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There’s always a story

This blog is about my own personal experiences, bits and pieces of my own dancing to the beat of life. I don’t really believe that life is a journey. I believe that it is more of a present thing, a one time opportunity, something that’s meant to be enjoyed and savor and celebrate while we have it.

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THAT SEXY BACK. The Ninja having his me time in Calaguas Island, Camarines Norte, Philippines. / Photo taken June 2016
Hi, my name is Ray. And welcome to The Voice of a Ninja Blog. As with many other blogs, I have thought about the theme and title of this blog many times over. And I came up with this title for so many reasons, most of them very personal to me.

I am a 30-something guy who is currently based in Manila, Philippines. I love to write about anything under the sun but mostly, I would like to focus on my journey as a millennial who is still discovering himself and always wanting to have his voice heard.

Like many of us, I have had my own fair share of tough and beautiful experiences in life. And that is primarily the reason why I had to name this blog as The Voice of a Ninja. In feudal Japan, ninjas are known to be brave and powerful warriors. They have the ability to move and execute their mission without being seen. They can outwit their enemy and vanish in thin air. Most importantly, they have this awesome ability to bounce back real hard when they are hit by setbacks. On the contrary, this blog is about peace and order for the most part. I intend to focus on issues that affect the common good and recommend better solutions if I know a substantial amount of information about the matter. Otherwise, I will merely voice my personal opinion.

Oh and did I mention I got the idea for The Voice of a Ninja while listening to the song “Voice of an Angel”? Yes, now you know. I’m no angel. I am the sweet combination of good and evil. I can be bad for good reasons, but never too bad. I’m always trying to be good —to be worthy of all the blessings that I get, the people who love me and the friendships that I was able to keep after the rest turned their back on me. So I figured ninja is the best noun that describes me.

Endorsements and sponsorships? That’s not on my priorities for this blog at the moment but definitely in my bucket list. It depends on how well the blog is received.

It is easy to start a personal blog. It is not easy to come up with fresh stuff to keep it going though. I understand this having started many blogs before (seven to be exact) and ending up selling or abandoning them. This time, I wanted to start something that I can continue doing -not finish. Because there is no ending to traveling and discovering one’s self.

As the title above says, there is always a story. With every picture, every backpacking, every hotel, every cup of coffee, every train or bus ride -there is always something to be told. There is always something to learn from. Always a learning experience. And that is what this blog is about; rediscovering one’s self and potential and giving my two cents about issues that affect me as a Filipino, as a person, as a gay man, as a thinking millennial, and as a citizen of the world. Most importantly, this blog is about my own personal experiences; not just with traveling to places but while “dancing” to the beat of life. I say “dancing to the beat” because I don’t really believe that life is a journey. I believe that it is more of a present thing, a one time opportunity, something that’s meant to be enjoyed and savor and celebrate while we have it.

I came across a very powerful video created by the American author Alan Watts and a certain David Lindberg called “Why Your Life is Not a Journey.” The video suggests that we miss the point about life and we often believe it is a journey with a purpose. But in reality, life in this world does not have a destination. The present is all there is to it so we gotta make the most out of it. Life is more of a music meant to be played or dance to, not something to save money for or retire with. It is meant to be enjoyed while we are young, while we can, while it last. And while I still want to believe life is an adventure, that video has totally got me.

I believe that everyone can have an honest opinion. This blog is my outlet. This blog is where I pour out one of my passions. This is where I get to be who I am.

So join me and either enjoy reading or be a part of my story (if you want). Yes, you are welcome to join the conversation. And through this blog, I hope to inspire you and many other souls into bringing a fresh take on traveling, personality development and discovering one’s self.

King Ray, the Ninja

The unstoppable rise to rock-stardom of KZ Tandingan

This article was previously published in my now defunct website philippinechronicle.com in February 16, 2016. This article was read and shared by KZ herself on her social media page. In light of her new album called “Soul Supremacy,” I have decided to republish it for KZ fanz out there. Enjoy!

There is hardly any article written about Kristine Zhenie Lobrigas Tandingan or most popularly known as KZ Tandingan. And as I browse Google looking for a feature or two about the 22 year old soul and jazz singer (who, for some reason, reminds me so much of one of my favorite performers, the late Amy Winehouse), I have felt a mixed feelings of sadness and excitement. I was saddened because it was already a clear reminder how little recognition this exceptional talent is getting (this is true with some other unrecognized Original Pilipino Music [OPM] talents as well) and excitement because I knew this was an opportunity for me to do it for an artist who deserves more than a feature herself.

At the same time, the pressure was building because no matter how small or big The Philippine Chronicle’s scope of readership is, I knew KZ and her camp would surely read this article one way or another. Listening to her latest hit, “Mahal Ko o Mahal Ako” however, reminded me precisely why I had to do this write-up for her, albeit I wasn’t sure if she would say yay or nay to it. I just had to do this for her as a form of gift for her great contributions to the otherwise, incomplete and dull OPM industry had she didn’t surface.

Just like anybody, I first heard KZ sing during her audition for the first season of the X Factor Philippines in 2012. Now, let me tell you, I am very appreciative of genuine talents especially in singing competitions such as the X Factor. I have to say however, that while I think everyone who joins the contest is armed with a certain amount of talent in them, not everyone possesses that so called “x factor.”

