Today, I Turn Twenty-four

My Symphonies: Home / Day Wave

Wasting Time / Day Wave

Semi-rocking the guybun in 2016 (*Not a recent photo, thank god!).

So today, I turn twenty-four. 

I remember typing out almost the exact same words back in May 2013, when I wrote Today, I Turn Twenty. This time is different, though. When I turned 20, I felt a lot of uncertainty and discomfort towards aging. In fact, I used to be a self-proclaimed ageist. The mere thought of being a year older always made me feel nauseous and quite anxious. Every year, when I “celebrated” my birthday, I would always try to hide how upset I was with the fact that humans have to naturally age. I hated the concept of getting old.

But this year is different. For the first time, I actually feel very at peace with turning a year older. And not just that; I also feel very at peace with the fact that every year, everything and everyone else turns a year older. It is finally safe to say that I have come to terms with the way the world works – Things and people age; there’s nothing we can do about it.

I am writing today not just because it’s my birthday, but also because I want to acknowledge change. Change, who comes when it’s time for it to come. Change, who is the master of beauty and tragedy. Change, who is the initiator of bliss and chaos. And Change, who so effortlessly comes with aging.

When I think of my life from the beginning leading up to this point, I see it in chapters. And what’s great about chapters is that they tell us that apart from the end and the beginning of every book, there are tiny little ends and beginnings in between. And these little ends and little beginnings create something beautiful – something worth reading, worth telling and worth living. This has been my life:

The Childhood Years, when I first learned to take life one step at a time (literally); when I played in playgrounds and scratched my knee like every kid did; when I looked at grown-ups around me and wondered if I, one day, was also gonna be as big and as complex and as successful as they were; when life was a never-ending cycle of naps, tantrums, school, lunch boxes and Cartoon Network…

The High School Years, when I tackled so many things for the first time without much knowledge about life and the world I lived in; when I fell in love for the first time, got my heart broken for the first time, failed an exam for the first time, topped the class in something for the first time, made great friends and mortal enemies for the first time, and played in the field of teenage angst, romance, betrayal and overall drama for the first time; The High School Years was that one chapter that gave the first definite shape of my personality…

The University of the Philippines Years, which gets a special chapter due to the silent but steady impact it had on me. This chapter was when I learned that I can handle change (a major change) for the first time. I learned that simplicity doesn’t have to mean boring, and that modesty doesn’t have to mean defeat. I learned to take matters into my own hands, stand up for myself and carry on through the tough days without having to cry for help. This chapter was when I started to really genuinely appreciate sunsets, deep meaningful conversations and the importance of getting to know people outside of my shiny little bubble…

The Great Move, the chapter that tells of my move to Canada with my family. This, more than anything by far, has been the greatest teacher. This chapter was when I found myself in a world so different from where I grew up in. I learned so many things about other cultures especially when I was in Vancouver Film School. I learned so much about the sad realities of life, and how we all have a choice to bounce back from them. This was the chapter when I went through depression triggered by an unrequited love, and later on realized it was all just a lack of love for myself. I would say that without this chapter, I wouldn’t have been able to handle the next…

The Dark Ages, was a chapter that started out so magnificent, and so daring, and so adventure-filled and exciting. But I give it its chapter title due to the overall draining energy that surrounded it from the beginning, and more so towards the end. I fell in love with a guy that was ready to give me the world, but wasn’t ready to love me for who I am. I experienced physical abuse, verbal violence and worst of all, emotional manipulation. I learned that love isn’t enough – a relationship has to have friendship, compromises, acceptance and most importantly, respect. I learned that I am resilient, and that no matter what life was gonna throw my way after this chapter, I can absolutely handle it…

The Renaissance, cheesy, I know, but whoever said “There is light at the end of the tunnel” is hands down a genius. It’s true! Now I find myself in a place happier and brighter than anywhere I have ever been. I can definitely say that I am right where I am supposed to be in life right now, feeling exactly what I am supposed to be feeling at the moment, and being with the people whom I am most precisely supposed to be with at this chapter in my life. I am grateful for the genuine love I’ve found, blissful for the friends and family I have been blessed with, and ecstatic to take on the coming months and years of this journey called life…

I look at where I am today, and I realize that I should be happy about turning a year older. Turning a year older means I am still alive right now. I can still do whatever I want to do with my life, and go places, see new things, meet new people. Turning a year older means I have survived all the years before this; that I have embraced change time and time again, and that I have triumphed over obstacles and challenges that went my way.

