Catch Your Zs With Good Night Relaxation Drink

Counting sheep is my pastime and the moon is my best friend.

For as long as I can remember, I have always had difficulty falling asleep. I will have to be dead tired before I can fall asleep because I either cannot find the right position or my brain is just still too full of seemingly endless energy. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking of the same difficulty sleeping as when I was having PTSD from an earthquake last April. I just was never a person who could fall asleep as soon as her head hits a pillow. So, when I found out that a colleague went on sick leave because of insomnia, I felt bad for him because I could understand the struggle.

yX9VdQSOR96oFRVG8igy6gI was in a 7-Eleven branch near my office, looking for something refreshing to drink when my eyes landed on this purple can. I love purple, which was probably why it caught my eye. But, when I saw what was written on the can, I knew I had to get one for my colleague and for myself to try. Priced at Php 85.00, this Good Night Relaxation Drink isn’t cheap, so I had high expectations.

On the can, it states that the drink contains herbal extracts, lemon balm, and hops. These help with stress and allow one to sleep more peacefully. The can contains 250ml, making a total calorie count of 50kcal, 12.5 grams of carbohydrates from sugar. It claims to not have artificial flavor enhancers, preservative or colorants.

XsmzmypcRhui0zhDoY+4oAThe drink is carbonated, making it like your regular sparkling water. It has a lighter color than a beer and has a taste of a very watery pear. I am not a huge fan of the taste, but I do not mind it that much. It’s not unpleasant at all but, I just never got the point of flavored water.

The website of this drink’s company says it’s made in Austria, but the idea started at the end of a couple’s vacation in Thailand. This was meant to be a substitute for drinking alcohol to aid sleep because alcohol can do more harm than good. Taken 30 to 45 minutes before your intended time to sleep, it can be taken on a daily basis. It’s not meant to knock you off because it is not a sedative, but it will help you sleep better through the lemon balm and hops in the drink.

Our work starts at 3PM and ends at 12MN. That’s why it’s very important that we manage to sleep right away before the sun rises because it will be harder to sleep then. So, I took the drink at 1AM on my first attempt with this drink. True enough, I didn’t find myself getting sleepy until it was already 3AM. I cannot remember anything else after I fell asleep.

You see, I don’t remember waking up in the middle of the night whether to pee or to drink or do anything else. I slept straight until 10AM the following day. The funny thing was, I was so bothered by my alarm clock that won’t stop buzzing despite all attempts to turn it off. It turned out that I was turning my alarm clock off in my dream and not in the real world. Thankfully, my Mom decided to wake me up properly.

How did I feel upon waking up? Groggy. I was so groggy that it took me another hour to get up. I felt like I was in cloud nine and without a worry about not making it to the gym that day to work out before going to the office. It sort of reminds me of the side effects of Lagaflex, a muscle relaxant I take for stiff neck and muscle pain, as prescribed by my doctor.

 I tried to understand why, despite not making me feel sleepy, it made me feel as if I took a sedative the night before. I came across articles saying lemon balm and hops have sedating effects. That being said, I wonder why the website states it’s non-sedative.

That being said, I strongly feel that people who have a high dependency risk should consult their doctor prior to taking this drink. I am not sure how much lemon balm and hops are in a can of this drink, but my how groggy I felt upon waking up was no joke. I seriously felt like I took a sleeping pill the night before. Whether I am just highly sensitive to the ingredients, I do not know for sure.

However, if you’re not someone who has a risk to be dependent on this drink to get a good night’s sleep, I can tell you that this works like magic! I slept peacefully through the night and was almost dreamless (damn that dream about turning my alarm clock off). I feel like it would work really well if you’ve been sleepless for a couple of days and you badly need sleep but do not take this when you have an early and important meeting or event to attend the following day.

Will I try it again? Yes! In fact, I have already taken half a can before I started writing this entry. I shall update you on the effects on taking just half a can. I hope I won’t feel as groggy tomorrow as I did on my first try.

Good Night Relaxation Drink is available in the Philippines through select convenience stores like 7-Eleven, Mini Stop, Circle K, Lawson, and San Mig Food Ave. It is also available through Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, All Day Supermarket, and BeautyMNL. Check out the drink’s Philippine Facebook page too for more info.