Let me tell you what X Factor means to me. X Factor is for the exceptional, the extraordinary, and the extremely talented. Indeed, KZ Tandingan is a living embodiment of those traits. I almost think she is a direct Pinay reincarnation of Ms. Winehouse although there is, of course a big difference between the two. Before she died, Amy was known for her eclectic mix of genres including soul, rhythm and blues, jazz and reggae. KZ sings in almost the same eclectic mix of musical repertoire that whenever I see her on TV, I see Amy come to life. And who would forget her exceptional rapping skills? This lady is a bomb waiting to explode. A Lana Del Rey waiting to blossom.

The reluctant Digos City (Davao Del Sur) born singer started off by introducing herself as a totally new sounding soul-reggae singer through her own rendition of the classic “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” on the X Factor Philippines. Just as the judges (Charice, Gary V., Martin Nievera and Pilita Corales) would have probably realized at the time they gave her a standing ovation, all four of them, I knew she would win that competition the very first time I heard and saw her perform. That is why when she was hailed as the winner of that show, I wasn’t surprised at all.

Her performance of that Judy Garland song still sends chills through my bones and has made me realize how awfully right she was when she told the judges that someone need not be a “biritera” (a diva or someone who can hit very high notes) in order to win the show. And from that very first moment, I knew she was an exceptional combination of young and yet mature talent, beautiful and yet enigmatic beauty and unique but powerful voice.

In fact, her voice is so powerful that she could make any song she sings her own. Not to mention, she has this rare but very important ability that every singer should have –the ability to act and tell an emotional story through the movement of her eyes and the expressions on her face. It is very important for a singer to not only interpret a good song, but completely give and engage her soul to it; so completely that the audience could connect to whatever story she is trying to convey. KZ has constantly proven that she is capable of this during and after her time in the show.

I remember watching her during her audition when she had very little to no make up at all. She was very Filipina and yet when she sings, she has this certain style and natural ability to enunciate every English word, or every word in any language for that matter, in a magnificent KZ Tandingan way.

After she was declared the winner of the first season of the X Factor Philippines in 2012, I knew she would soon make it to ABS-CBN’s mainstream shows such as ASAP (also called ASAP 19) and so I was following her growth as an artist, safe in the thought that she would start to release major OPM hits judging from the wide of array of supporters she had accumulated from her stint in the singing competition. And she did, of course.

In January 2013, she was chosen to interpret Domingo Rosco’s “Scared to Death”, a song entry to the Himig Handog P-Pop Love Songs. The song finished in fourth place and the next time I saw her, she was acting the song in her very own music video. Not only she was very professional in her performance in the music video but she was good at projecting herself on camera, something that many local singers are lacking despite probably having attended too many workshops. Whereas, KZ who was a neophyte in the industry was showing so much confidence like she has been doing the same thing ever since she was born. I guess “x factor” is something that cannot be fully taught or learned in workshops. Just like class, some people are born with it –so as KZ Tandingan.

Over the course of three years, we have seen the humble singer rise from being a girl who can sing to a woman on fire. She toured the world along with other big names such as Piolo Pascual and Side A. In that very short time, she had given us jazzy soul hits such as “Bakit Lumuluha” (nominated for an Awit Award for Best Performance by a Female Recording Artist in 2014), “Wag Ka Nang Umiyak” (nominated for an Awit Award for Best Performance by a New Female Recording Artist and Best Inspirational/Religious Recording in 2013), and “Darating Din” (nominated for and Awit Award for Best Inspirational/Religious Recording in 2014). In addition, her own remake of another classic “Killing Me Softly,” one of my favorites covers from her self-titled album was a favorite radio smash. She subsequently won an Aliw Awards for Best New Artist, an Awit Awards for Best Jazz Recording and another for Best Ballad Recording.

Prior to making a powerful comeback with her chart-topping single, Edwin Marollano’s “Mahal Ko o Mahal Ako” which also the same song that made her grand winner of the 2014 Himig Handog P-Pop Love Songs, Ms. Tandingan has been a regular mainstay performer on ABS-CBN’s Sunday variety show ASAP 20.

Just recently, she staged her very first Valentine dinner show entitled KZ 4 Uon Feb. 14, 8 p.m. at the Grand Ballroom of Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria. Another sign of her unstoppable rise to rockstardom.

There is something in KZ Tandingan that gets people drawn to her. It is her genuine xfactor that seems to emanate from within her and comes out in the form of her beautiful soul slash jazzy slash reggae sound. A sound that would have otherwise fitted in Europe or Americas but made its way to the OPM mainstream and somehow surviving there because the artist who delivers it is as beautiful as the sound she makes.

And the humble singer says she didn’t see music as a career while growing up. Wow! I wonder if she knows how phenomenal a performer she is with such awesome personality, powerful vocals and nice attitude. Plus, the girl does have a great taste in fashion! And while her latest song is being played repeatedly in radios nationwide, her love life is blossoming as well as she reveals being in a relationship with TJ Monterde, a singer-songwriter from Cagayan de Oro.