Chapters. That word is subtly synonymous to “hope”, to “life”, to “change”. And today, I would like to celebrate turning a year older by thanking everyone in my life (literally EVERYONE, including those who are no longer a part of it in the present) for making me who and what I am today.

Because, girl, I’m slaying. ❤ ❤ ❤

Pre-Birthday Thoughts

My Symphony: Gucci Bag / Reema Major 

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

Almost 23.

At this point, it is safe to say that I have reached the equilibrium of my post-adolescent years (a.k.a. my early 20’s). I think that for the longest time, life for me was an unnecessary emotional struggle (90% of which was self-inflicted). I don’t know, maybe it is kind of normal for a pubescent creature to be melodramatic and somehow masochistic. But I feel like I’ve gone through enough bullshit in my life that now I am almost immune to it. Needless to say, life has been easier for me lately simply because I have managed to develop a mental process where I eliminate toxic people, excess things and rotten thoughts slash memories from my entire system. It’s been great!

I don’t believe that people change. People never change. You are who you are, and that’s probably who you’ve always been and who you always will be. That is my main belief system. And looking at myself right now, I am proud to say that I am still the direction-less kiddo you all knew from college. The truth is, I do not know what I want (generally speaking). And I am happy about that. Not knowing everything that you want only means being open to possibilities. Larger, wider, brighter possibilities. Not knowing comes with a sense of calmness. It comes with a pinch of excitement and mystery. It is quite beautiful, actually.

I grew up in an environment where everyone around me seemed to know every specific detail of what they wanted from life. At some point, I was also kind of pressured to know what the fuck I wanted to do with my life after college, and “stressful” is not a good enough adjective to describe what I went through with all that. But, see, the thing is, I have always been this way. I’ve always never known what I want from life, from the world, from the people around me. I rely more on my feelings and my gut instinct when it comes to my short-term decision-making (because I only ever really make decisions for the short term). The minute I consult my brain about what to do, I get into this repetitive tip-toeing from one thought to another, and it is never productive. This is why I thrive more on taking life one day at a time as opposed to carefully planning out every single detail five, ten or twenty years too early. That’s just not how I roll.

When I turned 22 last year, I was bulldozed with a lot of overwhelming questions about my grand plan for my future. And I know at least half of those people were probably genuinely concerned about me and my well-being, but I mean, let’s be real here: the other half just wanted to make me feel like shit. And they tried to make me feel that way! But they failed (hashtag LOL). To everyone who was so aggressive towards me on my birthday last year, and asked so many personal questions that didn’t need to be asked whatsoever (and also to anyone who is planning to sit me down and give me another pep talk about the great mother effing future this year), here is a piece of my mind regarding the matter:

Ladies and gentlemen, the biggest deception of life in the modern society is the greatness of the future and the fleetingness of our youth. Because the reality is, the future isn’t that great. Maybe it is kind of peachy, but it can never be as good, and as fabulous, and as spectacular as the here and now.  Why, you ask? Simple. Because it isn’t even here yet. It may or may not happen. That’s why it’s called the future. NO ONE KNOWS. And our youth? It is not at all fleeting. It is actually decently lengthy, and the only reason it doesn’t feel that way is because you jamokes have decided that for some reason, turning twenty means you have to go out there and start “adult-ing”. And I’m just sitting here eating my fries thinking Nah-uh! Adult-ing is so overrated and so overhyped. There is absolutely nothing special, impressive or even remotely satisfying about it. In modern day terminology, adult-ing refers to relatively young people complainingly taking on tasks that are supposed to be deemed “adult-like”, “responsible” and “mature”. But the fact of the matter is that, just because you are paying a couple of bills and not living with your parents, doesn’t mean you need to consciously label yourself as an adult. It honestly just metaphorically makes your youth go by faster. It’s a not-so-healthy state of mind which you blindly put yourself in. I swear to god, this world will judge you for being 22 and not successful. But that is a whole ‘nother blog entry because first of all, success is different for every single person. And second of all, screw society. So, for the love of perky coconut trees in the Bahamas and Mary Kate Olsen’s luscious locks, enjoy your youth and don’t let anyone take that away from you. Youth is not the one that’s fleeting, but your resistance to society’s pointless yiddie yaddah yaddah’s. 


