And so it was on a beautiful sunny February day when we decided to hit the trails for the first time this year. A rather late snowfall has visited Vancouver mid-February so skiers and snowshoers have been congesting the more popular Cypress and Seymour trails. As one not too fond of crowded hike spots, we opted to check out what lesser-known North Vancouver trails would lead us. And we were not disappointed.
Featuring Kaidu, the Siberian Husky, and Kojin, the dachschund, it was a delightful intermediate hike to loosen those taut muscles for more challenging hikes this 2019, I hope. 🙂
Emotional and mental health have somewhat been foreign concepts to me for the most part of my life, having been raised in a community where being emotionally delicate is dubbed as “kapoy” (weak) and the mentally-challenged are stigmatized. We are reared with the expectation to be always “taraki” (capable and strong) otherwise you won’t be able to find your way in the world, much less survive everyday struggles. For this, I am eternally grateful. I can confidently say that I was taught enough resilience and soundness of mind to enable me to somehow cope with the various trials and tribulations that have shadowed different stages of my life…or so I thought.
But human emotions have their limit. Like there’s only so much love one can give, only so much tolerance one can bear, and only so much loss one can accept to be fair. While we are all battling with the madness of this pandemic, I had to suffer back to back personal losses that set back my fortitude to the lowest notch. I had to personally experience fathomless grief and pain, not just once, but twice, to have full awareness of the decline of my emotional health and how it can drastically affect one’s well-being and functionality.
I had to learn the hard way that forcing yourself to be okay does not make things get better. I had to convince myself a lot of times that I am allowed a pass to be not “taraki” this time around. And then I had to acknowledge that I was undergoing the word that has never been readily recognized by the environment that I grew up in–depression. I believe that was the first big step towards coping, accepting that I am not vulnerable to this emotional state that is plaguing millions of individuals the world over.
Understanding the triggers to my emotional setbacks means attempting to accept these personal tragedies as an effort to reconcile with reality, no matter how agonizing it is. I find out that some days are easier than others, and I have no control over these much as I want every waking day to be better than yesterday. And there are definitely no shortcuts. I attempted going back to work after a brief leave with high hopes that sticking to my routine would establish a sense of normalcy that would ease me back to the daily grind that I’m accustomed to. But I was just not ready. This is something that just cannot be rushed. I realized that I have to be kinder to myself. That I need to allow myself to fully experience these tsunamis of emotions—repeatedly, and who knows how long.
Coping isn’t always a promising progression. One day I feel more like my old self, the next I just want to curl into a ball and exhaust myself bawling my heart out. But regression perhaps needs to be a part of it. One has to feel all these emotions, let them all out lest you burst or self-destruct.
Through it all, I needed to be reminded everyday that I was not alone. And though sometimes it works communing with just myself, most times reaching out to a kind, non-judgmental ear works wonders. Self-therapy, physical therapy, pet therapy, meditation, nature therapy, professional therapy–there’s not a single cure. I seek for that stalwart figure or figures to be my ready shoulder while being resolute in reconnecting to my dependable old self.
Here enters “kasiyana”. Loosely translated to mean ‘it will be okay’, “kasiyana” is that one term in our vernacular that encompasses an array of meanings and unspoken words of reassurances. It is like a big, warm hug, a very reassuring pat on the back, a firm clasp of the hand, and a hundred words that tell you, without literally telling you that somehow, it will really be okay. It’s a single word, but very heartening when one believes in it.
The same community that taught me and molded me with all these beliefs and values ingrained this basic but very powerful word. It makes me believe in silver linings. Because at the end of the day, with all the losses and the grief and the emotional torment, what else do we have left but faith. Faith that indeed, everything will get better. Faith that you will be alright. That you deserve good things after being denied some.
The first few times I heard my elders say “kasiyana” and implied the aid of the “adi kaila” ( the unseen), I never really bothered knowing if they referred to God, the deities, otherworldly entities, the cosmic forces, or maybe a bit of all. But whatever it was, I realized it was helpful to have something to hold on to. Religion, cultural beliefs and the values I have been grounded in are all crucial in somehow keeping me afloat day after day. These days it’s already an achievement to get through a day. Little steps. And it’s okay, because I have faith that one day I will get there. We’ll find happiness again, fleeting or long-lasting, it does not really matter. Kasiyana.