KZ is the type of artist who might not get enough recognition than she deserves but will always be successful in the industry and will surely stay there for a long time. If she was in America, she would be like P!nk who is known as far better performer that many others but kept herself grounded nonetheless. KZ is the new superstar on the rise and whether we admit it or not, her success is unstoppable.

And while we still can’t get over the emotional lyrics of “Mahal Ko o Mahal Ako”, we’re anticipating your next OPM hit already!

UPDATE: Look, KZ shared this article on her Facebook page! Aww you’re most welcome dear!

 

Some people just don’t care about you and that’s okay

I don’t live for other people’s opinion. I live for my goals and the only person I am competing with is my previous self.

We always think that people would love us if we are kind, honest, loving, friendly, thoughtful and even generous to them. We think that the key to making everyone like us is to be downright nice to them but the truth is, no matter what we do some people just wouldn’t like us and that’s okay. Why the hell is that okay? Because it doesn’t make them bad people. It simply means they aren’t your people and they just don’t care about you.

But don’t think that because they don’t care, they will leave you alone. Based on my experiences, people who don’t care about you will actually keep watching you –following your every posts on social media and concocting their own judgmental conclusions to your every move without even knowing the whole truth. People who doesn’t like you is out there to find your flaws and weaknesses so that they can use it against you. They’re out there to find your vulnerabilities so they can hit you hard, talk about you in their private chatrooms that they established just for you. Don’t be surprised if the chatroom they have created for you is even labeled after your name or some funny code name complete with silly emojis designed to remind them how a piece of shit you are.

People who don’t like you find pleasure in mocking your pictures, belittling your achievements, and simply making fun of your whole damn life. The best time to see these people in action is minutes after you post something on social media. They will make a screenshot of your post and paste it in their secret chatroom and start talking about you. These people believe that you are a bluff and that you maybe fooling everyone but not them. The thing is, they do not even care whether any of your achievements are real, they just want to discredit you for something you have worked hard enough to get.

The people who don’t care about you don’t care even if they get caught doing what they are doing to you. Most of them possesses an incredible amount of bravado and are usually itching for a fight with you. Remember, they will do things to provoke you because they are hungry for your reaction. They want to know if their tauntings worked out and served their interest well. Do not let them bait you. I’m telling you the moment you react to their shit, they already won. They are well prepared to get on a fight or a war of words because they have been doing this to other innocent people too. Those people who thought they could trust this bunch. Those who are so good they don’t even realize that they are moving in a very dangerous circle. And the moment they are attacked by people whom they thought they’re friends with, they won’t even know what hit them.

Usually, the people who don’t like you are the first to like or comment on your posts posing as real friends and pretending to be updated about your life when all they want to do is phish information so they can get something to make fun of. They spend time talking behind your back even when they are at work, traveling or in the grocery section.

Their regular conversation usually starts with, “O, alam nyo na ba latest tsismis kay ano?” Or something like, “Uy nakita nyo na ba new post ni ano? Check nyo sa IG nya dali. Hahaha!”

(Their regular conversation usually starts with, “Hey, have you heard the latest gossip about…?” Or something like, “Hey guys have you seen his new post yet? Hurry, you better check his Instagram. Hahaha!”)

Those are just some of the scenarios I have experienced myself. And while there are many other scenarios that prove how backstabbing and bullying are happening among your circle of so called “friends,” I am not here to discuss all of that. I am here to tell you that all of it is okay.

Again, how the hell are backstabbing and bullying okay? Because as long as it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger. It will help you spot who the real people in your life are and who deserves to be let go of. The moment you have found who the real ones are, you would not care a shit about what the rest would say. The only opinion that matters to you are the ones coming from your people.

Of course it would hurt at first. You may experience in denial phase where you are confused why these bunch of people don’t like you but you will get through it. You will get frustrated thinking of ways how you can save your friendship with these people or how you can please them to make things right but I am telling you there is nothing that would make things right. Why? Because these people just don’t care about you. They do not care about your feelings or the friendship (if any LOL) at all. They will be there to get into your nerve if you do not learn to stop being affected.

The key to moving on from these types of people is to remain kind and just let it go. You got to admit that it is practically useless to confront them because there is no friendship or any sort of good relationship to save or fight for. They just don’t like you and you have to accept that no matter what you do, nothing willl ever change. And believe it or not, it’s okay. Because the truth is, you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that means you cannot expect everyone to treat you exactly the way you want to be treated.

So be yourself and continue reaching for your dreams. Do not let your detractors ruin your day or your life because the truth is, whatever judgment they have on you reflects their own personality and how they were raised and not yours. Besides, you do not have to explain how you live your life to them because chances are, they already judged you and will continue to do so regardless of the truth. Remember, what other people think of you is none of your business so stop worrying and enjoy your blessings.

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What doesn’t kill you makes you more resilient


What doesn’t kill you makes you resilient. 

Eversince I was diagnosed with a disease called acute and chronic inflammatory cell in an amorphous background (inflammation of cell tissues inside the walls of airways in the lungs), I have felt a great loss in my life. I’ve felt like everything I have ever worked hard for was taken away in an instant.

For two years, I’ve worked to gain enough weight because I have always been so skinny. I’ve tried so hard to achieve a decent shape for my age. And for a moment, I thought I had it. I did it. I’ve made it.

