Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Celebrate 30 years of "Pabaong Pagmamahal" from Lemon Square Cheese Cake

PRESS RELEASE - Every recipe has a story to tell. For Nina Vergel de Dios or “Mommy Nina”, the woman behind the all-time favorite pabaon snack Lemon Square Cheese Cake, the tale of her signature product was inspired by a mom’s love.

Mommy Nina’s love for baking was sparked by the bond she and her mother had when she was young. She recalls helping out her mother in the kitchen to bake at the age of nine. It was since then she got fond of baking and continued to hone her skills by attending culinary and baking classes as she grew up. She also sold some of her baked goods to family and friends for extra allowance when she was in high school.

Being successful is a ‘piece of cake’

For quite some time, Mommy Nina distanced herself from baking to take a different career path. But with the encouragement and support of her husband Errol, she left her corporate job to pursue her first love, baking. 

In 1985, Mommy Nina returned to her small home kitchen in Valenzuela and began selling her cheese cakes in the wet markets of Malabon and Navotas. Through the positive comments of resellers, word spread about her cheese cake until it reached other markets.

Three decades later, Lemon Square Cheese Cake became a household name that answers the need of Moms to provide filling, delicious and nutritious pabaon for their children.

The value of ‘Pabaong Pagmamahal’

Lemon Square Cheese Cake credits its success to the value of pabaong pagmamahal. Made with real and fresh ingredients, it assures moms that theirs kids have something good to snack on when they’re in school or enjoying other activities.

“We’ve always been inspired by moms and their desire to give the best for their children. That’s why we ensure that all our products are made with fresh ingredients,” shares EJ Vergel de Dios, son of Mommy Nina and Assistant General Manager and Chief Innovations Officer of Lemon Square.

“With Lemon Square Cheese Cake as a siksik cupcake pabaon, moms never have to worry that their kids will be hungry at school. It’s also conveniently packed so that moms do not need to worry about preparing their kids’ baon,” he adds.

Give your children #PabaongPagmamahal with Lemon Square Cheese Cake. For more information about Lemon Square Cheese Cake, visit www.lemonsquare.com.ph or like Lemon Square on Facebook.

*To be featured on Press Release Tuesdays, send it to frances@topazhorizon.com.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Roses in my beauty products (plus, a giveaway!)

All the flowers last Mother's Day reminded me that I have a giveaway for my blog's 13th anniversary! If you follow @topazhorizonblog on Instagram, you'd know I was giving this bottle of Jo Malone Red Roses cologne. I'm moved by all the entries and I can't wait to see your story there.

I also wanted to share that my skincare products since summer of last year have a theme: roses. I sometimes stray from these and try out new beauty goodies (because who can resist?), but I find myself going back to these rose-filled beauty products because my skin looks and feels amazing when I use them.

This is my super favorite: Pure Beauté Facial Wash in Rose. I use this every single day (except for those times I sampled new facial washes sent to me). My face is so fabulous whenever I use this!!! I also use a tiny amount of the Pure Beauté Body Scrub on my face. Yes! It's so gentle on my skin anyway so I don't mind using the exfoliant once every 2 weeks.

The packaging looks so worn out na! That's proof that I really use them! You can buy these from the Simple Mama online store. I love Simple Mama's products. They're clean, pure, fresh, practically homemade. Every product feels like love in a container.

Okay, here's the link to the Pure Beauté page but the Rose Collection is a limited edition. That stresses me out because when my facial wash is running out, I go on panic mode. I don't think I can live without Pure Beauté Facial Wash in Rose! I won't guarantee this but maybe if you ask nicely, Simple Mama will make a batch for you. Tell me so we can order together!

Next favorite: In Her Element Petal Skin Rose Toning Essence. It's beauty water. It sounds unnecessary but it does what it says it will: Its water will beautify you. You know that part in the title that says petal skin? Yes, that will happen. Your skin will feel like rose petals. So soft and velvety smooth. So perfect!

It's P875 and the bottle is small. It feels like a lot of money for what is essentially water but get it!!! You don't need a lot anyway. I just pump the dispenser once and apply the toning essence all over my face. Pat, pat, pat. I don't use a cotton ball because I want ALL the drops on my now smooth and petal-soft face. So worth it!

So now you know my cleanser, exfoliant, and toner. Now check out my moisturizer: The Ordinary Rose Hip Seed Oil. This oil is pressed from the seeds of a rose plant. Oil is great for trapping moisture in skin but rosehip oil is also amazing for its anti-aging benefits. I added it to my skincare routine when I found out that Miranda Kerr, Rose Byrne, Cara Delavigne, Victoria Beckham and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, use it.

