a child like you and me

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I found these photos today while cleaning up an old flash drive.  Once upon a time, when I was fresh out of college and had big dreams to change the world, I worked as a therapist in a shelter for abandoned and street children in the Philippines. I worked there for about a year before I was accepted and went to grad school in Southern California. Seven years later, here I am.

Just thinking about those days makes my heart ache a little. It was more like volunteer work really, because we only got a monthly stipend that was not even enough to cover my basic expenses. Of course, I didn't know what the heck I was doing and there were times when I'd come home sobbing after hearing stories about a child's difficult life in the streets, but for the most part, we were happy.  It was a very simple life.

I still wonder about those kids. How are they now, what have they become, are they out of the streets? And sometimes, I still wonder about the girl that I once was, the girl who worked with those kids. A couple of days ago, I was so exhausted that I had to lie down and close my eyes for 10 minutes (working with children and adults who act like children does that to you), I started to question why I'm still doing what I'm doing. I still don't know and I suspect that it will be a long process of introspection. But I am grateful for these photos, for the gift of remembering. Its a good place to start.

aren't they beautiful?

street kids in mactan

Back stories
:: It was my first time meeting little boy in photo #1. He was very shy at first but eventually he introduced me to his siblings in photo #2. They were all part of our feeding program.

:: Boys in photo #3 lived in the streets in Mactan Island. I didn't work with them but they were so excited to have their photo taken and so jumpy I had to take it couple of times because all of them came out blurry, except for this one.

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends. xo

wuthering heights

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I love Wuthering Heights. Its definitely one of my favorites, if not THE favorite book.  No matter how many times I've read it or certain parts of it, I'm still left in awe of Emily Bronte's genius.  So I obviously squealed when I saw these drawings by Lizzy Stewart (via The English Muse).

Isn't the family tree just awesome? It's kinda how I imagined the characters would look like. And Hareton, sweet Hareton. I know Heathcliff is the one that makes all the ladies swoon but it is Hareton who has my heart.

おと な り (Oto Na Ri)

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I saw the Japanese movie Oto Na Ri last week and really loved it. It is exactly my kind of film -- great character study, slow and meandering, very subtle. I really liked that much of it is left unsaid and it doesn't come with an ending tied with a perfect bow. Rather, it leaves room for the viewer's imagination and in a way, the viewer participates in the story making. You'll find yourself wondering what happened to the characters later because its so believable that you will think surely these people must exist somewhere.

So yes, if you are in the mood for a light and unconventional love story, I highly recommend this film. And make sure that you watch until the very end. The best part is right when the credits are rolling. Oh, and on a personal note, I absolutely adore the lead characters and their quirks. And how they are both artists (he is a photographer and she is a florist).

P.S. You can watch trailer here. Or watch the entire movie with English subtitles here.

wondering, wandering.

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Evening. My knee was feeling stiff and achy again so I decided to take a long walk. Somehow, every time I wander around, I often end up in a bookstore. This time, its Aardvark Books at the corner of Church and Market Streets, right by the J-line stop. The bookstore is small but they have a great selection of poetry books and I love how its sort of haphazardly organized, like you are just walking into someone's library. They're also open until 10:00 PM so its good for evening book-browsing.

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And how can you not love a small neighborhood bookstore with a cat? I later found out that the cat's name is Owen. They said that he likes to walk up and down the aisle and browse around. Isn't he beautiful? I must admit, I'm not really a cat person, but Owen is so mellow and lovely and I instantly fell in love with him.

Oh, remember how I just talked about wanting to read Marguerite Duras' The Lover? I found it here for 4 bucks! Did any of you read this book or watch the movie? If so, what did you think of it?

have a lovely easter weekend.

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This is my favorite spot at the Japanese Tea Garden. I like sitting on this bench or on the grass below. Right now all the flowers are in full bloom so when you lay down the grass, the sky is covered with cherry blossoms. It's such a beautiful, beautiful sky.

I hope you all have a lovely and peaceful Easter weekend. I'll be driving down south and spending it with one of my favorite people. There's also a film festival in town that I'm really excited about. Meanwhile, here's some inspiration around the internets that I want to share with all of you:

Film stills from The Lover. (I so badly want to read the book now!)

Sofia and Christina's joint project, the Inventory of Poetic Days.

Holly's ballet date photos. Oh so gorgeous.

The sweetest post. Ever.

A new favorite artist. I cannot stop listening to this song.

Have a good one, my friends! xo

where the soft air lives

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If I had my way, everyday is 70 degrees and sunny, I'd wear dresses and pretty shoes and wander around, walking or biking everywhere, taking pictures, and writing a story or two of people that I met along the way. Instead, here I am in a slightly dazed state with my mouth still aching from an oral surgery this afternoon, already thinking (read: stressing) about all the things that needs to be done and the paperwork that I still need to catch up on. Yep, its one of those weeks.

