It’s Monday, I’m In Love

Around this time, last week. The night was still so young as if Monday will be on hold. The streets were still noisy and busy with people from all walks of life, wearing their custom-cut Islands Souvenirs shirt. For many, Sinulog has ended. For some, Sinulog has just begun.
We checked in late to the party, because that particular holiday meant overtime in the food business. And we found ourselves settling for the last open karaoke place with cold beer.
As I sat down to the best seat in the house, with a good reach to the tagay and sisig and an excellent focal point to the flashing song lyrics, I saw them.
I could not hear what they were talking about from inside, but i could tell that they were enjoying the conversation. They were occasionally laughing, and most of the time smiling. Looking away, looking at the almost empty parking garage, looking at each other, smiling again.
There was no physical contact. His hands were clasped together most of the time, while hers were just holding the hand rail, occasionally flipping her hair whenever it gets blown by the convenient mild breeze.
They were just talking. And impressively, not once did any of them check on their phones. And they were there talking for the next two hours while I was desperately trying to sing Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing while chugging down another glass of Red Horse.
I could be wrong, but from their body language I could tell that they were not a couple. But the same body language told me they were falling in love.
If you are single and reading this, I am sharing this story with one small piece of advice:
Find someone who can listen to your repetitive stories and always pay attention as if they are hearing it for the first time. Find someone who will be interested with something that most people would otherwise perceive as boring. Find someone whose stories you would never get tired of listening, and whose jokes you would always find funny.
Find someone you can have a good conversation with. Trust me, nothing beats a good conversation.
We left just before the break of dawn. And they were still there. Occasionally laughing. Looking away. Looking at each other. Smiling.


Mga ngisi at bulong,
Habang nakatalukbong.
Sa kumot at unan,
Pagod ay naiibsan.
Umagang maambon,
Panandaliang hinahon.
Mamayang hapon ulit,
Sasabak, hahapit.


Dear 25-Year Old BJ,

I am writing to you from 9 years in the future.

My name is 31-Year Old JD. We haven’t personally seen each other yet, but we have had a few email exchanges back in September and November 2008 for schedule swaps. We have only seen each other’s mug shots from that special access folder, and you have immediately assumed from my gelled up hair, shy smile, and overly-tight shirt that I am undeniably gay. I’m afraid to inform you that, unfortunately, I am your future husband.

I write to you to give you a heads up. About a month from now, you and 23-year old me will finally meet. You will immediately have a crush on me, no matter how much you still deny it up to now, while I will fall in love at first sight, no matter how much you still don’t believe it.

You were quite a catch in 2009. Beautiful, independent, smart, and a relatively free spirit. And you have a fair share of travel and backpacking stories. I, on the other hand, was a little awkward, always under-dressed, and ready to take your breath away with monologues about my adventures in SM Megamall.

Needless to say, we were a perfect match.

But I am not writing today to tell you our love story (I’ll leave that for you to discover). Instead, I write to you today to apologize.

In the next few months, I will sweep you off your feet. I will take you to dinner and movie dates, bring you flowers, and surprise you with sweet nothings. But I would like you to know that years later, I will change. That hopeless romantic that you will meet next month will just be hopeless, and I’m sorry.

I will make you feel butterflies. I will love your daughter with all my heart and in a few years, she will legally and wholeheartedly become mine too. But I would like you to know that some years later, I will sometimes lose my patience with her. And there will be times that I almost would give up on her, and I’m sorry.

And indeed, I will take your breath away. We will begin to travel the world. We will bask in powdery white sand beaches, crawl through steep ancient temples, and explore noisy streets of foreign cities. We will have a streetfood buffet wherever we go, and we will share a passion for cooking along the way. But I would like you to know that some years later, I will lose passion. I will be lazy. I will be difficult. I will be annoying and unbearable. And I’m sorry.

We will have thousands of fights, and we will sometimes have loud arguments in public. And I’m sorry.

I will be suffocating at times, and become what Thought Catalog would call a toxic partner. And I’m sorry.

You see, that guy you will meet next month will make you fall in love. But I would like you to know that that guy will not always be the same guy. He will change. I have changed. And so have you in my present time.

And by now you may have already decided that you shouldn’t meet 23-year old me anymore, and have that coffee that he joked about. I would totally understand.

But if you still do fall when you see him next month, and we end up as we have ended up right this moment, I would like you to know one thing that is absolute. He will love you always. For everything you were. For everything you are. For everything you will be.

With love from all timelines, JD

Sad Holidays

I realized that it’s alright to have sad holidays. Christmas can’t always be merry and new year’s eve can’t always be happy. Sometimes the sadness is too much that you can’t put on a poker face to the world and dance to Mariah Carey’s all-time Christmas chart-topper.