It's P900 from Calyxta and though it's a tiny bottle, you only need 2 drops for your entire face. You just warm up the oil in your palms then press, press, press. it's one of the best things I ever got for my skin. It smells like cooking oil, though, but the smell goes away soon enough. I love that the oil is quickly absorbed and so my mug doesn't look like a greasy frying pan.

My last rose-infused product is this super sulit Heritage Store Rose Petals Rosewater Mist. I use it for a ton of things! I got it from Calyxta for just P600 and I'll copy-paste na lang my review below.

So there you have it! My complete skincare products that all happen to have roses as its main ingredient! Have you tried roses in your skincare?

Now remember: I have a giveaway!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Maya Kitchen opens its doors to aspiring young chefs this June

PRESS RELEASE - The Maya Kitchen is once again holding a variety of culinary workshops for children this June. Encourage your little ones to learn how to be confident in the kitchen and enroll them in the Kids’ Culinary Bootcamps, where they’ll learn age-appropriate basic cooking and baking skills and recipes.

Classes for kids aged 6 to 12 will be held from June 4 to 5, from 9 AM to 1 PM. The 4-day culinary camp in May costs P6,000, while the 2-day culinary camp in June costs P3,000. 

For teens aged 13 to 18, The Maya Kitchen offers the Young Adults Culinary Classes, where they can discover the art of uncomplicated cooking from experienced chefs. The 2-day cooking camp will be from June 13 to 14, from 9 AM to 1 PM. The fee is just P3,500. 

The Maya Kitchen has been offering cooking and baking classes for children and young adults to give them a taste of different cuisines and teach them cooking essentials— from slicing, mincing to boiling, and so much more. Aside from cooking skills, the annual summer workshops aim to introduce the participants to healthy eating, home responsibilities, and to develop a better appreciation of what they eat. 

For more information on this and on other course offerings, log on to www.themayakitchen.com, email contactus@themayakitchen.com, or visit The Maya Kitchen Culinary Center every Tuesday to Saturday at 8F Liberty Building, 835 A. Arnaiz Avenue (Pasay Road), Makati City. You may also call us 8921185 or 892-5011 local 108 or +63929 679 6102.

Like and follow Maya Kitchen on Facebook and Instagram @TheMayaKitchen1 and follow us on Twitter @TheMayaKitchen.

*To be featured on Press Release Tuesdays, send it to frances@topazhorizon.com.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

This is how I multi-mask with L'Oréal Paris Pure Clay Masks (plus a giveaway!)

Okay, I'll talk about multi-masking with L'Oréal Pure Clay Masks in a bit but let me say this first: I totally forgot it's my blog's 13th anniversary this month! To celebrate, I'm doing a weekly giveaway over at my Instagram. Make sure you follow @topazhorizonblog to get a chance to win beauty products!

Now let's talk about multi-masking. From long-ago queen Cleopatra to today’s beauty vlogger royalty, clay masks have been used to detoxify and pamper skin. How does that work? The negative charge of clay attracts the positive charge of oil and dirt on your skin, sucks the yuckiness out of your pores, and leaves skin clean and balanced.

You can apply the clay on your face and let it work its magic, which usually takes 10-15 minutes. Of course it has to be the right kind of mud. You simply can’t go to your garden and put mulch on your face! The best clays are usually made of volcanic ash but there are also clays from the bottom of the sea. For different skin concerns, other ingredients are added like charcoal and essential oils. 

Women used to set aside a good part of their day to indulge in face masks, covering face and neck with their chosen mud. These days, however, women are enjoying the multi-masking trend, painting on several masks on the different parts of the face to target specific concerns. For example, I have combination skin, so I use a charcoal mask on the oily parts of my face, then a hydrating mask on the dry areas. Check it out:

My kids call this my Mama Panda look. The black is Detoxify, the white is Hydrating.
As the mask dries up, you can see the dots—those are all the gunk and oil from my pores! 