Today, I Turn Twenty

My Symphonies:  Baker Lake by Sera Cahoone | Nothing Left to Lose by Mat Kearny


“But it does make me sad that we’ve forgotten our names. Out of everything, this seems to me the most tragic. I miss my own and I mourn for everyone else’s, because I’d like to love them, but I don’t know who they are.”
― Isaac Marion

May 24th, 2013 [Philippine time]

Today, I turn twenty. And right now, I cannot believe how much happiness and sadness typing out those four words brings to me. Although I actually like how “twenty” sounds, I still haven’t digested the fact that I’ve walked on earth and breathed its air for two decades now, and that 1993 is already twenty years ago. It’s quite fascinating to me, how quickly life turns its pages. What’s even more fascinating is the amount of fear and nostalgia leaving the teen-age bracket has given me.

My fear doesn’t involve the future, though, which is unusual for me. I used to always think about the future when I ponder on life and the world I live in. I used to spend days just wondering how tomorrow was going to be like. I had tried and worked hard to participate as a normal functioning member of the society. But the whole future-chasing has done nothing to me but make me weary. I have divorced the future. The kind of fear that I had in what is not yet there has carefully transferred to what was, and possibly is, still there. 

Before any of my loved ones who read this get worried about me again, know that this fear I’m talking about doesn’t necessarily state that I’m depressed. No, this isn’t one of those fears. This is a good fear. It’s the fear that makes me feel more alive than I have ever been. And it lies both in the past and in the present. How so? I’ll tell you…

About two years ago, my family and I moved to Canada. Surrey, British Columbia, to be specific. It was 6th of July in 2011. I remember. I just finished saying all my good-byes both at home and in the airport. I was holding tightly on my sky blue travel pillow as I used its shaft to wipe my tears. Going through security, removing my shoes and all and still sobbing, I said to myself in a semi-whisper (and I will never forget this), “H-h-home… I’ll a-always… b…be”.

Thinking about that moment today still sends shivers down my spine. I was younger then, and I didn’t know a lot of things. I was only trusting my feelings based on the experiences I had in the places and with the people back home. But I always knew inside of me that I could never escape something so bold and real in my life just like that. It’s actually very paradoxical, how being away from something actually puts you closer to it. And I’m grateful that I get to be here in Canada, I really am. This was what I wanted so badly when I was still in the Philippines– to be away. To be somewhere else for some time. To take a break from the world I was in too deep. To learn, to grow, to see. And today, I am happy to confirm it to myself that all of the things I wished for is now right in front of me.

I’ve learned. I’ve grown. I’ve seen.

I’ve learned, in the past two weeks that I’ve been reconnecting with my friends and family back home, that real relationships are supposed to stand the test of time and distance. I’ve learned, from hearing their voices and seeing their faces, how strong a memory can be; that we are ultimately interwoven no matter where life takes us. I’ve learned that truthfulness is rare, and it only lives from a place of love. I’ve learned that as a person, as a human being, my highest goal isn’t to build castles for myself, to have monuments dedicated to me or to possess a power akin to Zeus’ or Hercules’, but simply to give; to find what is real in my heart and to offer it to people in ways that I can.