Two days ago I had to buy a pair of orthopedic shoes that were prescribed by my physical therapist. I wanted to cry at the store. Yes, they are good for my feet and especially my knees, but they all looked so bulky. I picked the least "sensible-looking" one and hoped for the best. It's not as if I have a choice. I have to do what my therapist tells me to do if I want my knee injury to heal faster. Still, it sucks that I have to say goodbye to my all my cute shoes. Or at least not wear them often. Sigh.

But there are some good news. I'm slowly getting back into ballet again and my teacher said that I am getting stronger. My knees don't ache as much anymore when I walk up and down the stairs. Despite my crazy schedule and knee and dental issues, I still managed to get my taxes done and I'm still keeping up with my Japanese classes. In fact, I just watched a Japanese movie and was pleasantly surprised that I understood a good portion of it without looking at the subtitles. Little victories that are sweeter because I had to work harder for them.

I remember a lay missionary once told us, in reference to the Holy Week, that "there are days that feel like its Friday, but we have remember that (Easter) Sunday is coming."

Yes, it is. And I am so looking forward to it.

P.S. Holly took this photo with her Diana camera when we went to Sonoma last summer. Thanks, Holly!

colors of spring

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Peonies and daffodils that I bought at the Farmer's Market today.

What does the season look like in your side of the world?

today's inspiration: a dance for one

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Australian clothing label Lover always makes the most beautiful short films. Remember how much I swooned over The Harvest last year? Well, I think they just outdid themselves with A Dance for One, a short film to compliment their latest ballet-inspired collection. It features Amber Scott, a senior artist with the Australian Ballet. Check out the dreamlike sequence and their lovely clothes in the video below.


Don't you just love the music too? Its Gymnopédie No.1 by Erik Satie. I recognized it immediately because one of our second-grade teachers always plays it right after lunch recess. She says it calms down her students.

P.S. I hope this will inspire you too. Here's to a great week. xo

photo du jour

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Some paper cranes and wishes that people wrote at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown today. Also, it looks like my dream of visiting this beautiful country will come true sooner than I thought. Crossing my fingers for December. I can't wait!

How about you, how was your weekend?

asleep on a sunbeam

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Lying here asleep on a sunbeam,
I wonder if you realize you fascinate me so.

This song
gets me. Every. Time.


Have a lovely weekend, my dears. xo

the music house and other musings

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Last week, I was walking behind these young girls on my way to Green Apple Books. They were probably high school students, chatting about music, school, books, and of course, boys. They were loud enough that I can hear them but they were talking all at once that its hard to follow their conversation. I smiled because this always happens when girl friends get together, multiple conversations happen at the same time.

This could have been me and my friends 15 years ago. I can still remember it vividly, we'd rush excitedly out of our high school, take the jeepney downtown to our thrift store heaven, The Music House. I don't know why it was named that way because they sell mostly used books but I do recall that there was an antique piano near the back of the store. The Music House was our secret hideaway, we spent many afternoons browsing and daydreaming there, sometimes huddled at the corner near the fiction books, reading phrases to each other.

One day, my friend Iris accidentally knocked down a shelf of books and sent them all crashing to the floor. My friend Lecel and I immediately went towards her when all of a sudden a cute boy came out from behind the counter to help us. Where did he come from was the question that the three of us were thinking, as we stared at him and then knowingly at each other. I'm not exactly sure what happened after, I think he smiled and we turned mute and melted like a puddle of goo.

It turned out that cute boy was the owner's son who was a university student in Manila and was home for his semester break. We only saw him once after that but he sure was the topic of conversation for weeks on end. Compared to that university boy who read Hemingway, the boys in our high school seemed immature and uninteresting. I must admit, we just made up the Hemingway part but we did see him reading a novel behind the counter. Ha!

I thought about all this today after I learned that 3 of our local bookstores are closing, one with a sign that says 60% off, Everything Must Go. Call me old-fashioned but this somehow feels like the end of an era. I know that using devices such as the Kindle and other digital readers is more convenient and practical these days but at the same time, I can't help but wonder about the loss of other experiences that come from browsing, buying or borrowing books. I remember the very first time my mom bought me a book, how choosing one in the children section felt like the most important decision in my life, and how happy I was walking out of the bookstore with my precious book in my hands.

Or am I just being sentimental for thinking this way? What do you guys think? I'd love to hear your opinion. And thank you for reading, as always.

P.S. Photo above was taken with disposable camera #3.

poetry 시 (shi)

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Every once in a while, a movie grips me by the heart and breaks it just so, then heals it at the same time, leaving an impression so deep that I am changed by it.  This is the case of Poetry, a small South Korean film written and directed by Lee Chang-Dong. I came out of the cinema feeling a little dazed, both from the emotions stirred by the movie and adjusting my eyes to the blinding late afternoon light. I can't even remember much of my drive back home.