The clay masks I use are L’Oréal Paris Pure Clay Masks. I LOVE THEM! The beauty brand addressed the multi-masking trend by creating a line of clay masks that work so well together, beauty-obsessed girls have taken to their blogs and Instagram to share photos of their simultaneous masking treat:

I started multi-masking because of #clayyourway on Instagram

There are four variants available in the Philippines. Each jar is a powerful blend of Natural Mineral Clay + Botanical Extracts so that skin is not just purified, it’s also left aglow. All this in just 10 minutes! I can totally vouch for this because I multi-mask every weekend! My super oily skin has stopped being an oil spill and my pores seem to have shrunk. It's my favorite and super affordable pampering treat on Saturday afternoons!  

If you want to try multimasking, try the whole line of L’Oréal Paris Pure Clay:

L'Oréal Paris Pure Clay Mask Anti-Pores, P399 
This thick mint green mask is suited for oily skin because it controls oil production. It also unclogs and refines pores. The Moroccan Lava Clay leaves skin matte. The rosemary extract is antibacterial and antifungal so skin is further protected. 

L'Oreal Paris Pure Clay Mask Illuminating, P399
This cream-colored clay is perfect for rough and dull skin. The silky texture of the British Kaolin Clay makes it easy to apply and its lemongrass extract brightens skin with its antioxidant properties.

L'Oreal Paris Pure Clay Mask Hydrating, P399
This pot of light gray Atlantic Clay is infused with bergamot complex, which draws out dirt and oil. Skin feels clean and fresh but also incredibly moisturized so you don’t have a dry, tight feeling.

L'Oréal Paris Pure Clay Mask Detoxify, P399
This black clay mask has charcoal extract, which clarifies skin by lifting impurities. Extra sebum is also absorbed and leaves skin matte. You feel perfectly clean and clear, refreshed and flawless.

L'Oréal Paris Pure Clay Masks are available at Lazada, Shopee, and Calyxta. I wish I can say I get a commission from the products I feature on this post but no, I don't. I just wanted to share! But I kinda want to explore being an affiliate. Has anyone tried being a Lazada's affiliate program?

Anyway!!! I got distracted again. Because it's my blog anniversary, I'm giving away a pot of the Hydrating clay mask and throwing in a L'Oréal Paris x Balmain Lipstick in 647 Urban Safari and a L'Oréal Paris Brow Artist Xpert in 107 Cool Brunette. These are my favorite products and I'm sharing them with one lucky winner!

How to win? Check out this post

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Treat your mothers to special MOMents at Ortigas Malls!

PRESS RELEASE - All moms deserve to have their MOMents. With all the stress and pressure they bear for the love of their families, it’s only right to give them something that will let them know they are loved and cherished.

What better way to convey that you appreciate her than giving her time to enjoy herself on Mother’s Day? On May 12, Ortigas Malls lined up events that will truly make mom feel special by allowing her to have a few special MOMents to herself like discovering new skills, learning with others, or simply relaxing, away from the constant demands of family and work. 

Not sure what she might enjoy? Ortigas Malls has a lot of activities in line, from workshops to bazaars, that were especially designed to make moms feel truly special. 

With a P2,000 receipt (single or accumulated purchases) at any Ortigas Mall from May 6 to 12, you can avail of an entry pass so that your mom can enjoy exclusive perks and privileges, as well as take part in the mommy-focused activities. Just look at what she can look forward to:

At Greenhills, mom can indulge herself at a spa party, enjoy a sweet serenade, or take part in a perfume-making workshop. 

Over at Tiendesitas, you can let her enjoy a Supermom workout, learn something new in a soap-making workshop, or enjoy some retail therapy in a Bazaar by Moms for Moms. 

More special moments await her at Estancia, where she can discover her inner artist in a caricature-sketching workshop, expand her culinary prowess through a bento-making workshop, and embrace new perspectives in a series of Mommy Talks. 

Get an entry pass by registering and presenting the receipt starting May 6 to 12 at respective event venues: VMall lobby at Greenhills, ground floor Food Village at Tiendesitas, and 2nd floor Bridgeway at Estancia. Fun activities will start at 2PM and last until 9PM. 

Every mom deserves to enjoy her special day. Make sure to treat her to a delightful meal at any of the dining outlets in each of the Ortigas Malls before or after she joins the MOMents events.

For more information, please visit www.ortigasmalls.com or check out the social media pages of each of these Ortigas Malls: 

*To be featured on Press Release Tuesdays, send it to frances@topazhorizon.com.

Monday, May 06, 2019

You'll want these amazing appliances that I found at Samsung Forum Singapore!