And then I started having a hard time breathing. It became worse to the point where I couldn’t finish a single sentence without literally choking or gasping. It was one of the weirdest and scariest situations I have ever experienced in my life. I began to consult a doctor and soon enough I was in and out of a hospital for a chronic pneumonia. I went on medical leave and was out of work for almost six months.

According to study, 80% of people being diagnosed with this kind of disease are eventually found to have some form of lung cancer. It was a very scary discovery. I wasn’t sure I can handle it but I was determined to try and cope with it should it leads to that. What can I say? I mean, sometimes life hits us hard and gives us only one option: to fight.

My weight dropped. The very small progress I’ve made in my body was taken away and I’m back to my old skinny self once again. Now, most skinny guys would agree that it is not easy for our body type to gain muscles. It requires extra hard work because our metabolism is very fast and more often, it’s impossible to connect with our appetite. I almost stopped eating due to anorexic complications of the disease. And so when I realized I was losing everything to this ailment, I was really devastated. All the money, the effort and hard work I’ve put out turned to ashes. Two years of consistently trying to achieve my dream body wasted. I woke up each day feeling depressed. How am I gonna get it back? Will I be able to work out again? Worse of all thoughts, am I going to die?

But God is still good. He has always been. After months of suffering, bronchoscopy and biopsy results show I don’t have any life-threatening condition at least for now. Now I’m in the process of healing. The inflammation is still there but my body is slowly absorbing the medical treatment.

I don’t know how long this would take or if there will be another test to my faith and character but right now I’m just picking up the pieces and rebuilding everything that I have lost. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to work out again but I’m slowly learning to let things be. Soon, I’ll get it back. Soon, I’ll be fit again.

Yes, positivity is a state of mind. But I also know that for some people like me, it is easier said than done when you have a life and dream shattering disease. But I’m trying. I’m fighting. I’m standing still. I’m running still.

What’s good about it is that I know what I have to do now; I’ll just have to keep the faith that at the end of the day, I’ll find reason and purpose to all of this and that the sun will shine again where it left me. #whatdoesntkillyou

My pulmonary masses are growing and are now blocking one of my airways

BREATHE! The procedure will give you that drowning feeling but you have to remain calm and trust the physicians and the procedure itself.

Last week I finally underwent bronchoscopy and biopsy procedures at the Philippine General Hospital – Department of Pulmonary Medicine and part of what was revealed was that I have two pulmonary masses inside what appears to be one of my bronchioles or air passageways in the lower left lobe of my lungs. What?

I mean, no I’m not surprised as this is just a confirmation of what they have found in my CT scan last month. The only thing that’s new is that now we were able to see in clear and colored picture what the pulmonary masses actually look like. So it’s real. And there are actually two of them. I just wanna scream right now.

Anyway, the two masses have grown bigger that they now appear to be entirely blocking that specific passageway which helps transport air in and out of my lungs and into my trachea thereby making it impossible for air to travel through that passage tube. My attending physician has not given advise yet (at least nothing final) but I am assuming this might be the primary cause of my frequent and heavy gasping for air especially when I’m talking.

A screen capture of what the pulmonary masses look like inside one of my air passageways. The dark or blackish buildup is confirmed to be one of the masses and the other one looks like a flesh buildup. Together, they block the entire passage way.

The bronchoscopy and biopsy procedures were done in one single session. Thanks to my pulmonary team at PGH because they know my pain. I am also glad that it was completely painless due to the local anesthesia that my pulmo had administered prior to the procedure. Moreover, it’s a relief that the anesthesia was administered as a liquid spray inside my nostrils and in my throat and not something that involves needles. You know what I mean. 

But the shocking revelation about the procedure is the fact that the pulmonary mass is now true and confirmed and there are two of them. Hell, I got two of them growing inside one of my air passageway. How crazy. 

I have always thought myself as a strong person but I have never proven it until that day. It took me a lot to swallow and accept the fact (without crying) that I actually have it and the next months of my life will be spent dealing with whatever impact it might have on my health and body and the treatment procedures that will be administered to try and cure it. Just the thought of it all makes me close my eyes and scream in my mind. What did I do? Why did it have to be me? Fuck, I’m fucked up.

My other air passageways pictured here appeared to be in normal condition. As you can you, they look like normal tubes that disappears into a dark alleyway unlike the one with the pulmonary mass which is completely closed.
 Like I said, the pulmo team that administered the bronchoscopy and biopsy procedures did not immediately provide an explanation to what was revealed on the bronchoscopy screen which clearly showed the appearance of the two pulmonary masses. That’s because they have to wait for the result of the laboratory tests. Waiting kills me. I have been waiting since July.

Liquid samples were taken from my lungs and placed in separate bottles. There were also glass-like panels which they call “slides” that bore my blood and labeled as samples as well.

The last and bloodiest part was the biopsy procedure where they had to get a sample tissue directly from one of the pulmonary masses. I am not sure if they took samples from both but what I know is that it caused internal bleeding for a minute or two but the physicians were experts in their field and were able to suction the blood from the inside and stop further bleeding. 