Finding the courage in accepting my vulnerabilities and limitations, much so opening and writing about these is actually scary. But knowing that being “kapoy” and doing something to overcome it—no matter how and no matter how long is I believe bravery in itself. I’ve been told by friends numerous times that I am stronger than I think, I would have to believe that. Like I have to believe in better days, in rainbows after storms, in laughter and happiness being so much stronger than anger and resentment, in delayed blessings. I have to have faith, because that’s all I have. Again, kasiyana.
Author’s Note: The recent ‘panag-aapoy/panag-dedenet’ (literally translated to lighting of fires) to warm the gravestones of our dearly departed made me reminiscent of a couple of Lola Banayan’s stories. She recounted mini-tales of how some early village folks escaped the blades of imminent deaths from the unscrupulous hunts of ruthless headhunters (referred to as ‘buso’ in the common lingo) by either using their wits or with the uncanny help of nature itself. As yet another disclaimer, I can only rely on the hyper-imaginative brain of a story-hungry toddler in retelling these so forgive the embellishments and the nuances that are sure to be inevitable.
The Old Man in the Hut
A man who spent a long day toiling in his fields made the decision to spend the night in a little hut to wait until daybreak before he makes his way back home. The hut was by no means the most comfortable but it had a roof, four walls and a door–enough to pass the night in. Soon after he settled in, he heard some scuffling outside the hut. He carefully peered through one of the holes and saw two unfamiliar men who appeared to be headhunters. He knew right away that he had no chance against two men unless he does something quick.
He thought of running through the fields as he was sure he knew the area more than these non-villagers but he also realized that it was too dark outside and that made this option riskier. He checked his little knapsack for any content that he could use and saw that he only had kindlewood, a couple of matchsticks, and his ‘abilao’ (musical instrument made of bamboo reeds which is played by putting it between the lips while you strum one end with your finger as you blow it).
He lit one of the matchsticks and very soon, he had a little fire ablaze inside the hut. He went to one corner and in a deep voice said, “My friend, the night is cold. Why don’t you throw more wood into that fire you built.” He then went to the opposite corner and said in his normal voice, “Yes mister, it’s lucky I gathered a lot of wood earlier today.” He put some of the kindlewood on the fire then went to another corner. Then in a slightly higher tone, he said, “Brother, I believe you brought with you that abilao of yours. Would you indulge us with a tune or two.” Slowly he crept to a different side of the hut, pulled his little instrument and played a lively jig.
The two headhunters outside had been listening all the while to the conversations inside the hut. If their count was right, there were four men inside! Who knew if there were more? And so realizing that the two of them had no chance against four or so men, they quietly crept away from the hut.
Who knows how long this quick-witted man kept the pretense of not being alone inside the hut. But morning came and he was safe and alive!
Houses long ago did not have the comforts of indoor toilets. One needs to go outside to the backyard to do his or her business. So it was for a girl who had to go out to pee in the black pitch of the night.
She never suspected that there was a handful of ‘buso’ who were ready to go on a midnight hunt. They were prowling just nearby when this unsuspecting girl positioned herself to pee in front of them like it was no one’s business, as it should be. The headhunters were caught off guard and stood immobile on their spots while this girl proceeded to pee. The girl must had so much ‘tapey’ (rice wine) or water to drink during dinner that her pee noisily gushed. It made this distinctive sound that unmistakably said “Sham, sham, sham, sham!”. Lo! When the headhunters counted themselves, there were exactly nine of them! ‘Sham/siyam’ in the local dialect means nine.
It was the age of strong superstition so the ‘buso’ took this as a bad omen for headhunting. So they went away as silently as they came. The unsuspecting girl finished her business, still very clueless that she just escaped possible throes of danger and went back to sleep soundly.
An old woman was busy digging for camotes when a swarm of flies buzzed around her. She hastily swatted them away but they persistently flew around her, landing on her arms, her face, her legs, while noisily buzzing.