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Shaken

“An earthquake achieves what the law promises but does not in practice maintain,” one of the survivors wrote. “The equality of all men”.” ― Sebastian Junger, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

Close to seven hours ago, I was minding my business at work when I felt a jolt. I thought I was just dizzy, but some colleagues starting to look at one another. Then there was another jolt. Someone instructed, “duck, cover and hold.” I hid under my desk.

I am no stranger to earthquakes, but that minute or two of shaking was the scariest and closest I’ve been to an actual disaster. The building was swaying, the blinds were repeatedly violently slapping against the windows. I could hear officemates praying out loud for the shaking to stop.

It was the strongest earthquake I’ve felt my entire life and all I could think of for the first few seconds was my Mom. She was a city away and I knew she was feeling it too. I sent her a message telling her to pray for us, just as I was. Then, I texted my sister, who was boarding a flight from Korea to Hong Kong, to pray for us because the earthquake was strong. They were all I could think of at that moment.

After the shaking, we were waiting for the go signal to go down the emergency exits. You see, our company wishes to ensure that before letting us out, where we will pass is safe too. It took a couple of minutes to go down from the 25th floor via stairs. My knees were shaking by the time I reached the ground floor. Then, we headed to the closest open area.

It took a couple more minutes before we heard anything from the news. A magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit a place that was 67kms away from Manila, a city only a few kilometers from us. If that was how strongly the earthquake was felt in Manila, I could not imagine how much worse the experience was for those who lived closer to the epicenter. News reports about shaken buildings, toppled commercial buildings’ water tanks, and ruined airport soon surfaced. What we experienced was milder than most.

I thank God for keeping us safe. I guess it’s really important to be actually present in our lives and not just watch each day go by. We need to tell our loved ones that we treasure them and to let them feel it. We need to be kinder to one another because you never know who will come to your aid at the time of need. We need to take care of ourselves so we can help other people, not only those who are close to us. We also need to learn how to share, whether material stuff or not.

Be safe, everyone. I pray for all of us.

2019 Trip to Hong Kong: Going to Disneyland

“Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.” 
― Walt Disney

When my sister was in her first job, she made me promise to take my studies seriously. In return, she promised to bring me to Hong Kong Disneyland because she enjoyed it when she first when there. I think she was about sixteen at that time. That promise finally came to life in December of 2017. However, it was a disappointment. Rather, I was a disappointment.

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I work on a mid-shift from 3:00 PM to 12:00 MN. Our flight to Hong Kong was at 7:00 in the morning. From work, I was not able to sleep before needing to go to the airport and arrive three hours before our flight. So, when we got to Disneyland at around noon on that same day, I was so exhausted. I only got to enjoy the Festival of the Lion King show. We just ate lunch and walked around. We did manage to see the afternoon parade, but we just walked and walk around before deciding to just go back to the hotel and rest.

I promised myself I will do all that I can to ensure I will enjoy Disneyland. That being said, I made it a point to schedule our trip there on our second day in Hong Kong and before we go to Ocean Park. My sister told me that Ocean Park is bigger and will involve a lot more walking so it’s best to go to Disneyland before going to Ocean Park.

Tickets to Disneyland

7475370679004204604_img_1557We booked our tickets via Klook for PHP 3,700. We just presented our voucher to the personnel at the turnstiles and got in without any hassle. We were given ticket stubs in exchange.

You may wish to explore other ways to get tickets at discounted prices. Only when I got back did I discover Kkday and it was selling tickets for only PHP 3, 405!

There may be people who collect Disneyland tickets/stubs who will approach you to ask if you’re willing to exchange with them so they can complete their collection. I don’t necessarily think that the ticket will still be needed once you get in, so I think it’s safe to exchange with someone else. Jana and I were approached by a couple who exchanged my green stub with his red. We had no issues when we exited the theme park that night.

Traveling from Mong Kok to Disneyland

I guess the easiest and fastest way to go to Disneyland is via the MTR. Honestly, I did not explore any other options anymore.

There are two ways to get there when you ride the train from Mong Kok.

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This screenshot was obtained from http://www.mtr.com.hk/archive/en/services/routemap.pdf

Option 1: Ride the Tsuen Wan Line at Mong Kok Station towards Tsuen Wan and alight at Lai King Station. Transfer to the Tung Chung train line headed towards Tung Chung. Alight at Sunny Bay Station and transfer to the Disneyland Resort train.