For me, the experience was like no other. And despite the painless procedure, it is something I would never want done on me ever again. To be clear though, I do not want to create a scare about bronchoscopy and biopsy procedures as these are safe and significant requirements in curing lung diseases. I just want to be honest and share my own experience here.

I’m tired of googling but this was taken from the video of my biopsy procedure and this is one of the tubes they inserted in my lungs to perform the biopsy on me.

Bronchoscopy uses a bronchoscope, which is a thin, lighted flexible tube that can be inserted into the mouth or nose (yes they inserted that tube in my nose and through my throat until it reached my lungs) and through the windpipe (trachea) into the bronchus (airway) of the lung. The bronchoscope has a very small camera at its end. Biopsy tools can be passed through the camera to reach the nodule or pulmonary mass. At least, they did not administer needle biopsy on me because that is more scary. 

So I wouldn’t say it was a traumatic experience given that like I said, it is a required process when treating pulmonary diseases but I do want to say that it was kind of scary at first. My advise to people who are undergoing this type of procedure is to prepare yourself for it mentally and physically. Condition your mind and brain before it happen. During the procedure, remain calm and think only positive thoughts. Do not worry because your doctors won’t do anything that would risk your life so trust them and cooperate. Follow every instruction, take a deep breath when they say so and cough when they say so. When the tube has penetrated your trachea, you will feel like you’re a bit drowning. I think it’s because of the saliva build up or sometimes, blood and pleghm combined that they are trying to clean or remove from your passage ways through bronchial washing. Again, don’t worry as they will suction the liquid from inside to avoid filling your trachea. If you feel like panicking because you cannot breathe, don’t try to open your mouth and talk. Instead, try to breathe from your nose or mouth whichever is more convenient. Right now, I am still waiting for the results and will provide an update once I get them. 

The truth is, I’m really scared and it is stressing me out so bad. Not to mention, I have been feeling very depressed these past few months. I am unable to work and unable to do stuff that I used to do such as working out or just about anything that ignites my passion. In other words, this disease is slowly paralyzing and immobilizing my life. 

I try to google causes of pulmonary masses and all I get is lung cancer. Who wouldn’t be terrified by that? Lung cancer, according to VeryWell.com “is far too common, and is currently one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in men and women in the world. Lung cancer may occur even in people who have never smoke, and in fact, the majority (around 80 percent) of people who develop lung cancer in the United States do not smoke; they are either former smokers or never smoked.” Fuck it, I have never smoked.

This disease is really testing the toughness of my character. There are days when I just can’t comprehend why it is happening to me. I would question my lifestyle for the past ten years and find that I have always been health-conscious. I never drink or smoke in my life ever. I never engage in risky or physical activities that would jeopardize my body or whatnot. I have always been careful about what I eat or do. Yes, I have been choosy with the food I eat that sometimes I would skip meals but don’t we all sometimes? In addition, I didn’t think my eating habits would be that serious it could cause a lump or mass inside my lungs. But anything could happen. And it is happening to me.

Despite my faith, these are the times when it is easier to just think how unfair the world to me is. But what good is it to sulk in one corner and drown yourself in negativities? What good is it to regret everything or cry about it now? Right? Nothing. I’ll get nothing but sadness and that’s the last thing I want to be engulfed with. If anything, I want to stay calm and collected. I want to stay happy and find reasons to be grateful that I’m still alive and breathing. If anything, I want to be more inspired and amazed about life and believe that I have a purpose in this world and until I am able to fulfill that purpose, I won’t die. So let’s continue to hope that I do fulfill that purpose and live a little longer, okay? 😊

Of tattoos and real life pains

My tattoo means (from top) Love, Sun and Dream
My Kanji (漢字) tattoo which is composed of three Chinese characters; “love (愛), sun (日) and dream (夢)” is one year old today. I still remember the pain I’ve had while trying to get those characters inked on my lower left rib.

It was a grueling four hours of uncomfortable shifting and begging the tattoo artist to please give me a little break after every stroke of the needle on the left side of my poor abdomen. He told me that the tattoo could have taken just two hours without the occasional request for a break. He kind of understood me back then though because he was the one who told me prior to the procedure that the right and left abdominal parts of the body are just some of the most painful parts to get tattooed on.

And yet I was determined to put it there because I have thought and planned about it for years. I have carefully and thoughtfully chosen the Kanji characters because they are symbolic of what and who I am. Those three words -love, sun and dream are what embody my personality and aspirations in life.

It took more than an hour for each character to get tattooed to my body.
Love keeps us all alive. It keeps the world together and it reminds us all that we are human beings capable of feeling pain or joy and other types of emotion. We are all made out of love. We dedicate our whole life giving and receiving or to some – finding love because we need it for survival in this world.

The Sun, as we all know, is a powerful element that gives eternal light to the world. Everything on earth depends on the sun for the life it gives us. For without light on earth, there will be no source of life for plants and all kind of vegetation. All living things that depends on plants for food will also die. As wonderopolis.org perfectly puts it, “All plants would die and, eventually, all animals that rely on plants for food — including humans — would die, too. While some inventive humans might be able to survive on a Sun-less Earth for several days, months, or even years, life without the Sun would eventually prove to be impossible to maintain on Earth.”