She stopped and wondered as she realized that the flies were singling her out. They weren’t flying anywhere else but on the spot where she stood. She took it as a sign that something foreboding was about to happen. She climbed the little hill that partially blocked her view from the other fields yonder and that’s when she saw three sinister men headed towards her way. Suspecting that they were headhunters, she immediately devised a plan and prayed to the gods that her little play will scare the men away. What’s a poor, frail woman against three sturdy men?
She cast off all her clothes and quickly gathered the brightly-colored flowers that were growing aplenty nearby. The flowers were in orange, yellow, but mostly red. She tied as much as she can to all the hair she has on her body–the hairs on her head, on her arms, her legs. She twisted her form in such a way that made her body ugly and crooked, then she walked towards the men.
In a shrill but unafraid voice, she chanted and hummed. Walking directly to where the headhunters were. The men seeing and hearing her got so scared out of their wits! They had no doubt it was a witch of sorts that was heading towards them. One can only imagine the powers this ghastly-looking, crooked woman in all her naked glory and seemingly ablaze with those blood red flowers has! They rapidly took off back to where they came from before the ‘witch’ even got close.
When the men fled, the old woman carefully plucked away the flowers from her body, put back her clothes on, and headed to her home safely where she cooked her freshly-dug sweet potatoes.
These are just three of the many headhunter-related stories that I could at least recall with a certain level of vividness. I really pray another inspiration will strike me to remember the rest real soon before I forget. Here’s to always keeping your memory alive, alapo!
Who out there never had that sudden pang of ache when a painful thought, memory or emotion is suddenly relived? Because I get that, one too many times. But a feeling, whether new or old, is just one of those things you can just control. True you might be able to suppress it, but you can’t just will it away for your convenience.
A personal loss that caused immeasurable torment made me redefine yet again what pain was for me. And even though I convince myself that I’ve hurdled through the seven stages of grief, suddenly remembering this particular experience resets me right back to step one, like the tragedy just happened yesterday.
We learn the hard, long way that time has always been a friend when moving on. I stay positive that time will remain kind as I slowly heal. And that along the way, I recognize the silver lining why a tragic circumstance had to be experienced.
After this misfortune, it has then been my personal quest to prove my resiliency (for my own sake) and having a very formidable support group of friends, family and loved ones had been a huge factor towards this endeavour. Immersing myself in work, books, flour and eggs, and anything to keep my mind occupied have made the weeks pass by in a blur. Yet the lull that the quiet hours and nightfall brings still prove to be difficult. Those emotions are revisited. I feel those twinges of pain or during worse times, I get agonizingly unconsolable. It has been a process. Crying. Breathing. Again. But I know. It will be okay.
We heal and move on differently. No one can dictate how you should do it. It’s okay not to be okay right away. You are entitled to be weak sometimes. Seek out solace in the ears and arms of those who truly care. One should go by his or her own pace of recovery, because it’s all part of the process. Find your own way to heal.
For me, I reached out to loved ones to unburden my woes. I started loving my husband fiercer than I did before. I try out new recipes every week. I started to get my high from running and yoga. I listened to a lot of Avril Lavigne, I don’t know why. I ate tons of ice cream. I get ten times more cuddles from my dogs. And now, I write to share. I do what I can to move on. And throughout this whole undertaking, I try to seek and acknowledge the silver lining, understand and accept His greater plan, and remain positive in being immensely blessed with rainbow babies. Life is good.
Yes! Barbecue season is here and what could be more satisfying than flipping those juicy patties on your newly-cleaned grill on the patio while sporting that one-pack with a cold beer? Well probably the thought that you’ve made your food from scratch—house-seasoned ground meat, those fresh tomatoes and onions harvested from the pot gardens you’ve labored over during the past couple of months, and that light, buttery brioche bun to make all those come together.
So while I’m grinding that slab of beef while being persnickety with my seasonings, let me share this very light version of a brioche bun recipe that I believe would give that extra yum for your homemade burgers!
Light Brioche Buns
*I ran out of bread flour and used APF for the entire batch and it turned out okay. Using this alternative might entail a longer mixing time though.
We tend to cut back on eating enriched bread especially when we have that summer bod in mind. But these brioche buns are so light and fluffy that the idea of an extra burger feels less guilt-free…ish. :p
Enjoy and happy baking!