Lai King Station is six stops from Mong Kok Station and four stops from the Tung Chung Line terminus at Central/Hong Kong Station. This means that the possibility of being able to sit in the train is slim as it is in between stations.

Option 2: Ride the Tsuen Wan Line at Mong Kok station towards Central. Alight at Central MTR Station and transfer to the Tung Chung train line. Alight at Sunny Bay and transfer to the Disneyland Resort train.

Central Station is five train stops away from Mong Kok Station. However, this is the terminus of the Tung Chung Line and that means the chance of being able to sit until we reach Sunny Bay was very high. Indeed, we were able to sit.

HOWEVER, Central Station is so wide that it involved A LOT of walking just to get to the Tung Chung train line. If it were not for walkalators/moving walkways, it would have been even more exhausting. That is why I was so glad we got to sit on the way to Sunny Bay.

The Octopus card cost from Mong Kok to Disneyland Resort is HKD 20.8. That’s roughly PHP 145.

For other means of getting to Hong Kong Disneyland, please visit their Travel Information page here.

Also, I can’t get over how cute the Disneyland Resort train is!

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To read more about my travels to Hong Kong, please click here.

2019 Trip to Hong Kong: Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple

“Your own positive future begins in this moment. All you have is right now. Every goal is possible from here.” 
― Lao Tzu

After my visit in February 2018, I promised myself that when I visit Hong Kong again, I will try my best to visit places I have not been to in the past. This was around the time the trip with Jana this March was planned.

As I researched about places to see in Hong Kong, I came across a few suggestions on temples to visit. Having been to Ngong Ping in Lantau Island already to see the Tian Tan Buddha, I was hoping to find other temples to visit near Mong Kok. As I read through the articles, my attention was caught by the write up on Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple.

According to Discover Hong Kong, this temple is home to religions of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. This temple also honors Wong Tai Sin, a monk born during the 4th Century who became a deity. Known to be a place where wishes made come true, worshippers flock to this temple to pray for good luck.

Wishes would come true? Oh wow! Sign me up, please.

Unfortunately, when I visited in September of 2018, Hong Kong was only recently visited by a super typhoon, Mangkhut. My sister advised against going to the temple as fixes were surely underway at that time. Sadly, I had to put off my visit for another time. I promised myself that when I visit next, this temple will be the first destination in my itinerary.

After checking in at the Harbour Hotel in Mong Kok (read my post about it here), we immediately set out to visit Wong Tai Sin. It seemed as if going by train was the easiest way to go, so we went to the MTR Station of Mong Kok and rode the Kwun Tong line towards Wong Tai Sin MTR Station. From Mong Kok Station, it’s five train stops.

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Screenshot obtained from http://www.mtr.com.hk/archive/en/services/routemap.pdf

Once in Wong Tai Sin MTR Station, we went out via the exit B3 – Temple Mall North. It led us right away to the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple.

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Yay! Finally, here!

For more information about the temple and its different halls and sections, you may visit the Sik Sik Yuen website here.

Another attraction of the temple is fortune telling. We noticed that people lighted incense sticks and prayed at the main altar, behind which was a section were people knelt while performing the initial steps of Kau Chim/Kau Cim (fortune-telling practice).

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Main Altar

Kau Chim involves a small bucket or cup containing fortune sticks numbered from 1 to 100.  One asks a question to the deity then starts shaking the cup until a stick falls out. In case more than one stick falls, he or she must pick up the first one that fell. The number on the stick corresponds to one of the one hundred written oracles that you can obtain from the fortune tellers at the Fortune-telling and Oblation Arcade section. 

Aside from the fortune sticks, one can also use jiaobei blocks. These are two pieces of wood carved into crescent shapes. A block is carved with one side flat and the other side rounded. One will ask a question to the deities and then drops the blocks on the ground. According to my research on the internet, there are different ways the blocks can fall on the ground and they have a corresponding meaning.

  1. One rounded side and one flat side up = Yes
  2. Both rounded sides up = No
  3. Both flat sides up = the gods are laughing. Either a “no” or the answer is so obvious there is no need to ask
  4. One or two blocks standing erect on the ground = null; repeat procedure.

To be honest, I do not understand how the fourth one can happen.