I’ve grown, so much so that I’ve managed to reach out to the clouds and to the loneliest plankton on the seabed. I’ve grown slowly, but I’ve grown meaningfully. I’ve grown in a way that has made me ask a lot of questions to the air even when I know it’s never going to give me any visible answers. I’ve grown enough to see both below and above me; I’ve grown to stand beneath a marquee knowing that mountains do move and that the sunset is the most romantic lover I have in my life. I’ve grown not just into a man but into a child, which is far more important and remarkable– I’ve grown to love my parents more and more, my brothers like they are those mountains and my friends like they are the whimsical wind in front of the sunset. I’ve grown in a way that makes me feel okay about not being okay, and great about not being great. I’ve grown with the little things, and these little things have made me grow bigger.

I’ve seen that the best things in life aren’t things. I’ve seen the desperation of a student, the heartbreak of a girl and the melancholy of a writer. I’ve seen the ways by which a boy follows his heart’s dictates. I’ve seen the falling down of the world and the rising up of the citizens. I’ve seen every bit of sorrow that takes place in seventeen-minute intervals within gloomy coffee shops. I’ve seen the coldness and the bitterness of society. I’ve seen the anger in people’s chests and the compassion in their mere little fingers. I’ve seen the hunger for light and the quest for beauty. I’ve seen emptiness and rage, loyalty and condemnation. I’ve seen the escape from the labyrinth, and I’ve seen the best thing of all.

So where’s my fear in all this? My fear is that somehow, my learning, and my growing, and my seeing have managed to take me face to face with who I am. It’s overwhelming, nonetheless exhilarating, and nothing short of enlightening.

Last week, I was reading the scrapbook my friends made for me when I left my university back in the Philippines. I was just shocked by the way I felt upon reading the individual letters and the pieces of sentiments written in that scrapbook. I haven’t read it since I left the country, and reading it again sort of put me in a time machine that brought me back to my brief college days in Miag-ao, which is a place I hold dear to my heart. Each word in that scrapbook (which they entitled “Kenn”) means so much to me. What I love about it is that it isn’t centered primarily on me but actually on the kind of friendship we all had. We all became so close to each other in so little time. I wish they could read what they wrote in this scrapbook right now. That way, they’ll clearly remember. One of the letters there, written by my friend Lester, succinctly narrates a night spent in Bentoy’s (a super cool, laidback resto bar that serves really aggressive drinks for such a low price and whose owner lets his pet dog named Shabu meddle with the customers) along with Esther and Nikko. We did some really fun, though not completely appropriate, things that night and as freshmen college students, we didn’t really care. That’s what got me about the letter. It took me back to that night, and I could clearly see the four of us sitting on the bamboo floor, drinking, smoking, talking about life not really knowing it was right there sitting with us. And I could see everything else– the road leading to the resto bar, the color of the night, the shapes and the cracks of tables, even the color of Esther’s shirt (it was her olive green shirt which she wore best during nighttime). 

Remembering. Today, I give myself that. I know society forces us to always look ahead and move forward but really, sometimes I think that’s a trap. I think it is fantastic to be able to go on with my life especially now that I am two years away from home; I think it is awesome that I’ve made few great friends in Vancouver whom I know I will continue to be friends with for the longest time, and I think it is so, so nice that I embrace this place for all that it has taught me. But to treat time and distance as an opportunity to escape eighteen great years of my life? That’s simply unjust. I know for a fact that I would never be able to grow as the person I am today if it weren’t for my family and my friends and the real-life moments I spent with them.

I guess, after all these musings, the fear I am talking about is only the fear of remembering. Remembering my roots, remembering my values, remembering myself. And like I said it’s a good fear. Well, I think that fear is generally a good thing. It makes something real.

Today, I turn twenty.

Statements of Gratitude and a Supernova of Flashbacks

My Symphony: Kids by MGMT

I am making this post very brief and precise. I just wanna thank everyone who made my [last] birthday in this city a memorable and a rockin’ one.

I thank God for giving me another year to live in this world. I thank Him for giving me the coolest and truest friends and family.

I thank my Mom because even though she wasn’t around during my birthday, I know that she is always emotionally present. I wanna thank her for making it possible for me to spend one night with all my loved ones.