In the spirit of sharing amidst lockdowns and quarantines during this global pandemic, and as we productively while the long hours away by keeping our kitchens busy and our ovens warm, allow me to share a simple recipe that will hopefully bring some delight into your homes. From my oven to yours, from my heart to yours. Yes! 😉
I’ve seen bakers posting about the new craze of three Pinoy favorites put together—pan de sal (bread roll), keso (Eden cheese to be very specific), and ube (purple yam)—all rolled into a truly delectable and beautiful purple bun! I thought that was a brilliant play on flavors and I could not wait to make some. I’ve read a lot of recipes on this and after a couple of tweaking and several attempts later, it is with confidence that I share this one, my first, ever, yay! 🙂 Friends, I give you, this recipe with love. ❤
Ube Cheese Pandesal
3 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Instant Yeast
1 tsp Salt
1 cup Warm Milk
2 tbsps Oil ( I use Canola Oil for a more neutral taste)
1 tbsp Ube Extract
1 cup Cooked and Grated Purple Yam
(or rehydrate 1/4 cup powdered ube with 3/4 cup hot water)
Cheese (cut into sticks)
* If using Ube powder, start by rehydrating. Mix the powder and hot water and let it sit.
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, yeast, salt).
2. Add in the warm milk, oil, beaten egg and extract.
3. Mix on low using the dough hook attachment until everything comes together.
4. Add the purple yam. Continue mixing until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
5. Place dough on a lightly-floured surface. Knead for 6-8 minutes. (I tried doing everything manually and I had to knead longer as I was working with a stickier dough.)
6. Once you get a ball of smooth dough, place in a lightly-oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and proof in a warm place for 1-2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.
7. Gently remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 12 equal parts (approximately, 90 grams each).
8. Pre-shape into small balls then flatten with a rolling pin.
9. Insert cheese chunks/slices in the middle of flattened dough then fold the sides to tuck the cheese in. If you have extra ube, you can add some with your cheese inserts. *Do not be tempted to put a lot as it might cause underbaking.)
10. Roll dough balls onto the bread crumbs, just enough to lightly coat the surface.
11. Place coated buns into prepared pans, an inch apart from each other and allow to rise in warm room for another 30-40 minutes.
12. Bake in preheated oven (340°F) for 20 minutes.
It might seem like a lot of words but the process can simply be broken down to mixing, kneading, putting in a lot of love, proofing, shaping then baking. This recipe calls for a minimal amount of bicep work but yields a lot of gastronomical satisfaction, especially for the Pinoy palate.
Enjoy unleashing the inner bakers within us and keep safe everyone! ♥♥♥
As someone who grew up in a tourist town that boasts of stately natural landscapes, I have this rather obnoxious instinct to compare places of similar appeal. Such was the mindset I had when we set off to see the prominent Batad rice terraces and the Tappiyah Falls that was the highlight of the village attractions. But I ended up being tremendously awed. It was an entirely different experience.
Batad is a village in Banaue, Ifugao. It’s a two-hour drive from my hometown, Sagada. Yes, we have several impressive waterfalls and the underrated yet majestic rice terraces (Kanip-aw, Kiltepan, Aguid) but I went there with the expectation that Batad would offer something equally grand, if not more rewarding. And I was not disappointed.
We met Ervin, our very friendly and knowledgeable local guide who was first in line in the queue of accredited guides enlisted for that day. Although my sister was positive that we could find the waterfalls ourselves so long as we follow the trails through the paddies, we understood the town regulations regarding acquiring local tour guides. And we come from a town that thrives on tourism too, we should know better despite overestimating our sense of direction. 😉
A short canopied walk to the village of Batad warmed up our already conditioned legs (or so I’d like to believe as we’ve done a couple of hikes back in Sagada prior to this). We were advised that we should pre-order lunch in one of the restaurants that had stunning views that overlooked the rice terraces. They estimated that we’d do a 3-4 hour back and forth trek hence we’re looking at a late lunch.
The trek going to Tappiya Falls was a delight in itself. Although I have to be honest that the views were no longer new to a village girl like myself, but what made the experience different was all those village folks who we met along the way. Everyone was genuinely friendly and welcoming. They are like us, Sagadians, who wisely took advantage of the livelihood that tourism entails. The village people have strategically set-up small convenience stores and souvenir shops for the trekkers. And every stop was a welcome respite. We stopped for ice cold water, bananas, a souvenir or two, the occasional breeze or simply for the shade and the pleasant conversations that every villager eagerly engaged with.