Lastly, my dreams are very important aspect of why I continue to live in this world. I depend on my dreams to survive every day of my life because I know there’s gotta be something I can do to achieve all of them and I will. And I believe that my life will not be complete without reaching my dreams. It is the very essence why I wake up everyday and prep for work and all.

So that is the meaning of my tattoo and why I had chosen those three special characters. Now let’s go back to the pain it caused me to have that tattoo on my body.

Anyone who has experienced getting a tattoo would say that it somehow hurts a little. For me, it was my second time to get a tattoo (my first tattoo is a personal motto on my upper back and my shoulder blades) so I kind of had an idea of the level of pain I was getting into. What I was not prepared of was the difference between my upper back and my lower left rib side. Obviously, my shoulder blade and upper back are 20 times more capable of handling pain than my rib side. Needless to say, it was indeed painful but it was a good pain, you know? It’s the kinda pain that makes you smile after awhile. The kind of pain that really left a good memory. It happened because I loved it, I wanted it and it has a very special meaning to me.

For others out there who are thinking of getting a tattoo, go for it. But heed my advice first; please make sure that whatever it is that you wanted for a tattoo is something special and meaningful to you and not just a temporary bliss. Do not get a tattoo out of peer pressure or because it is in. Get a tattoo because you want that tattoo to remind you of what is special and meaningful to your life and why you continue to live in this world. My tattoos are two and one year old and I never regret any of them for once. I am proud to wear them everyday and I will be even when I am older. Also, I think it makes sense that if you are getting some kind of pain, it might as well be worth it.

Moving on, I can’t help but compare the pain I get from getting a tattoo to the real life pains I encounter everyday. Not that the pain from tattooing isn’t real but this time, I want to talk about emotional pain which apparently, can drive us all crazy. Having been born in February, I am a very emotional and sensitive guy. I wear it proudly but sometimes I am also aware that it doesn’t serve me well. Like whenever me and my siblings have a misunderstanding and things get nasty, I always think that I’m the loser even if (and admittedly) I throw on the most hurtful words at times. I am still left feeling regretful and wishing it didn’t happen and I didn’t say what I’ve said. And I would carry it in for months even if we’re back in good terms. That’s the thing with me, I don’t easily forget the pain a misunderstanding caused me. I also experience it when some of my closest friends and I had a falling out. I spent many nights sulking about the friendships I have lost and the bridges I have burned but in the end, all I can do is just wish everyone the best in our separate lives.

I think the most painful of pains are inflicted not by physical elements but by emotional ones. The pains caused by people whom you taught you could lean on to, the ones whom you taught would never betray you, the ones who for years have been there making you believe they will be there forever only to turn their backs on you when things get sour. Be it family, friends or people we so dearly love, you know what I’m saying is true. Nothing comes close to that pain we get when people disappoint us or we disappoint them. Nothing is more painful than your brother or sister disowning you for being who you are. Nothing can be more hurtful than a friend whom you thought you can defend on only to betray you in favor of another friend just because he is getting some kind of benefit from that person. But that’s life dear and I have learned the hard way of getting used to it because there is no reason to sulk about lost relationships or friendships or family feud, only an opportunity to learn from your mistake, pick up yourself and be a better person.

And maybe just maybe you’ll get a chance to repair those relationships and build those bridges again. Otherwise, continue being the best version of yourself and good things will surely come your way.

To the “friend” who let me down

I know walang connect sa pic! Pero kiver na!

As I was writing this piece, the famous lyrics to Justin Bieber’s song “Love yourself” hovered in my mind. “I didn’t wanna write a song, ’cause I didn’t want anyone thinking I still care I don’t but you still hit my phone up. And baby I’ll be moving on, cause I think you should be something I don’t wanna hold back.” 

Too harsh? That’s what you are to me as a friend. And recently I have been silent and forgiving, giving you the benefit of the doubt and hoping that we can fix our friendship. But it seems to me that you have stopped caring at all. It hurts to have a lump in your throat and today I am getting rid of it.

After many years of being friends, the two of us have fallen apart. We have finally called it quits. Yeah, I know. It’s so damn sad so tell me about it (insert eye roll emoji here). I wonder what took us so long? And I keep asking myself why it took me this long to realize that you weren’t actually my friend. In fact, you were never a friend to me. I have realized you were actually forced to like me because I used to be an indispensable part of the food chain. You were just there because you thought that I belong in your circle, or that we have something in common. It turns out we do have a lot in common but our commonalities weren’t enough to cover our differences.

Don’t get me wrong, I was willing to set aside the differences but you chose to play the silent treatment card on me. Thank you for making me feel like I was nothing because it actually helped me get a clearer view of who you really are. So you can play your silent card on me all you want but it’s been awhile and I have a life to live.

Ever since you ditched me, I took time to look back and reflect in all the times we have shared together as “friends.” It surprised me to realize that we have actually shared more memories together than some of the most genuine friends I have in my life. What made it worse is that some of my most treasured memories were spent with you. That is why I really thought you were my friend. The series of unfortunate events recently however, have led me to believe that we are never going to turn our closeness back. Our friendship is so broken that when I looked into it I can only see nothing but shattered pieces of something that was once beautiful –or so I thought.