The story centers around Mija, a woman in her sixties who attempts to write poetry for the first time. She is raising her teenage grandson alone on a meager income, relying on government subsidy and working as a part-time caregiver for an elderly man who has had a stroke. Her mundane life is interrupted when she finds out that her grandson is involved in a serious crime and at the same time she is diagnosed with early dementia. What starts as a simple whim to enroll in a poetry class soon becomes the glue that holds her life together as she struggles with her memory loss and the harsh realities of being a poor woman in a male-dominated society.

Although this may seem like a recipe for melodrama, the film is anything but. It is very subtle, the music is almost muted and the dialogue is sparse. The story itself unfolds like a visual poetry, it shows rather than tells, inviting the audience to arrive at their own personal interpretation with so little words.

Even the suffering is beautiful.

I wrote this on a piece of paper while watching the film. It must have been a line by one of the characters but I also find that it rings true, both in poetry and in life. This is what makes the movie special. It never attempts to simplify or romanticize pain and suffering but rather it shows it like it is. And by doing so, transcends it so beautifully.

P.S. The movie is currently playing in select theaters in the U.S. You can watch the international trailer here. I really hope you guys can see it!

muir woods

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The birds are silent in the woods.
Just wait: soon enough
You will be quiet too.
-- Robert Hass, After Goethe


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We went on a short hike around Muir Woods yesterday afternoon. The smell of the Redwood forest, the way streaks of sunlight shine through those tall ancient trees, all that light -- its glorious. And so good for the soul. This is definitely one place in the Bay Area that I would recommend you should experience.

P.S. The woods is about 12 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Entrance fee is $5 for adults and children can come in for free. More info on how to plan your visit here.

happy weekend!

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Some more photos from disposable camera #3. Taken at My Happy Place (a.k.a. Green Apple Books). And now that spring and warmer days are here, its so good to finally be able to bring a book out, go to a park and read with the sun shining brightly on my face. I'm also looking forward to listening to this violin concerto at the Symphony tonight and going on a hike in the woods tomorrow.

How about you, what are you up to this weekend? Whatever it is, I hope its lovely.

P.S. Have you seen the new Jane Eyre movie yet? I loved it!

"it's okay if your shoes aren't doing it"


I love this video. It feels like the story of my life right now. Yesterday, I took my first ballet class after being away for more than 2 months. Today, I started a new semester of Japanese class. I didn't take the finals last semester because I missed classes after being sick so much so I'm repeating it again. In both classes, I felt a little out of sorts, like I'm threading a new yet familiar ground again.

Its very fascinating how much the body and the mind remembers and just as quickly, how much it forgets. During our practice conversations in Japanese, I completely forgot so many things that its almost like starting anew. Its the same thing with ballet. While doing our routine at the bar, I had to stop myself from over-thinking and just let my body take over, even if I made mistakes here and there.

Baby steps. Or as the teacher said to her little ballerinas in this video, "Its okay if your shoes aren't doing it." Wish me luck.  

disposable camera #3

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My love affair with disposable cameras continues. I am now carrying one in my bag everywhere I go. I love that I don't have to worry about settings and controls and just take a photo whenever I feel like it. At the same time, since each camera only comes with a certain number of shots, there's also a degree of mindfulness each time I press the button. I try to only take 1 or 2 shots in every place that I go. The picture above was taken from a small bridge in Half Moon Bay.

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Early morning at the train station.

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A flower shop along Highway 92.

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View from one of my schools during St. Patty's Day.

sakura sake (cherry blossoms, bloom)

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Cherry blossoms bloom inside my heart.
Dreams without names started to grow.
-- Arashi, Sakura Sake

I can't remember being this happy about the change of season. This past winter was long and harsh for me -- I wasn't in my best of health and got sick a lot, I also injured my knee and had to take a break from ballet. But now spring is here and my knee is feeling better. I've been getting physical therapy and hopefully will go back to doing ballet and taking long walks soon. Everywhere I go flowers are blooming and I can't stop smiling. Ah, it sooo good to feel the sun on my face again!

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All of these photos were taken at the Japanese Tea Garden. Walking around tree lined pathways, hopping along stone bridges, listening to the sound of gentle water flowing, sitting on grass strewn with cherry blossoms -- I felt my heart expanding, bit by bit.

Thank you, spring. ♥

there is thunder in our hearts.



I love this scene so very much. It is taken from this French movie.

April is here and it's my spring break week!
The sun finally came out after weeks of heavy rain.
I'm off to celebrate outdoors.

I hope its sunny where you are too! xxo.

(Title via)