I was so lucky to be invited to the Samsung Forum 2019 at Resorts World Singapore! They wanted me to check out the new and impressive home appliances the huge electronics brand rolled out just for mommies like us. And, boy, was I truly impressed! I wanted to bring home every gadget I saw. And after I tell you my favorites, I'm sure you'll want a Samsung appliance in your home, too.

Here's what I want:


The star of the show was this gigantic TV aptly named The Wall. It is so large, it is literally a wall. If anyone watched How I Met Your Mother here, that is the TV that Barney Stinson would've owned. It is massive! You'd need a mansion just to sit far away from it so that you can view your shows and movies properly. I don't have a picture of The Wall because there were just too many media buzzing around it, but here's a photo from Samsung:

Believe me, it's far more amazing in real life. But it's also way too big for me! Here's a much smaller and perhaps more attainable option for condo-dwellers like me: the QLED 8K 98" TV

Yes, it's 98 inches and while I'm very happy with our current 40" one, after I saw this, well, maybe bigger really is better! I really want a new TV now! And a Samsung TV, too, because I saw that the images were sharper and the colors more vivid. The fantastic picture quality is made possible by this feature called HDR10+. It processes the pictures to brighten scenes. It also has an automatic light control sensor so that it adapts to the brightness of its environment. So whether you're watching in bright daylight or in a dark room, your Samsung TV will adjust accordingly. This is the TV we should have used when we watched The Battle of Winterfell!

I also want to tell you about this clever function that the QLED TVs have. It's called The Frame because, okay, let's back up a little. When you turn off your TV, what does it become? A big black ugly rectangular hole in your shelf or living room. Ugh. Well then, if that annoys you, you will love The Frame TV.

Guess which frames up there are TVs? The Frame functions as a picture frame when you turn it off, displaying personal photos or art. I first saw this TV at Mandy Moore's exquisite home (the video tour shows the TV at 3:34) and it is now my dream home. A Mid-Century Modern Home nestled high up in the mountains is my definition of heaven. Anyway, since Mandy owns a Samsung The Frame, I now want one, too haha

2. Sound Bar

I've been lucky to watch my shows and movies with a better experience than most because my husband has always invested in a sound system. We are truly always surrounded by sound! Except lately because we need to upgrade our sound system. This is such a nerdy need but we need new speakers and when I saw the Sound Bar of Samsung, I just knew I had to have it!

According to the Samsung website, we should get a Soundbar HW-K350. It has 2 built-in speakers and a subwoofer for that truly immersive sound experience! I really want this! If you don't have a sound system with your TV, you're totally missing out. Buy one!!!

3. Powerbot Vacuum Cleaner

I have 3 boys. I live along EDSA. I have a rabbit. Of course we need a vacuum!!! We actually own a really good vacuum cleaner. While we love it, it's also large and unwieldy. It's difficult to take out of storage and it's heavy. Plus, its very long wire is always a hazard when you have 3 little boys running around.

So here's the solution! A robot vacuum that takes up so little space and just cleans the house all on its own. Maybe it's still a hazard because it's zooming around quietly and my sons may not see it, trip over it, or ride it (the most likely scenario). But I still want it!

And here's another vacuum cleaner that I want: the PowerStick Jet200!!! It sounds like something out of Harry Potter but this cordless stick is even more magical—it doesn't fly, no, but it sucks up dust like no one's business and I need it in my life! I know you all want this baby, too, because when I shared the appliances I found on my Instagram Stories, this is the gadget that everyone asked about! Sadly, it's not available here yet but, Samsung, you tell us once it hits our shores because my husband and my IG followers want one, too!

4. Air Purifier

I live along EDSA. I have 3 boys. We have allergies (don't worry—rabbit fur is hypoallergenic). Of course we need an air purifier! I saw these really amazing units at the Samsung Forum but I found out they're not available here yet. Sad face now.

That big one at the far right can handle our 110+ sqm home. I know we need an air purifier so that my kids can be safe from dust, allergens, viruses, smog, harmful indoor air gases. It's also relatively small and sleek so it won't take up too much floor space. And it's quiet. I want it!!!

5. Family Hub Refrigerator

You all know I just got a new refrigerator and I love it to bits so I really wasn't checking out the refrigerators at the convention. But I do want to share with you this amazing technology called Family Hub. It's all about Connected Living and Family Hub is the control center. You can check schedules, check who's at the door, answer phone calls, post photos and artwork, send messages, check the weather and the news, search for information—while cooking, cleaning, helping your kid with homework! Hands-free! It sounds like something from the future!

