlers, was somehow gathered in front of our house. With the help of our neighbors, we were able to make a tiny passage to our house and when we got in, everything was a mess covered with gunk. The stench was deadly. Almost everything is wet. In fact, it took me a week to wear clothes of my own. For days all I’m wearing was clothes coming from relatives and friends. Everything was ruined and the big questions then were “Can we ever go back to normalcy?” and “Where will we start?

And now, flash forward to November 2013, I really felt guilty that I even questioned God why that Ondoy tragedy happened to us. Yes, a lot of our things were ruined but our house was intact. We also never went hungry. Our money could still buy goods and services of people who helped restoring our house. Electricity was restored in three days. We have relatives nearby who has a house big enough to provide us shelter at night. Some of our electronic gadgets were restored after just cleaning and drying it. In five weeks, our lives somehow returned to normal as we returned living in it. The best part is none of my family members or neighbors were seriously injured or worst, dead.

Thus, even if I am a typhoon victim too, there is just no way to tell those typhoon victims that I know what they are going through and they could make it like we did four years ago. Despite that very misfortunate day, I just fully understood recently how blessed we were then. People in Visayas region who were victimized by the wrath and power by the Super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) truly need our help now. Almost a week has passed but there are hardly any help or relief being given to them. People, especially the Waray-Warays, have lost everything. Some houses were completely swept away. Even sturdy houses and buildings made of concrete were also severely ruined by the typhoon. In footages by the local and international media, I hardly saw a house or a building with roof still in place. All the shops were looted so money at hand is basically worthless. Communication is hardly restored and realistically speaking, I don’t think that electricity would be restored in Tacloban and the rest of Leyte before Christmas. Everyone is just walking like zombies, mindlessly walking around with no destination in mind. Everyone is grieving for a family member or for a friend but they have no energy to put them aside properly. Bodies were left in the streets. Everyone wants to survive and leave their homeland as soon as possible. Basic necessity of shelter, food and water is a luxury in there. It’s almost as if they live in anarchy with hardly having a government to take care of them. That is why how can you tell a typhoon survivor that, “At least you survive” casually knowing that they lost everything they have?

Erased. Practically
Erased. Practically, Yolanda/Haiyan erased big parts of the Visayan region because of its wrath. But we are stronger than any typhoon. We could recover from this.

Meanwhile, here in Metro Manila, where we are barely touched by the clout of Yolanda, we are also not in peace. For instance, in our home ever since that typhoon hit the country, we have no choice but to be glued on our TV and computers for updates. My dad have cousins in Leyte and Ormoc and our house helper hails from Palo, Leyte. While we are sure now that our relatives in Ormoc are safe, we are still not sure with our relatives in Leyte. We heard some news that they somehow survived the typhoon. However, there is absolutely no news yet on what happened with our house help’s family. Two days ago, her brother and niece came to our house to ask for money so that they could travel to Palo and check on what happened in their family there. There is still no news about them as I write this down. People here are still so agitated and cannot concentrate on our daily lives having no news yet on the state of our loved ones.

Wiped Out. This is Tacloban
Wiped Out. This is Tacloban City, the Regional Center for Region VIII or the Eastern Visayas and is considered a highly-urbanized city. Or at least that is what it was a week ago.

Please do help them. In the first place, life is hard in the Visayas region, most especially Leyte, even in ‘normal’ days. My house helper told me that there are days where they only eat rice with rock salt when they do not have money to buy food. Region VIII, where Leyte is included, is one of the poorest regions in the Philippines. That is why most of the families in Leyte have relatives working in capital cities in the Philippines or abroad to make their ends meet. And while people there are used with storms or with hunger, nobody can withstand almost a week without food, water and shelter.

I really don’t know where to begin in their restoration. I cannot even hypothesize on when will they return to their work and the children are attending school again. But we could at least reestablish communication to them and provide them with food, water and proper shelter and also security. We must let them know that reliefs are coming and rehabilitation is on its way. Let us help restore integrity and hope in their selves for them to start again. And please, let us focus on helping them and do not dwell on issues on what Anderson Cooper and Korina Sanchez had said or by adhering too much with I-told-you-so statements from some people or by spreading unconfirmed reports or rumors that would just worsen our situation now.

I know that our Visayan brothers and sisters could rise up again from this catastrophe like what they did twenty-two years ago when they were also stricken by tropical storm, Uring (international name: Thelma) and flashfloods killed thousands of people especially in Ormoc. For now, let us do our part. Our brothers and sisters in Visayas need us more than we know.

help
Help NOW. This is some ways in which you could help the typhoon victims. Please, give as much as you can. (from my favorite on-line news source, Rappler.Com)

(The two images above is taken from Twitter. I was retweeted so numerous time. So if you own the image and you want me to remove the image or give you credit, kindly comment down below. Thank you.)

Worth the Hype?: Unlocking the Mystery of Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter

Happy Halloween or Blessed All Saints’ Day, wherever in the globe you are. Anyway, I decided to make a review on the sweet yet ever so mysterious Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter and its variant, Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl for this Trick-or-Treat season.