Some people are in hospitals, with loved ones suffering before their eyes. Some people are at funerals, mourning over the loss of loved ones. Some relationships are at the brink of tipping over. Some hopeless romantics are afraid they will never find that relationship. Some families are apart. Some families are just broken.

Not everyone can have a picture-perfect new year spread, with the whole family smiling into the year that lies ahead.

And it’s alright. It’s alright to be sad. As long as we don’t lose hope.

I Don’t Hair

All jokes about my (lack of) haircutting skills aside, I would like to open up about our Sam’s haircut today.

I have been doing Sam’s haircuts for a while now. Yes, me. Not even BJ because Sam wouldn’t keep still. She fidgets less with me. Still does, but less.

Why that kind of haircut? In case I haven’t mentioned it enough yet for the past 8 years, my daughter has autism. Jared too. Now on Sam’s case, she abhors ponytails, hairclips, headbands, and pretty much whatever you put on her hair. She likes her hair free. And she doesn’t know how to comb, so most of the times it’s unruly.

During mealtimes, she dips it in ketchup, soup, soy sauce, or whatever liquid you put in a bowl beside her rice. In addition, she always chews on the tips of her hair.

So to those who ask why, I’m sorry that my daughter cannot conform to norms. If my daughter were a regular kid, I would have made sure to keep her hair ‘normal’, learned to braid it, and even bedazzle on occasion.

But my daughter is not regular. We have to be more logical and practical and unfortunately it is not by the universal standard of ‘normal’ and ‘beautiful’.

And whatever you see or standards you set, in my eyes and in my heart, my little lady will always be beautiful.

Dear 30-Year Old JD

I write to you from one year in the future.
This year, yes, we had a tree. Yes, we used different-sized nonlas, and we even threw in sakkats and sombreros. We hand painted them green and stacked them high like a Christmas tree. We adorned them with red and yellow Christmas “balls” made of burlap and twine, and topped it with a star made of bamboo. You said we should never lose our spirit. Well, it wasn’t as easy as we imagined it to be, but let me tell you this – it was indeed a standout!
This year, yes, we can travel again. And by that I mean that we CAN, but we choose not to. We have realized that there are things that can wait and the wait is worthwhile. You said we should never lose our passion and wanderlust. Well I believe it’s just a matter of time before our backpacks will be worn again. And in case you really need to know, we still adore streetfood. Hashtag streetfood is life.
This year, yes, we finally opened our restaurant. Yes, we used monobloc chairs like the hawkers in Malaysia. Yellow and black. Yes, we used stainless tables like Hanoi. We haven’t decided yet where to put the old burlap banner; but instead we wrote our story on the wall. We still use the same woks, and our little BPT family has now grown to a dozen. And surprisingly for both of us, BJ allowed me to adorn the walls with our old travel photos, chubby cheeks and all. You said we should never lose hope. Well honestly there were more than a dozen times that I wanted to give up. But I’m glad I held on.
This year, yes, the kids are doing better. Sam has matured a bit and has less meltdowns compared to previous years. Or maybe I was the one who matured a lot and stopped having meltdowns. Jared can say and spell more words, and can now converse in his own make-up dialect. You said we should never lose patience. Well this year the kids also learned to be patient with us.
This year, yes, BJ and I are still together. Nope, were not back to being single. Yet. We still fight over breakfast meals, argue over decoration ideas, and backseat-drive each other’s driving styles. But you said we should never never stop loving each other. Well we never never did.
I’m not saying that it’s already a happy ending at this point. You see – what’s that they say again? – we’ve only just begun. I still have a lot of questions like you did and I will never get answers unless 35-year old JD decides to write us back and tell us about Gaudi and the Sagrada Familia. We have to wait for 38-year old JD to confirm if we have already opened our humble hostel. We have to wait for 47-year old JD to tell us about Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. And only 75-year old JD can confirm if there is indeed a forever when he writes about our golden wedding anniversary.
Right now, I can only do what we have always done best: keep going. Time will answer the rest of our questions.
With much more hope from the future,

That Night in Saigon

I probably haven’t told you yet. This was one of my favorite moments in the Banana Pancake Trail. We were too touristy in Malaysia, we were too drunk in Cambodia, and we were too tired by the time we reached Thailand.

But on this particular Vietnam night, after a long day exploring war tunnels, noisy markets, and eating our way through the alleys of Saigon, we decided to skip the rowdy Pham Ngu Lao and the Crazy Buffalo. We bought a pair of local beer at the Circle K downstairs and sat down at the porch of that cheap quaint hotel.

With our heart filled with love and endorphins, and our spirits tipsy with wanderlust, we spent a quiet hour at the gutters of sleepy Ho Tung Mao. We talked about the beginnings of our trip, our plans of travelling the world, our hopes of travelling with the kids and, most importantly, we talked about our lifelong journey – you and me.