Samsung put this Family Hub technology in their big refrigerators because they deduced that the heart of the home is the kitchen. Every single member of the family visits the refrigerator at least once a day! So as you can see above, it's like a big phone on your ref door. Voice-controlled! It's amazing. I can't even explain it. Lemme study it and maybe do another post describing it once I fully understand it!

And there you have it! My favorite finds at the Samsung Forum Singapore! I had a wonderful time discovering all these incredible technology... for homemakers!!! And I'm not just talking about moms and dads. Anyone who lives in a house and wants household chores to be lots easier will want all these Samsung appliances.

Check out the Samsung Philippines website for more information and more gadgets. There are definitely more than 5 appliances that Samsung showed off (phones, washing machines, air conditioners, ovens, etc) but I was most impressed and needful of the ones I talked about here. Like the Samsung Ph Facebook page for more product announcements and sale promos!

Friday, May 03, 2019

Unboxing the secret to how mommies can truly beat worries

Unboxing post! I only do this on Instagram (and not even often) but the Best Ever Joy press box called to me because it said it will help me lead a zero-worries life. Considering that my life has been a little crazy recently, I felt compelled to finally open the big yellow box and see the secret to a life free from worry!

So Joy, the trusted dishwashing liquid, recently introduced its new Best Ever Joy. I'm sure you're aware of this because of the dancing moms and Michael V ads everywhere!

Anyway, this latest formula is the biggest innovation in 10 years. It has the new powerful ingredient HOD, an amphiphilic polymer that locks in grease better and prevents it from attaching again to dishes when rinsing plates, sponge, sink and hands. So now when you wash dishes, you literally have "zero sebo"*  because the new Best Ever Joy breaks grease faster and more efficiently, keeps grease suspended in the wash solution, and rinses off more quickly. And because Pinoys like suds, they created the Best Ever Joy to have longer-lasting suds, preventing the need for more product on the sponge. Mas powerful na, mas nakakatipid ka pa!

Six bog bottles yes!!!

So paano naging #ZeroWorries ang life kapag zero-sebo sa kusina? I know. Medyo far-fetched but Joy believes that Filipino parents are always worrying about the quality and quantity of time we spend with our kids. And if we're just stuck sa kusina, washing dishes, what a waste of time!

Actually, when I talked to Pinoy mommies, hindi nila concern ang time sa kusina kasi majority of Pinoy households have kasambahays. Parang ako lang ang kilala ko na walang kaambahay! So at least sa bahay namin, issue siya. Husband ko ang taga-hugas ng pinggan (ako ang nagluluto kasi) and sobrang happy siya when he saw the Best Ever Joy box hehe

May P21 savings pa!

Anyway, if most Pinoy parents don't worry about dishwashing time, sama-sama naman tayo sa pag-worry about germs and if malinis ang baunan ng mga bata.

With the new Best Ever Joy, all those worries can be washed away! Moms and dads are assured of "zero sebo" — even though they used less product and spent less time washing, the plates are still completely clean of grease and germs. That means #ZeroWorries over time, energy, cleanliness, and budget. Moms and dads can focus on living the Best Ever Life because of the new Best Ever Joy! Hooray!

May hand-painted plato and sponge pa!

But let me share with you my powerful secret in beating worries: GOD!

Totoo yan! I am the worst worrier in the world. Hindi naman ako ganito dati. Naging ganito lang ako nung naging nanay ako. My worries manifest as a horrible itch sa legs ko (gross, I know), so if you look at my legs now, puros peklat. I tried meditation, exercise, breathing exercises, journaling, etc. Nothing! What helped was going back to God's Word.

There are many verses in the Bible telling us to not be afraid and to not worry at all. God is in control! He is Sovereign! No matter what happens, "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28). Everything is going to be okay, mamas!

Matthew 6:25-34 says, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

"Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God cloths the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

"So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Such a beautiful promise from our Heavenly Father! Blessed assurance talaga! So let us not worry, mamas. Yes, life is hard and it is full of sadness and pain. But God will see us through! I really believe that! And now, when my worries start creeping up on me, I just take a deep breath and repeat, "I am valuable to God. He will take care of me. Worrying won't add to my life. God will! So don't worry, mama. God is in control!"

So now you know my secret! God bless you all!

Anyway, back to Best Ever Joy! Thanks so much, Joy, for the gift! I'll review it soon. I want to see if it really works.