SPECU—WHAAAT?!

First, what on earth is Speculoos? According to the almighty Wikipedia, is a type of spiced shortcrust biscuit, traditionally baked for consumption on or just before St Nicholas’ feast in the Netherlands (December 5), Belgium (December 6), and Northern France and around Christmas in Germany. In recent decades it has become available all year round. Speculoos are thin, very crunchy, slightly browned and, most significantly, have some image or figure (often from the traditional stories about St. Nicholas) stamped on the front side before baking; the back is flat.

So it’s basically some sort of holiday cookie. It’s also called as Belgian Spice Cookies or Dutch Windmill cookies or more importantly, Biscoff cookies. So yeah, I assume that the taste of Lotus Biscoff Spread which is sold in some stores in Metro Manila could be similar to Trader Joe’s products. I can’t really compare the taste of the two because I never tasted Biscoff.

THE HYPE IN THE PHILIPPINES

I did notice early this year that some of my friends in Instagram are uploading pictures of what look like ordinary jars of bread spread or palaman in Filipino. People who upload it seemed to do so to make their other friends envious through tagging them of their bread spread picture. I really did not get it. I’m in love with Lady’s Choice Creamy Peanut Butter but you would not spot it any time in Instagram.

Anyway, when we returned from the United States, a friend said, “I thought you were still in the US. I was supposed to contact you to buy Speculoos Cookie Butter for me there!”

“What is that?”

“It’s a type of bread spread. It is very yummy but it’s very expensive and hard to purchase here in the Philippines.”

“Oh.”

I initially thought that it was a cookie dough flavored type of spread. Sayang, I thought. My siblings and I loved cookie dough ice cream in the US but sadly, there is no similar ice cream flavor in the country. I thought that it would probably be great having a spread that kind of taste like cookie dough. But no. It was really, really different. Then again, am I the only person who has thought about that? Anyone else? No? Awww…okay.

As the months passed by, there are more and more pictures of Trader Joe’s and Biscoff Cookie Butter pictures were seen in my timeline. The ever so raved spread Nutella was no longer the thing talked about on-line. Wow. Why is everyone going crazy over some bread spread?

TASTING THE MYSTERIOUS COOKIE BUTTER

It turns out that there is no local distributor of Trader Joe’s. People who get the hand of it usually get it on-line or are given to them by their returning Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) relatives. I think there is one store somewhere in Makati that actually sells it but it’s always out of stock. Also the price of one Cookie Butter jar ranges from P450-P700 plus shipping fee! No, I am not that desperate to shell off that much money just to understand the hype is about but apparently, some people are. And because it is mysterious and hard to find, it probably adds flavor to its taste. Do you get what I mean?

Anyway, the first time I had the taste of it was when Mochiko made a variant of their product made out of Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter. By the way, Mochiko offers a type of dessert that consists of Japanese mochi outside and ice cream in the inside. I did not think it was great mainly because I had greater expectations with the taste of Cookie Butter and I love the other flavors Mochiko had. After that, I did not bother thinking on how I would get my hands over that freaking Cookie Butter.

By mid-October, some of my relatives from the US returned and handed me two mysterious jars wrapped in black paper.

“What is this, Tita? Oh wow…”

“I really don’t get it. The Filipinos in the US are hoarding these stuffs to bring home to their relatives. Personally, I did not think they are that great but we decided to buy these thing, too, as pasalubong.”

Yes, that golden moment. I now have two Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter in my very hands. And even though we did feasted on Filipino food in Romulo’s in Tomas Morato, the first thing I did upon returning home is open those Cookie Butters!

The Pleasant Surprise. The much awaited jars of joys were given unexpectedly by my Aunt from the States.
The Pleasant Surprise. You know the saying that you get what you want when you don’t want it that much anymore or something? That pretty much what happened with my Cookie Butter story.

THE VERDICT

The original flavor tasted like crushed cookies in a creamy, buttery texture. It is not greasy like some peanut butter. Also, that cinnamon and gingery tang eventually explodes in your mouth as soon as it melts in your mouth. It taste better and better every single bite. I really cannot think of something close to that.

The Cocoa Swirl variant is a wonderful unification of the original Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter and Nutella. Truly, a match made in heaven.

Everything it touches turned magical. Even the everyday pan de sal seemed so exquisite with ti.

Nonetheless, after five days of having it as my breakfast, it lost its touch. It still tasted good; however, it lost its magic now.

I guess it’s really worth a try but to get lost in its hype and spend hundreds or worst, thousands of pesos over and over again for some bread spread is so impractical and foolish unless you are some rich person who has no problem with money.

I’m hoping that one day, Trader Joe’s would really have a local distributor in the country so that we could buy it in our local supermarkets at hopefully, half the price on-line. Then again, I’m still sticking with my peanut butter no matter what.

Pea
The Timeless Classic. Nothing beats this little baby for me.