In a nutshell, I’ve also realized I could have spent more time with you had you not been so fake to treat me well when we’re together and talk behind my back when I’m not around. I know what you have been up to all these years. You were talking shit about me and painting a bad image of me to our friends. In fact, you have been so professional in faking your stories that I think they actually believe you now.

I cannot blame them for choosing to sympathize with you over me. They have never heard my side of the story. Not that they gave me a chance to air it or that I care to clean my name. You know I was never a kiss ass to everyone. And I have always believed I don’t owe anyone an explanation for my actions because I have always been an open book —honest and true. Oh, it must be hard for you to understand what that means because it’s everything you are not. I was never the “people pleaser friend” who does anything to keep being friends with our well-off acquaintances. I cannot blame you either –fake people only respect people with power. I do not have the money or the power to help you when you need something.

It’s funny when you had your son’s Christening two years ago. I was invited yes. But I quickly noticed that everyone of our friends was selected as “ninong” or “ninang” except me so I opted not to attend. Please don’t get me wrong, it was fine but to expect me not to react and just understand your choices would have been a violation of the unwritten constitution of our closeness. Every single close friend of yours had a special role in the ceremony and I was just an spectator, a regular audience, an outcast. Of course I was hurt knowing you have set my feelings aside. Of course, I sulked about it because had it been my own son or daughter, I would have automatically put your name on my list without hesitations. Did you really expect me to just sit there like an outsider while everyone close to you gather in front to have an official godfather/godmother photo with your baby? It made me question what am I to you. Am I just a distant acquaintance? Am I just a common friend? You knew that things like that are like privileges bestowed to close friends only. You didn’t think we were that close because you were just faking your friendship with me. You deliberately crossed my name out in your list of sponsors because why would you choose me when you can opt for a richer friend for a godfather to your son, all right?

Remember that one time when we were supposed to hang out in this new roof deck bar in Makati and three days before our agreed date, you went and visit the same bar without me? I was hurt so I confronted you and you told me I was being ridiculous. You told me I was being unreasonable and childish. “‘Wag kang mag inarte!,” you lashed out at me. I remember how you did not even bother to hear where I was coming from at the time. You just voiced out your feelings to one of our friends who generously sympathized with you even though he knew I deserved to get angry. We had a plan. You ruined the plan and decided to visit the place prior to our scheduled date and without informing me. You were not apologetic at all. You made it seem like I was at fault, like I did not deserve to rant because you can do whatever you want because you didn’t actually care whether I join you or not.

Remember when we were in Davao back in 2015 and we had an argument about our bed assignments? You knew that for years, I am known to be generous and quiet when it comes to backpacking rules. I never complained even if I was getting less this and that despite the fact that I paid the same amount you guys did. You never hear me get mad even if I was constantly given the extra mattress on the floor while the rest of the guys get the regular comfier bed. Remember when one morning you woke me up at 5:00 fucking A.M. because my “extra mattress” was preventing you from opening the door? You pointed out that I should have asked for another room instead. You told me that I should have made sure that I got a bed for myself as well when you knew that standard hotel rooms only had two beds and that it would cost me a lot if I booked a room of my own. That time, I was being nice and cooperative. I was being a friend to everyone and yet you somehow had the nerve to make it seem like I was a burden to the group.

I’m sorry to have disappointed you. I’m sorry that I was not the friend you thought I could be. I’m sorry that I could not afford to be there all the time especially when you need something. You never asked for my help either –partly because you did not trust me enough and partly because you would rather ask for help from your richer friends. I think that’s quite practical, isn’t it? Having said that, I understand.

What I do not understand is how you have managed to pose as a friend and talk all kinds of shit behind my back all these years when you could have rejected my friendship in the beginning. What I do not understand is how you are able to attend your Sunday masses and be the perfect con artist at the same time. What I do not understand is how you put the blame on me when you knew you were not a genuine person to me from the very beginning.

When I look back to the words you said behind my back, I feel like the piece of trash I am to you all these years. It makes me want to regret knowing you. It makes me want to just throw away that page of my life where you had been and move on. It makes me want to be angry at you for betraying my trust and everything we have had as friends.

But I don’t want to be like you, a hypocrite. Although I am not as religious, I do maintain a certain set of principles that I quietly and religiously adhere to. 

Justin Bieber’s song maybe the most inappropriate for this piece but I wanted to point out that as the song says, it is okay to let go of the toxic people in our lives otherwise they will make it rain on our parades forever. So I will choose what is best for both of us and that is to forgive and move on regardless if I was being forgiven by you in return. 

You may think that what I have presented above are petty issues that mature individuals who have deep love for each other could have resolved through a gentle conversation. You may think that I am being a needy or clingy friend and whatnot. You are free to have an opinion. But if someone who are best friends with you for many years treats you like this wouldn’t you get crushed and deeply hurt? And this is beyond the issues I have mentioned. This is something more than just an issue of not getting invited to a night out or losing an important role in your friend’s son’s Christening. This is about the trust and respect that real friends reserve for each other. This is about the courtesy you always give your friend because you two have been through a lot together. And if I cannot trust you with petty things such as keeping my secrets and protecting my image like I did as your friend for many years, then I surely cannot trust you with bigger things. You suck, you don’t deserve me and vice versa. And I wouldn’t wish you as a friend to anyone.