The new Best Ever Joy comes in a limited offer of only Php99 for the 495ml bottle. Joy is available at all supermarkets, grocery stores and convenience stores nationwide. Joy is a quality product of Proctor & Gamble. For more information and updates on promos, follow their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/JoyPhilippines.

*ZERO SEBO claim is based on technical and quantitative tests with 300 consumers in Metro Manila vs previous formula

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

I'm not okay. But I'm okay because I'm hidden away while the storm rages on.

It's the last hour of April 30 and I'm holding my breath, just hoping walang pasabog pang hahabol because let me tell you: April was a really interesting month. Nag-earthquake pa! Here's a recap:

Piero getting an x-ray for his arm

(1) Papa got sick and then he died. Witnessing his deterioration was a horror I don't ever want to go through again. I'm grateful I went through only a few days of it, compared to my younger sister who was Papa's constant caregiver. She is working through her emotions and I am sure they are deeper than mine because caring for someone heroically and yet they died anyway is a despair I was spared from, and for that I am relieved. Of course, that relief makes me feel guilty.

(2) Those terrible two weeks were filled with us siblings working out hurts and misunderstandings with Papa and with each other. All the while fighting through fear and worry, too! And yet we were also enveloped by love, kindness and generosity from family, friends and neighbors, even complete strangers. Ibang level ang emotions. I don't think I've processed everything yet.

(3) My bunso Piero fractured his arm when he was playing with his brothers and cousins. That was definitely an ordeal kasi sumabay siya sa lamay ni Papa.

(4) Of course I couldn't go to the office while all of the above was happening but I worked when I could. Still, there was a lot I couldn't do so when I finally went back to the office after Holy Week, I was (and still am) swamped with work. I am truly drowning and I don't know what to do.

(5) I lost my wallet. You know the last time I lost my wallet? Right after my mother died. And now it's happened again!

I think I may look okay outside but inside I'm a mess. I don't feel it but my actions show it. I'm distracted. I'm tired. I'm sleepy. I'm not aware of things. I forget things. I misplace things. I lose things. And my anxiety is threatening to come back and overwhelm me. I can feel it simmering just under my smiles.

So I'm supposed to catch up on work and blogging and chores, but I just had to pause. I had to take stock of my mental and emotional health. And, nope, things may look okay but I'm not okay. Accepting that made me feel better. I always focus on what's wrong first. I think that's always the first step to getting better, right? Sobrang uso ngayon ang "Positivity! Good vibes! Happy thoughts only!" I think that's actually contributing to a lot of mental breakdowns because we're not allowed to feel ugly.

I don't think I'll be okay for a while. And yet I also realized as I worked through my emotions that I am also very happy. I'm happy I am alive and healthy, that my husband and I are still together and happy, that we have three wonderful and healthy boys, that I have a job and my bosses are good to me, that I have family and friends who love us. I'm happy I have faith in a Sovereign God because I may not be in an emotionally great place and yet I also am. Did that even make sense?!

A few days ago, when I was realizing my simultaneous joy and grief, I posted these on Instagram:

I was really happy about how I wasn't sinking into despair because of God's promise! But then I started getting a lot of messages about my posts. Many were happy I've "quickly recovered" and "moved on" and how inspiring I am because I "don't feel sad anymore."

Guys, I am sad. I am very sad. I think there is also anger in me and lots of guilt. There is shock and horror. There are emotions I feel but haven't truly confronted yet because I'm scared. I see myself standing in a hurricane and everything is whirling around me and I can't breathe and I'm afraid because I don't know how long this will last. Yet I am also not afraid because I'm not standing alone. I am shielded from the storm. I can see and hear the wildness around me and it is very scary, but I'm also safe. Wild, right?!

There is a verse in the Bible that I always turn to when I'm afraid. I always say I'm brave, right? Courage is my middle name! But I'm always afraid, mamas. Always always always. Especially when I became a mommy. And when fear is overtaking me, I hide in God's promise of protection.

Exodus 33: 21-22 says, "Then the Lord said, 'There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.'"

It's so visual for me! When there is a storm, when there are enemies, when there are monsters out there or in my head, God will hide me in a cleft in the rock and cover me with His hand. The cleft is a dark and not comfortable place. Plus, the storm is still out there, the enemies are still hunting me down, or the monsters are still threatening me but I am safely hidden while God works His miracles. I just need to wait safely. And I have to be hidden because God's glory can be too much!