I thank Dad and the rest of my family members for supporting me and giving me the enlightenment to see things in a guided perspective. Auntie Boots, thanks for the spag. Munch, thanks for the dessert. Ton, THANKS sa libre kag sa pag all-out ma-oy sa Ice kag sa balay. 🙂 Tito Pol, Mama Au, thanks for the gifts and for the love and care. Manong Kipoy, Manang Ember, Manong Makoy, Maevin, Viola, thanks to you as well.

To my college friends, thanks for traveling miles from home just so you could celebrate my birthday with me. Lester, I’m sorry that you had to spend more time traveling than being here. But I hope it was all worth it and fun for you in those mere 14-16 hours that you’ve been here. Es, thanks for the JD brownies and for the amazing speech you gave five nights ago […]

[This blog entry is unfinished.

Cards and Hair Dye

There will always be simple and ordinary things that may mean extraordinarily well to us in life.

My Tune: Remember by Gabriel Mann

I am right now blogging as a 16-year old boy who was just one year younger for about a couple of days ago.

So it was ten o’clock in the morning, 24th day of May 2009. It was my birthday–my 16th birthday. Well I wasn’t supposed to be up that early (yes, early) because waking up before one in the afternoon, for me, is already an abnormal practice. But I did wake up in that ungodly hour anyway. I was undeniably over-excited about the goings-on that’ll take place that day which I have long-thought of way before. One of these goings-on has something to do with my guest list. And you’ve guessed it right, fella. It didn’t turn out quite the way I expected it to. Maybe just a little less that what I had in mind…or more.

Two days before my birthday I decided to make invitations the way I believe invitations should be done. I decided to do the entire invitation process the personal way. So I showed up to my peers one by one with sincerity and desperation in my throat as I shaped in my mouth the words “will you come to my party?”. Well, out of about more than a dozen of people I have invited, less than half of them weren’t really that sure if they could come. I mean of course, they may have their reasons. But what I’m about to tell you is a different story.

First of all, I wasn’t able to invite everyone personally because of three reasons: One, is that Shayne wasn’t around at school that time because she’s not deemed to be so. Another, Jerome, for some reason that I wasn’t able to discover, wasn’t around as well. Finally, Benjie also wasn’t around because people told me he had a rough time dealing with his health lately. So there, a not-so-perfect outcome of the should-be flawless personal invitations. At the end of the day though, I still managed to iron the twists and folds of things.

But there was another problem. An ugly one. And it happened on the very day of my birthday.

Just fresh from hitting the sacks, I descended our staircase to get some ice-cold water. It was my birthday and I thought of having my favorite drink as a good starter of everything that was yet to happen. Out of the bluest blue, I saw John Re from across the hallway. He stood up as soon as he felt my presence. I immediately blurted “Hey John, why are you here so early? The party’s at night”. I was like “Haven’t I told you that? Haven’t I told everyone that?”. He said “Kenn, Happy Birthday. Sorry, can’t make it tonight. I have to be somewhere else. Okay, enjoy! I gotta keep going now”.

Those words were like blade cutting right through my then astonished visage. Astonished…but I was never amazed.

I was in panic. I immediately sent all the people in the Invictus Guild[IG] pieces of SMS which stated and defied my desperation. Minutes later, I received a message from Kim. She told me she couldn’t make it and neither could Shayne. What was next, you may ask. Well, what was next was Herman ringing my phone and I answering it just to hear him say “Sorry, Kenn. I’m grounded. Maybe next time around. Happy birthday, anyways”.

After he hung up, I was in deep and serious agony. No exaggeration. Just a piece of fact. I mean what the hell was that? Was I being PUNK’D? Was that some kind of a practical joke? ‘Cause I was not freaking laughing (pardon some unexpected words here, but sometimes using such words as “freaking” or “damn” is really helpful in expressing deep feelings especially in the blogging and the English-speaking worlds)! What entered my mind next was that if Kim couldn’t come, maybe neither could Rean.