I am done letting you disrespect my boundaries. I will not allow you to judge me again based on your biased interpretations and selfish ways. I will not allow you to spread false accusations against me anymore. I will not tolerate your fake friendship in my life again. Lastly, I am not going to let you put me down, nor will I allow your friends to belittle me and make fun of me ever again.

A letter to my present self

So I’m telling you, keep on fighting. I know it is hard. I know giving up seems an easier way out. But this is not the end of the world. This doesn’t mean your dreams are over. You will get through this.


Dear present self,

I know you are going through a very tough time. I know you are feeling down. I can’t imagine how much pain you must be feeling right now. A month ago, your world was shattered when doctors discovered you have a lump on the wall of one of your lungs. The lump can be anything benign but it can also be cancer. 

It’s hard for you to breathe. Your chest is hurting whenever you cough that sometimes, you even feel like it’s going to rip open; or that you might throw up blood. But it never happened. There is constant pain in your lower left chest and left back as well as your left shoulder. It could be a sign that whatever it is that’s inside your left rib is growing and posing a dangerous risk to your health. 

READ: There is a lump in my lung and I’m not backing down on this fight

You have lost appetite. More often, eating becomes an ordeal to you because it is just difficult to swallow food, any kind of it. You do crave halo-halo and sundae (ice cream) though. You missed the times when you are free to eat anything you like. Now everything is different.

You have lost a lot of weight. You can feel the shape of your bones against your skin. And while most people deem losing weight as a sign of being fit, to you this is a sign of being malnourished and anorexic. Considering your normal weight was just 52 kilograms. Now you are down to 42 kilograms. This is very unfair because you have spent nearly three years just to achieve a fit body. You have struggled to fight your eating disorder and adhered to a strict diet in order to stay fit. And you have made it. The once skinny boy has transformed into a man with a leaner and fitter body. But now the lean physique that you worked so hard to achieve is slowly being taken away from you —along with your sanity.

You have been hospitalized three times and have endured many grueling hours in the hospital. Your body has taken too much dosage of antibiotics but none of them was able to heal you. The doctors who looked into your case were so incompetent it took them three consecutive hospitalizations and almost one month to figure out that they should have performed CT scan earlier and not when they have already exhausted every penny you have to fund the biopsy procedure.

At first, you were in great denial. You didn’t want to accept that you have fallen ill. That instead of doing your daily routine —going to work, doing business, working out, enjoying time with your family and friends, chasing your dreams—you’re now going to be confined in the four corners of the hospital room until you are well. And there is no assurance to getting well to be honest.

There is a lot of doubts in your head right now. You are feeling a lot of pain. Both physical and emotional. This is a crucial time for you but this is also the time when you get to learn who among your so-called friends are real and who are not. Because it will be easy to ignore and forget you at this time now that you are down and have nothing. It will be easy for them to just hold their grudge or judge you without understanding where you are coming from. Nevertheless, just let it pass because going after people who don’t care about you is useless when you should be taking a lot of rest. People who don’t care about you when you are in deep shit would not care for you when you are well. You should let them go but should continue to pray for them as you have always done so.

You will feel like you are alone in this battle sometimes. Even the very person who is so dear to you do not seem to understand your situation. All you did was love people and all they did was to use and hurt you without the slightest concern about what you are going through. And this makes you feel like you are trapped with the wrong person. I know you will figure it out soon and you will make a decision to finally let it go. And it will take its toll on you above all else because you are not in your best health to deal with it. During these times, do not give in to your loneliness and depression. Find comfort from your family because they will never leave you behind. Find solace in the genuine love of those friends who chose to stay and reach out to you despite everything that happened. They are the people who will be there for you when you need them.

So I perfectly understand your pain. I totally get why you are depressed and why you are crying most days and nights. It is okay to be bitter about life, about what you could have accomplished if you will be given a second chance at life. It’s perfectly fine to rant and vent out. You need an outlet so let it all out, pour all your pain when you need to; but remember not to wallow in bitterness and pain too much. Pick yourself up and continue the fight. Stop playing the victim and own up every battle you have. I know it is easier said than done, and what happened to you shocked you to the bones. You never imagined you’d be in such a terrible situation where you are fighting for your life. 

But you are now whether you like it or not. So I’m telling you, keep on fighting. I know it is hard. I know giving up seems an easier way out. But this is not the end of the world. This doesn’t mean your dreams are over. This is just the beginning. Hold on tight and keep on fighting for your life and for the people who believe in you. 


Do not let other people take away your inner peace. It is extremely important that you trust yourself during these trying times. It is important to have a positive attitude and a better outlook in life. Always choose to see the best in people because that is how you were raised. Hold on to your faith in God and be nice, be a true Christian even when others are not and cannot.

Lastly, I dare you to never ever give up. The moment you gave up is the moment you failed to fulfill your promise to yourself. You will get through this. Remember, you have been through worst and you were able to get out of every mess. You will get away this time. You will emerge victorious. You will survive this disease. You will prove them wrong.

And I’ll see you in the future.

Love,

Your future self