So I'm not okay but I'm also okay. Right now, I am so not okay that I have to hide away. I don't know when I'll get better. Some days are great. Some days I cry. But every day I am grateful I have a family to welcome me home when things get too much. I'm especially grateful I have placed my trust in a God who thinks it's totally all right to hide in His love when the world gets too crazy like my world's been crazy this April.

It's nearly midnight! Leaving April now with this old and beloved hymn I sang as a child and comforts my sad yet joyful heart now. I hope it comforts you, too!

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Savior to me;
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Boys chasing birds and birds chasing boys

This is my favorite time of the year in Manila. On Holy Week, the streets are empty and quiet. The sky is free from smog and is a piercing blue. Well, except this Holy Week. I think it's the first ever Holy Week that's cloudy and rainy!

This rainy holiday reminded me of our trip to Tagaytay a few months back. I only told you about it on my Instagram but never got to share the truly fun photos from our really wet weekend. But no rain can dampen the spirits of my boys. Nope!

They ran and played under the rain, in the mud, in the puddles, chasing ducks and geese, then screaming when the big birds started chasing them.

It was raining hard when they fed the birds.
But they refused to go under the umbrella with me.
They enjoyed this so much and I enjoyed just watching them!
Watching the boys and the birds chase each other was fun too! Although I went closer... just in case!

When they did stay inside, they played and drew and chased each other and hugged and tickled each other. Many days they annoy each other to tears, but just as many days they spend on being absolutely the best boys a mother could ever ask for.

Posing for Papa's camera!
Then ignoring everyone as they get to work on their chalk art.
Piero's obsessed with sharks.
Iñigo's obsessed with Piero!

I liked this vacation. We should go on holiday again. I miss the days when Vince and I worked from home and only when we liked and we could just up and leave whenever we wanted to. Of course, those days were when we didn't have such huge expenses (a.k.a. tuition haha).

We usually stay in the city during Holy Week because we LOVE the empty city but the kids want to go hiking and camping. Do you have any suggestions for kid-friendly places like that? I'd like the boys to go on an adventure again!

P.S. Vito's not in the photos because he's already avoiding being photographed. And that's okay. I always ask the boys if I can take their photos and share on social media. And when they give their consent, that's the only time I share!

Monday, April 15, 2019

I learned 10 things from Papa's death

Papa passed away the night of April 10, Wednesday. My younger brother Ted and younger sister Jacqui rushed him back to the hospital just before Tuesday midnight. He no longer had a heartbeat. He was no longer breathing but the ER staff worked for 25 minutes resuscitating him.

When I got to the hospital at 12:40am, Papa had his heartbeat back but he was hooked up to a ventilator to help him breathe. His eyes were still moving, the way eyes do when we sleep. His skin was warm and soft. He was still there. The monitor said his heart was getting stronger, his breathing was getting better, his blood pressure was stabilizing. So we talked to him, sang to him, prayed over him from midnight till 5am. Five hours of just standing around his bed, joking, crying, singing praise songs, praying, saying good-bye, telling him to keep fighting. Just 5 hours but was there ever a longer night?

At dawn, the doctors said he needed to get a CT scan to check for brain activity. So he was wheeled away but when he came back, I was afraid Papa was no longer with us. His eyes had stopped moving. His flesh felt different. And he was now cold. Maybe when he didn't hear or feel us anymore, his soul finally let go of the tether holding him to earth.

I wasn't the only one who saw things were different. The doctor who was so encouraging just moments before took one look at the scans and then said there was no need for the ICU anymore and that we can just wait in a regular room. Wait for...? Wait for family. Wait for the neurologist to tell us what the brain scan said. Wait for Papa to die. And that's what we did. A whole day of praying and singing and telling stories and hugging and crying and laughing and saying good-bye. Then when all the visitors have slipped away, the doctor and nurses came in Papa's room and we began the process of death.

I won't go into so many details of that final day and night. I'm just going to tell you guys things I've learned very recently. If you don't like morbid stuff, best to skip this post. I promise to return to regular programming next week! I have so many nice and wonderful things to share with you all.

But for now, please allow me to process my grief by letting me step back from the horror and love of the last 2 weeks. I just want to share the stuff that I learned from Papa's death:

I wasn't supposed to talk but... Oh well. 

1. Nurses are kind. Thank the Lord for nurses. When the doctor said there's no use talking to Papa because he was brain dead, the nurses said, "Wag kayong maniwala diyan! Kausapin niyo lang nang kausapin si Tatay. Sabihin niyo na mahal niyo siya." I know they know the doctor is correct but I also know they knew what our hearts needed. May God bless you forever, Papa's dear nurses. Thank you for going to Papa's wake, too.