Anyway, I tried both kau chim and jiaobei. For kau chim, I got the number 14 and my question was about money. For jiaobei, my question is a little too personal to share. However, my first attempt to ask resulted to both flat sides up. The gods were laughing at me. I tried to ask differently for the same thing and my second attempt resulted to a “yes.” Maybe they took pity on me and knew how serious I was about not wanting to assume stuff.

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After Jana and I were done with kau chim and jiaobei, we proceeded to the fortune tellers’ area to have our fortune sticks interpreted.

We tried to find fortune tellers who can speak in English. The first one we found was Jenny Wong because she had a big sign board that said “ENGLISH.” She charged us HKD 40 for the reading. I think readings are normally HKD 25, so I guess a premium is charged for an English reading.

First, she asked the number written on our fortune sticks. Then, she asked what our question was; money, love, career, family, etc. She also asked us what year we were born in.

I told her I picked number 14 and that my question was about money. I proceeded to tell her that I was born in 1991. She took it as being born during the Year of the Lamb. However, I failed to mention that I was born before the Chinese New Year, technically making me born on the Year of the Horse. Oh well.

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Jenny told me that money will be better for me in 2019 unlike in 2018. However, she warned me against getting money from illicit sources like gambling or drugs. She advised me to do my best in my job or my business so that success will follow. Generally, 2019 is a good year for me.

I read up on horoscopes for the Year of the Horse online and it did say there’s also good fortune when it comes to wealth this year. Whew!

Jenny was a nice soothsayer. She was kind in her words and was not insistent when we refused to have palm or face reading. She humbly asked that we shared about her to others who might want to visit Hong Kong and the temple. I did not feel like she was telling us things that we wanted to hear in order to please us and entice us to have more readings with her.

I made a wish in Wong Tai Sin and I may have indulged a bit on the fortune telling side despite not having Taoism, Buddhism, or Confucianism as my religion. For me, we still control our choices in life, although I also still believe in fate and destiny. I believe that God will always have a plan for us and that His plan is always better than the plans we make for ourselves. It’s God’s plan that shall prevail no matter how we resist in the beginning.

I still hope that whatever I wished for in Wong Tai Sin will come true. After all, there’s no harm in wishing, right? In the meantime, I shall work on my own end to try and make that happen. You see, it’s one thing to wish and another to actually work on it. I can make a thousand wishes, but if I don’t take a step towards achieving it, what I want remains a wish.

By the way, if you want to know what’s written on the pink slips, you may want to visit this site.

If you wish to visit and experience fortune-telling, please visit Jenny’s booth. Hers is booth 114 if I interpreted her business card correctly. She’s super nice!

To read more about my travels to Hong Kong, please click here.

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I am still not sure what my purpose in this world is. All I hope for is to have been the reason someone smiled wider, laughed louder, cried less, loved deeper, felt braver, stood stronger, and dreamed bigger.

May I be more patient, more forgiving, more understanding, more loving, more generous, and more gracious to everyone.

May I be more comfortable in my own skin, more balanced in my emotions, more focused on my goals, more attentive to my needs, and more accepting of my flaws.

May I be more optimistic about my future, more proud of my strengths, more appreciative of my blessings, and more kind towards myself.

May I always be a blessing to others in need, a source of hope for the disheartened, a voice of reason to the confused, and a shoulder to cry on for the lonely.

May I be a gift to the world in ways even I cannot imagine.

Twenty-eight years down, many more to go.

Rams and Horses

“A horse loves freedom, and the weariest old work horse will roll on the ground or break into a lumbering gallop when he is turned loose into the open.” ― Gerald Raftery

I was born in 1991. When I turned to Google to know more about this year, it turns out that it was a very eventful one. Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that the following are just some of the events that took place on the year I was born:

  • It was the end of the Cold War
  • India turned its back on socialism and autarky
  • The first website was created
  • The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) was formed in The Hague, Netherlands.

The last bit actually took place on my birthday.

Every last few days of the year, Filipinos have a fondness for having fortune-tellers, who are knowledgable in astrology, be interviewed on TV to share what’s in-store for people based on their zodiac signs and the year they were born. While I believe that we make our own fate, it’s sometimes fun to indulge in these stuff just for the sake of it.

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Photo by Trinity Kubassek on Pexels.com

Growing up, I thought I was born on the Year of the Ram/Goat/Sheep like my Mom who was born in April of 1955. At home, Mom and I had the closest personalities and I just attributed that to the possibility that being born rams had something to do with that.