I could rate the downward trek as easy but the heat was the main challenge. With no trees to serve as shade, it was no wonder our tour guide had thoughtfully brought his umbrella with him. Guess who used it? Haha!
I’ve seen a number of waterfalls in this lifetime but I was not prepared by the beauty that awaited us. This hidden gem just behind a ridge of rice terraces artfully designed like an amphitheater made me feel like I was seeing one for the first time. It was magnificent. It’s imposing beauty towered over us as we waded barefoot towards its inviting pool. We basked in its beauty and its chilly waters before we halfheartedly got back to the same route towards the paddies.
The hike back was expectedly more arduous. The sun was already higher and those giant steps were a pain to the gluts! We were definitely not prepared for that! Whoever came up with the souvenir t-shirt design that read “I Love Tappiyah Falls, I Hate the Giant Steps” was on point.
We got back to enjoy the most fulfilling meal of chicken stew, chopsuey and pancit canton. Although our bold estimate to make the round trip within two hours time was off by a good half an hour, our legs didn’t fail us against those treacherous meter-long stairs.
We did a couple of side trips in the beautiful town of Banaue before heading back home to Sagada. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening trip to a neighboring town that offered similar sights to what we have back home. But now I can say you can’t really compare. Each place has its own unique and identifying charm. The people’s warmth made the experience more gratifying.
A beginner could easily do the trek to Batad’s pride. Doing the trail back is a different story though. 😉 Lots of water, sunscreen, hardboiled eggs and bananas would be a good starter pack for this must-do trip up north.
I fell in love with cakes at a young age. My childhood best friend had older sisters who would often bake what I thought were the most delectable creations. They would huddle over their dining room table with their mixing bowls and recipes and whip up the most amazing cakes that I could only dream of making. I thought they were all so beautiful and dainty as I witnessed them sifting and whisking and mixing. I adored them. And I adored whatever they made.
I was eleven when I summoned the courage to make my first cake. And that came with a lot of sneaky planning. My family was scheduled for a trip to the city and I volunteered to stay home to take care of the pets. I had everything deviously planned out. If whatever I make would turn out to be a disaster, I would just chuck it out. The evidence of my failure would be gone and I will not breath a word to anyone.
So the long awaited day came when it was just the cat at home to witness my first trial. I rolled my sleeves up and baked. It was good. And no, it’s not a biased conclusion of an 11-year old girl. It was truly good! It took a lot of self-control to not finish the whole 9 x 13 inches of chocolatey goodness! I had to painstakingly wait for everyone to come home so they could taste it, be gobsmacked that I made something unbelievably good, (yes, I was that confident, haha!) so that they will let me do as I please with the oven now that I’ve proven I could work with it. Boy was I so full of myself that time! 😉
I was not able to make cakes that were as good as that first one the next couple of times, or years for that matter. But I achieved my purpose then–for them to let me tinker with the oven and play with whatever ingredients I could find in the shelves. My love for pastry and baking grew as my search for the perfect cake began.
Cakes as we know them today have come a long way from the first ‘kaka’, believed to be of Viking origin. The ancient Greeks then popularized ‘plakous’ (meaning flat) which consisted of flour blended with honey, eggs and nuts. Now we have modern cakes, fancy entremets, multi-layered paves, and visually out-of-this world cake designs that I cannot even dream of conceptualizing. But throughout the years and a couple of unwanted pounds after, I realized that if I want to eat cake, I want to taste cake. By that I mean enjoying it with its wholesome basic elements–a flavorful base and just the right amount of frosting or not, no garnish necessary.
These days when I gave myself the opportunity to try out different recipes with whatever stuff I can find in the pantry, I realized that there are those I love to make and those that I hate. Some I could finish a slice and some I could not even bring myself to taste. I’ve grown a very discerning palate or sense of preference but it weirdly does not have anything to do with flavors but more of how a recipe speaks to me. I realize that I always delight in something that brings nostalgia.