2. I now know how dying is like. Well, at least with Papa, I do. Your heart beat slows down. Your blood pressure lowers. Your temperature goes up then plunges. Your body gets rid of fluid (so get ready with lots of diapers and towels to wipe off perspiration). Your breathing gets slower and farther apart. Papa was already unconscious and so he wasn't aware of anything. The nurses said if you're awake, you will slowly go into a deep sleep. There is no pain. Just blessed sleep. 

3. Doctors and nurses only stand witness when you remove your loved one from life support. I thought they were the ones who did it! Imagine our shock. And yet our relief, too, that we, instead of strangers, were the ones to bring Papa to the other side.

4. Unless you suspect murder and want an autopsy, it's best to have the body embalmed asap, while it's still soft. The longer you wait pala, the harder it is for the morticians to prepare the body for viewing. Mama looked so fresh because they prepared her within 2 hours of death. Because we couldn't call St Peter at 10pm (their office hours end at 6pm!), we had to wait till the morning and by then parang ayaw na ng St Peter. So we called Marian Memorial Chapels and sabi nila Papa's body was difficult to manipulate. They still did a good job! So we love Marian. They took good care of Mama 10 years ago. They took good care of Papa now. Thank you, Marian!

Papa's wake was full of song and laughter... and kids' playing!

5. I need to buy a death outfit. Before you think na napaka-shallow ko... Guys, I've gone through this twice. Hindi na ako natuto the first time. It's so stressful, opening your loved one's closet and seeing, touching and smelling their clothes and knowing they're never going to be worn by your parent again. It's heart-shattering. But you wipe your tears and look for an outfit that will provide maximum coverage. Long sleeves, high neck, pants or long skirt, or skirt with 2 pairs of hose. The mortician says it's to cover dead skin. I have no suitable clothes for that occasion. I have to spare my family this terrible chore and just buy a death suit.

6. It's a good idea to have a folder in your computer where you can put your photos for the wake. It took us a while to comb through photos of Papa, looking for the photos that best represented his life. Vince and I have decided we'd have 3 kinds of photos: from when we were young (maybe 20s), a couple photo, and a few family photos. Then we'll just update the folder as we get older so that when we die, the kids won't have to go through hundreds of pictures and cry (or giggle).

7. Another good idea is to book 2 adjacent rooms at the funeral home, instead of just 1 big room. You get 2 kitchens and 2 comfort rooms. One for family, one for guests. It was a relief to have one little room for ourselves where we could leave all our things and nap when needed.

See me at the back? I'm always minding children!

8. Adobo lasts forever! Well, if it's covered in oil, that is. My Tita Alice Amper cooked a huge batch of the richest adobo we have ever tasted. It was pork and chicken and beef and liver all covered by thick sauce and a layer of mantika. We ate that for days! Sarap! God bless family who flooded us with food. At both my parents' wakes, we never had to worry about food. Who knows what I mean? I literally was amazed at all the food pouring in. People are so generous!

9. You can't bring home the funeral flowers. We received so many beautiful flower arrangements and I liked best the gorgeous one from my cousins Dash and Iza Calzado. I just wanted to put a few of the blooms and several broad-leaf palms in vases at my home. But everyone stopped me. "Ano ito—kasal?" (Actually, ang alam ko hindi rin pwede iuwi ang wedding flowers, diba.) "Malas kapag mag-uwi ka ng kahit ano sa lamay. Pagkain, bulaklak—lahat dapat iwan dito."   

10. Papa wanted to be cremated. After witnessing burials and a cremation, I prefer a burial. That said, if my family chooses to cremate me, that's okay, too. Cremation takes 1.5 hours to 2 hours at Heaven's Gate Antipolo. And we stayed there till Papa's ashes were given to us in an urn made and given by Lanelle Abueva-Fernando. Thank you for your gift!

At the crematorium. Ulilang lubos na kami.

I know this list sounds so strange but I still don't know how to process Papa's death. I've cried, but I don't think I've grieved. I don't know why my mind is putting it off. Maybe because Papa and I had just recently patched things up and my heart won't allow me to see just what I've lost. Maybe because after 2 full weeks of worry and crazy emotions, I'm too exhausted to feel anything. Maybe I just need to sleep. Or maybe I just need my Papa back.

*photos from my sister-in-law, Roselyn Legaspi-Amper