A recent conversation with my Singaporean cousin-in-law about Chinese Zodiac got me thinking about personality assessments I used to read as a child about the signs and wondered what it “meant” to be an Aquarius child born on the Year of the Ram. A little research and Googling of my birthday led me to discover a shocker. I was born on the Year of the Horse.

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Here’s the thing about Chinese Zodiac. Even if they say that 1991 is the Year of the Ram, you have to check whether your birth date is before or after the Chinese New Year of your birth year. So, since I was born on February 11 and Chinese New Year that time was on the 14th, I technically still fall under the Year of the Metal Horse instead of the Metal Sheep.

So what’s the difference between the two? These are lifted from Travel China Guide website:

Horse

Sheep

Enthusiastic and energetic Gentle and calm
Warm-hearted Sensitive to art and beauty
Does not give up easily Loves quiet life
Independent and has strong endurance Hardworking and persistent
Too blunt Indecisive
Upright Timid
Easygoing Moody
Helpful Wise
Friendly Compassionate
Loves spending Sticks to prescribed order
Always works on self-improvement Lacks flexibility

I see that they have some qualities that are not far from the other, but also have opposite ones. I actually think I am a mix of both.

Then again, that’s what we are as humans. We have different sides to us and those sides make us the perfectly imperfect beings that we should embrace. We are all just trying to make a sense of this thing called life and one trait should not define our entire being. The same goes for our mistakes. We are not dolls that can be put in boxes and labeled because we are dynamic beings. We’re always evolving, always changing, and hopefully, always improving.

So, while I enjoy reading about personality assessments and stuff, I still believe that we make our own destiny in this world. We cannot discount our capacity for love and forgiveness because we are capable of so much more than we think we are. With our lives interlaced, things happen around us based on choices we make, good or bad. I don’t think that the alignment of the stars can influence that.

That being said, I will now be reading what’s in-store for people born on the Year of the Horse this 2019. Just because I don’t believe in fortune-telling does not mean I do not like being told I will have a lucky year. Who knows? There might be a sweet coincidence waiting to happen for me next year.

Packed Lunches

“I don’t know what it is about food your mother makes for you, especially when it’s something that anyone can make – pancakes, meat loaf, tuna salad – but it carries a certain taste of memory.” -Mitch Albom

I bake a lot. True. Cooking, though, is something we have reserved for Mom to do. Whether it’s my inherent dislike for touching raw meat and fish or just the worry that I will make a disaster in the kitchen, I do not know why I am not yet inclined to explore cooking as much as I explore baking. Or maybe because my Mom always behaves like a food critic when we go out to eat so I am afraid she will not find my cooking to her liking. It’s weird because I let her taste the stuff I bake too. It’s just that I am a bit more adventurous at baking than she is.

Mommy was always hands-on despite being on-the-go. I remember back when she used to work, even if we had help at home, she made it a point to wake up early to prepare our baon (packed meal) for school. She did this everyday even after she was forced to retire when I was fifteen. And even when my sister and I started working already, Mom still prepared our food to bring to work.

Weird, right? Well, in the Philippines, one is not required to move out at age of eighteen. Those who can afford to work in the main business districts of the country without having to move out and rent their own place would find this pretty normal. There’s not much pressure to be on your own here. I guess it’s part of our being a close-knit family type of society that has to do with it.

Having been retired for more than ten years, I bet Mom’s bored at home. Recently though, she’s taken up drawing and coloring. At work, I would sometimes find my phone with message alerts from Mom, sending me a pic of her latest artwork. It’s cute, really. Sometimes though, I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that roles seem to reverse as one gets older. I used to be the one showing her my drawings as a kid. Now, she’s showing me hers.

Another hobby she discovered lately is food art or something about bento making. She saved her pension money to buy herself the tools to make lunches cute. For quite some time though, I wondered why nothing was coming out of all her purchases. Until one day, I discovered my rice smiling at me.

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Normally, I would see the food she was preparing while having my breakfast. I was not able to on the day she made this. She even managed to give it a blush! My office mate saw it and almost choked on his drink because he found the face funny in a good way. He told me it’s a good thing that my mom has something making her busy or striking her interest.

Of course, rice would not be good on its own. I had some meat and egg on the side as well.