Like with most foods and smells, our senses get excited more strongly when we can relate, and such associations are mostly founded on memories. In my case, I always go back to those days when every slice of cake regardless of what it was made me giddy with excitement. To those cakes that were made by my best friend’s older sisters. My aunt’s banana cake with lemon glaze. My sister’s squash cake that was so delightful even without any frosting. My mother’s big, fat pancakes. And to that one fateful day that I schemed to bake for the first time.
I haven’t found my perfect cake yet. Because there probably isn’t one. But it is for this reason that I’m equally excited every time there is a new one to slice and try. It might just be that.
The pack decided to revisit some trails down Lower Seymour a couple of weeks ago before summer totally ended. We love the numerous trails offered by the vicinity because they’re a combination of easy to intermediate in terms of difficulty. We do have to take into consideration that as much as our sturdy dachshund proves to be the leader of the pack, he has the shortest, stubbiest legs that render it impossible for him to go through some obstacles along the way without assistance.
I personally recommend this area for hikers with smaller dogs. It’s pet-friendly, terrain-wise as well. Next time we might bring some bikes as they do have some challenging and challenge-free bike trails that I’ve been wishing to try.
Sharing some clips of our gang’s little adventure in one of the many hiking trails of this beautiful city.
At the Philippine Consulate a year ago, a kindly gentleman was awed when he read that my hometown is Sagada. He was so impressed with the place that he enthusiastically described the sites he has seen there when he went to visit. He went on to say I was lucky to live in a place away from the city’s daily hustle. Sagada, he says, is Vancouver’s Kelowna–that drive away from the urban where you could just enjoy the serene beauty of a quiescent place. Such was his description hence I was doubly excited when the opportunity came to have a day trip to the gateway of Okanagan Valley.
This sunny city boasts of pine forests, provincial parks, expansive vineyards and orchards, and a lakeside cultural district. Truly a day was not enough to explore most of the place’s highlights but we made the most of it. Sharing some snippets from this marvelous trip with equally awesome ladies.
We went home spent and full, not just with the beauteous sights but with the first pickings of Fall apples, peaches, plums and grapes. You are indeed a nice respite Kelowna.
A hatchling fell from its nest a couple of days ago and Dalifer brought it home with the hopes that we can nurture it back to health until it gets strong and old enough to fly that we can release it back to the wild. It was with us for two days then it dropped dead. That broke me. I grieved for it thinking we might have done better, or we thought we were doing what’s best for it but we managed the opposite. I consoled myself with the thought that it somehow knew we cared deeply, and that we tried.
What is it with passing away that leaves such a void in our souls? The chasm I still have in my heart almost a decade after my old man died is still as empty as it was that fateful day he left. People die, we grieve, and we ought to move on. But sometimes, no amount of toughening up, time and change, is enough to say you’ve totally healed after your loss. I believe part of the misery comes with the regrets we harbor. The ‘what ifs’ and the ‘what could have beens’ make it harder for the soul to mend. Knowing you could have done better, done more, then maybe it won’t be as painful.
But we can only look back in hindsight. In my case, I allay my sorrows with the thought that I did not have the wisdom of age. But however way I look at it, there should be no excuses for me not having been kinder. And God knows I wish I’d been that–kinder. I wish I’ve been more forgiving. I wish I’ve been more compassionate and understanding. I wish I have been more.
I was not spiteful towards him. It’s just that I thought we had more time, and I knew time mended things. Time has the ability to make things better, and we can make our relationship better with time. But that was what escaped me, the fact that time was not something I had control over. It is not generous, it’s fleeting and we can only do so much. So now I can only live with regrets as I bear my grief, my loss, and my pain.
There’s truth in what they say that fate can teach you the hard way. And it did, I learned mine the painful way. So as I drink to my father’s memory today, I pray that even if I missed out in showing it, that he somehow knew he was loved until his last days. That to this day, I hope I made him proud.
Tintin the hatchling (yes we named the bird) was with us briefly before he succumbed to death. It took another bit of my heart away with his passing despite the short time we spent together. The bird flew to his final plateau. I pray he knew he was loved. I know we showed it.
But you, Dad, I hope you knew you were loved. Take it against me for not knowing how to show it, that will forever be on me, but you were.