So I then sent him a message and this time, the message already expressed my disappointment with IG. I went “Reance’! Kadto ka gid dapat ya ha? Okay honestly, sunggod ko sa IG ah! Bale mga apat na gali ang indi magkadto ah. Pwede lang na?! Kadto ka ha?! Hay mayo pa sa inyo ang PNP!”. Of course I regret that I said I felt something bad against IG. I never hated them. I could never hate them. But in that particular moment in time, who can blame me? I was just afraid the people I love wouldn’t be with me in my special day, which was by the way I surely knew would even be more special when they’re around.

Rean didn’t reply. I mean don’t you have a load? Or a charger? What’s wrong with you? An hour passed. I was in the verge of giving up. I thought to myself “Oh, Mr. Birthday Boy! I guess this is too much for a perfect celebration…too much for a grand birthday bash…too much for your expectations.

Seven minutes later, I heard a noise. It was a familiar one. A very familiar one. There were voices. I said to myself…I knew this MAY happen. Well, those voices were from Rean, Herman, Kim, Benjie, Dane, Shayne and Keith. They brought with them a very good cake. They may haven’t noticed since I’m most of the time unemotional, but I was more than happy to see them right in front of me with my very eyes after receiving killer messages which were far worse than slowly dying (because reading them were actually very close to dying slowly, I insist). If only there’s a word that’s more meaningful and heart-warming than “happy”. I was speechless. The killer messages I thought would end my life were actually just tools to surprise me. And guys, IG, if your goal was to shock the living hell out of me, then you’ve succeeded. I was happily surprised.

Well, all the fun and happiness followed after that. I couldn’t put everything that actually happened here though, because frankly, no words can ever fit exactly what I felt that day…what happened that day…how my life became even more tastier and meaningful that day. I know this is just me. The kind of person who realizes stuff in life and lives it after deliberately over-analyzing it.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, the title of this entry’s “Cards and Hair Dye” because of one figurative and at the same time literal reason:

I’ve known IG for a long time already. Even if it’s not long enough, still, I feel like I’ve known them for forever. When we’re together, we do really crazy and weird stuff. Stuff that in one way or another, strengthens the ties of our bond, though unconscious we are. In my birthday, after we’ve noticed that it’s getting kind of boring, we thought of two crazy things to do: play poker all afternoon long and dye our hair. Not to mention doing these while doing disco in my room. Majority of the guys played poker. As for me, Rean and Shayne, we turned my room into a dye machine! Well, the actual details? I say NO to posting them here. It is OUR secret. OUR treasure. The point here is, just by having cards and hair dye, I realized that bonds can strengthen; that we don’t really need complex things in life to love people around us; that sometimes, mysteries may come, but there will always be solutions and clues to unlock them; that though how busy we are and how we have become grown-ups, there will always be a time to be a child once more with the people we treasure the most; that the greatest things in life are those which are priceless but not meaningless… cannot be seen but can always be felt.


Guys, IG and PNP, thanks for the presents! I really love the stuff you had for me. Basta thanks gid. I never really expected any presents. I just NEEDED you guys there.

Hanson sisters, hope to see you soon!

Party People, kasaja sang tripping ta sa rooftop!

Benjie kag sa mga nabalda sa ZEBAR(LOL), rock on kamo guys! Thanks by the way Benj, kay ako na ang Bad Omen sang birthday ko! wahaha!

Mom, Dad and my entire family, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!

( God, I love you as ever. Thank you so much for giving me the kind of family and friends I have. Give me no more complex graces, just don’t take these people away from me. I have so much more to say that I can’t really type here. This is getting lengthy. And long entries may bore my readers. So, forgive me, my dear peers ).

Ybarzabal Council

Sometimes in life there really are bonds formed that can never be
broken. Sometimes you really can find that one person who will stand by
you no matter what. Maybe you’ll find it in a spouse and celebrate it
with your dream wedding, but there’s also the chance that the one person
you can count on for a lifetime, the one person who knows you sometimes
better than you know yourself is the same person who’s been standing
beside you all along.

See you soon guys. I’ll be gone for the next two weeks. Can’t blog in that particular duration of time.