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How she managed to make the heart, I do not know. All I know is that I found it adorable even if I felt like a first grade kid. Imagine if bento making was a thing already when I was a kid. I bet I would be the envy of my classmates!

Motivated by my happiness over my cute meal, she exceeded herself the following day. Oh what fun she must have had while making this!

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I realized how lucky I still am to have my Mom around. And overly protective might she be, I am lucky that there’s someone who still eagerly takes care of me and cooks good food for me. Despite not having a perfect relationship with her and having had lots of fight with her, she’s still always there for me and my sister.

She’s engrossed with drawing again and I recently got her a box of oil pastels. There’s been no cute packed meals lately. I am sure though that when it strikes her again, she would make more adorable designs.

Memories in a Can

A recent trip to the grocery had me buying myself a can of Cali Pineapple. It’s not the same Cali that I used to drink as a kid but it still brings back the memories.

A shandy (a mix of beer and lemon/lime soda), Cali was introduced to the Philippine market in 1995 by San Miguel Brewery. I understand now why it was so popular when I was around 6 years old (I was born in 1991). It was perfect for adults who didn’t want to drink an ordinary soda but was even more perfect for teenagers who wanted to act like grown ups.

My dad loved Cali, particularly Cali Ice. He often bought a few cans when we did our groceries so that he had something to drink while watching his favorite PBA team, Brgy. Ginebra. If not basketball, he would watch Filipino action movies with those famous action stars and their leading ladies who were always damsels in distress.

Having only daughters for his children, he had us grow up watching those TV shows with him at night. What Papa did not know (but eventually realized) was that my sister and I would steal some of his Cali. He sat on a chair while my sister and I sat on the floor. With his eyes glued to the TV, he could not see my sister and I with our stolen can of ice-cold Cali that we made sure to pop open in the kitchen so that he would not hear the fizzing sound.

When he found out, we got scolded and we were told that it was beer that we were drinking and that it was not for kids. My sister and I felt so kick-ass that time for drinking adult beverage.

As we grew older, the household expenses increased. Eventually, Dad stopped buying Cali already. I was around 8, I think, when we stopped buying Cali.

The next time I drank Cali was already in 2017, when I was on an out-of-town assignment in Legazpi, Albay. It tasted different to the drink I got used to as a kid. Maybe the formula has changed or maybe my taste buds have changed. It’s truly more of a soda than a shandy now.

What memories shall I make with a can of Cali now?

It’s Not a Joke

“There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, ‘There now, hang on, you’ll get over it.’ Sadness is more or less like a head cold- with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.” – Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees

June 2018 was a month of triumph in the Philippines for mental health awareness. The president signed the Philippine Mental Health Law, or Republic Act 11036. This law aims to make it easier to access mental health care in ways like raising mental health awareness through education and providing mental health services to the society, starting from the barangay level. The barangay is the smallest administrative division in my country.

Despite my opinion of our president, I do know when to acknowledge that he has done a good job. This law is one of them. I also commend the authors of the law for the hard work that they have put into it. It’s time we acknowledged that mental health is important in our overall well-being.

Where I work, they are also pushing to raise awareness on the company’s efforts to help employees dealing with mental health concerns. We had a representative from the healthcare department discuss the services available in our clinic to help us cope or deal. They showed a video presentation on how managers can detect and help employees who might be undergoing mental health concerns.

In the said video, the female employee was not her usual self. Her manager got her to open up even just a little and she did reveal that she was having problems with her boyfriend. To this statement, a colleague made a remark  that went along the lines of “boyfriend lang pala, mental health issue na (just a boyfriend issue and it’s a mental health issue already).” I don’t know from whom it came because I think the person was not from the same aisle I was seated. All I know is that some people laughed at that remark.

Just one statement. They already judged the issue as petty and not worthy of being categorized as a mental health issue. This is exactly why people undergoing depression and anxiety find it difficult to open up about their condition. People judge without listening to the whole story.

What if the boyfriend was being too possessive and controlling to the point that she is treated like property? What if the boyfriend was insecure of her success and so, he makes her feel like she’s not worth anything? What if he was pushing her to do things she is unwilling to do? What if he beats her and hurts her in places where bruises won’t be visible to others? The possibilities are endless! The lady was only starting to open up. Of course she would start in the shortest way possible to explain what she’s going through. Details will come later.

