It all began in 2015, the year when I started to feel the significant changes. I wanted to fly away to unfamiliar places so I did things differently. I traveled alone quite a few times, marveled at the beauty of the world, and plunged into the deep sea of adventures and wonders. I’d like to say it was my renaissance year.
Time went by so fast and I can’t believe it’s already been a year since I came back to the Philippines from my three-month Europe trip. I came home excited to tell so many stories through this blog, but tough times hit me hard that I just detached myself from the world, from everyone.
2016 was a whirlwind. I lost a dear friend in September, a loved one in October, and my dad in November. It was a year of emotional chaos.
March. I wasn’t very happy to come home. I wanted to stay longer in Europe. I could have, but I chose not to, for dad. He missed me terribly. Actually, days before my trip, he would usually feel sad and ask me, “Do you really have to go?”. I would tell him it’s just three months and I would be back home soon. He couldn’t help but feel really really sad. He didn’t even take me to the airport! Lol. So, moving on, three months passed and I arrived in Manila safe and sound. I was greeted by my mom and uncle, then I began to realize I was really back because the terrible traffic welcomed me with not-so-loving arms.
We picked dad up in his office. He was very delighted to see me. Oh, his smile was priceless! And of course, he asked me how my trip was. While still trying to make sense of reality, I replied, “Incredibly life-changing.”
Days passed and I never stopped looking back. That was my March.
April-August. I had a hard time coming back to reality. Memories in Europe kept flashing back. I thought, I should start doing something meaningful so I applied for a new job and I got it! It’s my current job and I really like it. I am able to travel around the Philippines and write about programs helping uplift lives of millions of Filipinos. Okay, so, everything was going well, then I realized I can never be satisfied. We always want something more, don’t we? I don’t know why, but I have this longing that never dies. It never goes away. In silence, it just keeps getting stronger. I try to get my mind off it, but it pushes itself to be felt. It’s the longing to travel and live at the same time. It’s the longing to keep going, walking, running. It’s the longing to move and never stop exploring…
September. I lost my friend Stephen. It was painful losing him. He was so young and so full of dreams. He pushed me to do more, to do better. He believed in me when I doubted myself. His words were nothing but full of wisdom, optimism, and encouragement. “Strive for the sun,” he once told me.
Stephen’s death reminded me of setting my priorities right, of living as if today’s my last.
We can be so preoccupied with the offerings of this world that sometimes we forget how to live and not merely exist. So I say, choose what matters most. Choose life.
October. I lost Ate Pining. She had been with us for over 30 years. She was basically a mother to me, to all of us. The simplest things in life were enough to make her happy.
When I heard the news that she was getting weaker, I felt distraught and desolate. I didn’t want to lose her, but I knew her time was coming, and I just had to slowly accept it. She battled cancer for years, but never did I see her complain, never did I see her lose heart. She was a selfless fighter who lived her life mostly taking care of us.
I miss her. So much.
November. The darkest moment of my life came. I lost my best friend, mentor, and hero – my dad.
I became depressed. I forgot to eat. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t take a proper bath. I had chest pains. I felt dead. Helpless. I fought with myself, my emotions, my thoughts. I felt like I was really ready for death – where there’s no more pain and suffering.
I lost my sanity quite a number of times. I started fearing the person I was becoming.
It was a month of emotional torture not being by dad’s side when he was struggling, fighting for his life. We hoped for a miracle, but days passed and I knew I just had to let God. A day before he died, I told him everything I wanted to say and right after, I felt so much peace in my heart. And then the worst came – he took his last breath and I wasn’t beside him. I never thought it would be like that. I tried to absorb what happened, but not long after, I snapped.
I looked at my window and watched the heavens welcome dad. Suddenly, the pain was no longer there. I was happy for a while…
The moment I had been waiting for finally came. Dad flew back to his beloved home, the Philippines. I slowly walked to his coffin and saw him looking dapper as ever. He was wearing the suit he was supposed to wear for the Pacquiao fight. And of course, he was proudly wearing his favorite pin – the Philippine flag pin. I talked to him and when I got to hold his hand, tears started falling from my eyes. Memories of us walking together, holding hands, flashed back in my head.
Weeks after his death, I started feeling the excruciating pain and unimaginable sadness. My faith was the only thing that kept me going. I held on to it because I felt like I didn’t have anything else.
My dad loved me so much. I remember one time, he told me, “No one will love you as much as I do.” I think you’re right, dad. I don’t know if anyone can ever love me like you did. You made me feel like I’m the most precious gem in the world.
“Cry, heart, but never break.”
Life is definitely full of surprises. I say, make every day count. Don’t let a day pass without fixing your relationships. Be selfless and love deeply, fully, without pretensions. When you feel like giving up, DON’T. Just DON’T. I know it’s not easy, but you can do it. Cry all the pain out. Let the sadness linger, but when you’re ready, welcome happiness. There’s still beauty in this world that you deserve to take in. And when you feel like there’s no end to your web of struggles and you’re freezing in the cold cold winter, don’t worry because sunny days are coming. Patience, my friend. And when you feel like there’s no more reason to live, think about why you’re still alive, look at the bigger picture of life. This is cliché, but how can we appreciate happiness without sadness? The sun without the rain? Life without death? We will all die, you know. So as long as you’re living, I hope you try and make an effort to lift yourself up, try not to be so serious all the time, acknowledge your emotions but learn how to tame them – and if you can’t, that’s okay, it’s normal. And if you’re feeling bad right now, I just hope you feel better. If not today, maybe tomorrow, or the day after…
To everyone who helped me get through the dark, thank you. Without your love and support, I wouldn’t know how to rise again.
P.S. Sharing with you my favorite article on loss: https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/03/08/cry-heart-but-never-break/ – hope it gives you a positive perspective on death.