Okay, benefit of the doubt. Maybe the person is someone who thinks out loud and that was just an initial thought that was leaning more towards wondering than judging. After all, we all have our own tones and manner of saying things. Still, it is important that when we deal with mental health issues of family, friends, colleagues or just about anyone who happened to be opening up to us, we put focus on listening rather than anticipating what will be said next or judging every word/sentence that will be uttered. We need to have a view of the bigger picture first before we say anything because people who are undergoing depression, anxiety disorders and other mental health conditions may be pushed down further into their condition when we behave so carelessly and dismissive of their feelings.

Stop hiding behind #JustSaying or #RealityTalk or #JustBeingHonest to excuse lack of tact. Lady Gaga says in her song, “‘Til it happens to you, you won’t know how I feel.” But even then, there’s a huge chance that we’ll react differently.

We must not judge the gravity of the problems of other people based on our own metrics and standards. What is petty to you may be tremendously big of a deal to others. Similarly, what may be petty to others may mean the world to you. We all come from different backgrounds, different upbringing, and different experiences. We cannot judge a problem to be petty until we have been in their shoes. Let us be empathic and listen to understand and feel where they are coming from.

We still have a long way to go for people to be more open-minded about mental health. In the meantime, let us be careful when throwing around the words depressed, anxious, bi-polar, schizo and other mental health conditions. In this age of social media, these are sometimes used to describe situations that are actually very far from their real context. So, people start thinking that these are minor issues only and just part of acting up, seeking attention or being melodramatic. Let these words be used for what they should be used for.

Epiphanies

“Sometimes, things happen because we make them happen. And sometimes, things happen because they are meant to lead you where you’re supposed to be in that exact time and moment–because that is exactly where you need to be.”

I was raised a Catholic. I went to Catholic schools from grade school to college. In my high school years, I happened to often be assigned to be the commentator for mass celebrations. I am not sure if that’s what you call that role but I basically led the people in their responses and I instructed them when to stand, sit or kneel. When I wasn’t doing that, I was in the choir.

However, what most people did not know was how detached I felt every time I was doing it. Okay, maybe not the part when I sang with the choir because I liked singing even if I was far from being an awesome singer. Still, going to mass was something I didn’t voluntarily do. Growing up, most of my mass attendance were because of the first Friday mass celebrations in school. The rest were for special occasions that called for a thanksgiving mass or something of that sort. It felt mandatory.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in God, I pray (mostly in my head) and I base most of my decisions to what I grew up thinking was right. But, I didn’t feel like I fit in. Because of that, I would feel ashamed when asked if I went to church on Sundays and I would say I don’t. I would feel like I am this delinquent child of God who would rather spend time at home than go to His house.

But lately, I’ve been feeling that I should do something about my faith. I just do not know whether I should be doing less of something or more of something. I do not know where to start. Granted that I’ve always relied on God and Jesus through everything I had to go through, I felt a compelling need to know or discover more than what I grew up with.

Last Sunday, I went to a Christian church service where my third cousin was serving as the pastor. I have never heard him speak about faith until that day. The last time I saw him was eighteen years ago when we had this huge family reunion and I don’t even think he knows about my existence at all (although he was my Facebook friend in my old account that I recently deleted).  All I knew was that if I was going to a Christian church service, he had to be the pastor on that day. So, I braved myself to send him a Facebook message and prayed to God for him to notice that message and reply to it because, yeah, Messenger has a separate storage for messages from non-FB friends. By God’s grace, he replied and I made it a goal to see how he leads a service for myself.

Their whole service was so much different from the Catholic mass celebrations I grew up knowing. But for some reason, I didn’t once feel like an intruder or asking myself what the heck I was doing there. I felt like I was supposed to be there and that recent events were all leading to that day when I would find myself there. My cousin was so awesome in his sermon. I was not bored at all and there were parts of his sermons that were not even his major points but managed to hit me close to home.

I left the assembly place feeling as if a bunch of questions I had suddenly had an answer. Although, more questions also came up but figuring out their answers will be for another time. It was a wonder how one church service could make me realize so much about myself and my fears.

I’m going back this coming Sunday to see if it still feels the same. I want to see where this will lead me. Whether I will convert or not remains to be seen. I want to grow spiritually and I shall do what I have to do in order to achieve that. All I know is that at this moment, what I still hold most important is that no matter what we believe in, what is important is that we treat each other with love.

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