Sunday, May 26, 2013

There's no place like home

“There’s no place like home.”  I quoted this on my last blog and it made me realize that it had been ten months since I last visited my childhood home of Lutopan.  So much has happened since that last visit.   I have to admit that lately I have been a little stressed, and the best way for me to de-stress is to go back to my roots.  People have different ways of dealing with stress, some picture the beach or an exotic location, but for me I always picture ASMS (now ASMC) in Lutopan.

There are many reasons I choose to always come back to visit.  I love to reminisce all the memories of my family, friends, and teachers and retrace those familiar steps.  We were very close when growing up; we played asin2x, patintero, tago2x, shatong, etc. together outside all day when we were not in class.  It makes me wonder if today’s Facebook generation will grow up with those kinds of memories.  Another reason to visit is that I get to see my humble childhood home.  There are seven siblings in my family and at one point together we shared one small room.  I get to see the place where I fell in love with music and first learned to sing.  My first voice teacher was my father and when I started in school, Tita Mila Loyola continued to guide me.  I also get to see the stage where I first performed and competed in so many minus-1 singing competitions over the years, even the time I lost to Malou Bandola and Arlene Pabroquez (who both deserved to win I must add!).
My first love: Dancing

One of the reasons that I have such amazing memories of my childhood is due to my incredible parents.  We thought we were the richest family around.  Every Sunday, my parents had one kilo of pork and one liter of Coca-Cola to divide up amongst the nine of us.  You can imagine the fights that broke out if the levels in our glasses weren’t exactly the same.  It was the best Coca-Cola ever, and it has never been exactly the same since!  But looking back, I can see the reality that we were by no means rich financially, but we all still believe we were so very blessed as a family.

Our favorite family pastime was singing together while my brothers played guitar.  We would fight over which song to sing; with seven siblings we had varied musical tastes.  Ate Maye would want something from Broadway, my brothers and Jing wanted Alternative, and I demanded Whitney Houston.  But in reality, Mama always won and we would sing “A Little Love” in perfect harmony.  Growing up with so many siblings led me to become who I am today and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

During this trip, I was able to see some familiar faces.  I first saw Mr. Tarsing Ruiz, the ever-popular shop teacher.   And who in Lutopan doesn’t know the ever-bubbly Monsignor Gerry Jumao-as?  I was so happy to see him healthy and smiling at mass, still looking good at 94 years young.  He gave Adam and me a blessing before we had to leave to drive back to the city.  So much has changed in the teachers’ compound where we grew up.  The paint on the houses might be faded, the mango trees might be withered with age, and the water tank might be a little rusted, but the memories are still all so perfectly clear.

Top (L to R): Tita Linda, Msgr. Jumao-as and me; School Seal; English Signs Everywhere
Middle: Mr. Ruiz and friends of Papa; Msgr. Jamao-as; My childhood home
Bottom: Sitting on the water line; my High School; Mt. Carmel Church

Friday, May 24, 2013

Around the world in 6 years

One year ago today, I signed off from my last cruise ship contract from Royal Caribbean International.  I left the ship in the middle of the French Riviera, flying from the busy airport in Nice, France.  Cannes Film Festival and the Monte Carlo Grand Prix were happening at the time.  Little did I know that as I stepped off the gangway of a luxurious international cruise liner, I would be re-entering this thing called the Real World.

Leaving the Real World was a decision I made on purpose back in 2006.  I was working in Manila since 1999 and was not happy with how things were headed.  I’ll spare you the details, but I was given the chance to sign a contract in 2006 with Hong Kong Disneyland to perform the role of Nala.  From the craziness of Manila, I basically entered a life of vacation.  I lived my everyday life where people plan and save for their family vacations.  I sang “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” for 2 years.  As you can imagine, there are only so many times a person can sing that song and keep their sanity.  In 2007, I decided to leave Hong Kong and finish my degree at USJ-R in Cebu.

Photos from some of the shows
on Royal Caribbean International
In 2008, I auditioned and was accepted for the cast of Royal Caribbean’s fleet of international cruise ships.  There I continued living in the vacation world.  I had no car, no cellphone, no rent, and no bills to pay.  My hardest decision each day was what time to eat in our crew cafeteria, also free, or what time to go sightseeing off the ship.  I did work, however, and the work was good.  I worked with very talented people and got to perform really great shows.

For four years I was able to tour the world with Royal Caribbean.  I will be forever grateful for the wonderful opportunities I was given.  I got to travel to over 40 countries on 5 different continents.  I worked in the theater with actors from both Broadway and West End.  And most of all, I met my husband during the second of four contracts.  We finished our cruising career with a world cruise from Europe to Asia and back.

Top (L to R): Makeshift bed; My sunburnt husband
Bottom: Sunburnt legs; Broken piano in a lounge
I feel that I do have to add that cruising wasn’t always easy and we endured two life-threatening events that changed our lives forever: a violent ship rocking off the coast of Egypt in 2010 and a ship fire near Borneo in 2012.  After the fire, my husband experienced second-degree sunburns because the ship was without power and sat, exposed to the brutal sun.  And after the repairs were finished during a drydock in Singapore, we had to travel through the treacherous Gulf of Aden and were approached by several small pirate boats.  I have all the respect in the world for my fellow Pinoy seamen, they risk their lives and go months without seeing their families, knowing their sacrifice will provide a better opportunity for their family.  They were my family on the ship, we ate pancit and sang karaoke together.  They watched out for me, especially when my now-husband and I started dating.  Imagine, he had to go through 50 fathers, mostly the deck and engine crew, who were there to protect me.  They initiated him with dilis and buwad.  For me, they don’t get enough credit for what they do all around the world.

Top (L to R): Egypt; Bethlehem; Church of the Nativity
Middle: Our home onboard; Taiwan; Japan
Bottom: China; Temple in Shanghai; Temple in South Korea
All in all, the experience was surreal.  I traveled to places I had never even dreamed of.  I tasted authentic food everywhere!  Crepes in France, kebabs in Turkey, gyros in Greece, Kobe beef in Kobe, and best of all pizza and pasta in Italy.  The taste of pizza fresh from the brick oven in Naples, Italy is an experience everyone should get at least once in a lifetime (however, Michelangelo’s Pizzeria here in Cebu is really close, and my husband and I go here often for dates).  I walked the final path of Jesus in Jerusalem, visited His birthplace in Bethlehem, saw the Pyramids in Egypt, experienced the samba of Carnival in Brazil, visited Evita’s Pink House in Argentina (while I was performing a Tango show on the ship), and got to visit ancient Rome and the Vatican.  My husband and I had our first date driving 4-wheelers in the beauty of Santorini, Greece.  That’s just a short list of the amazing places that I was able to see.   I'd put my travel list up against the richest people in the world.
Eating our way around the world.
Thank goodness we also had a gym!

But all good things must come to an end.  We realized we couldn’t go on living at sea forever.  We were married here in Cebu last August and we plan to start a family next year, God willing.  You can’t really raise a child in the middle of the ocean!

Some days are easier than others, but I think I am still transitioning back to a life on land.  When I’m spending time with family and friends, I wouldn’t trade going back for anything.  When I look into the faces of our students at The School of Rock (a music school my husband and I co-own here in Cebu), I am so happy to be doing what I’m doing.  But days of heavy traffic in the city, or the days when we pay the bills, or the days of budgeting and buying groceries I really miss the ship life.  We were able to travel, to save money, perform at a high level with amazingly talented people, and focus on our job in a way that is impossible on land.  I was guaranteed steady work every day for six months at a time.

I must continue to acknowledge missing my ship life, but it’s time to face the Real World.  Although we have closed the Royal Caribbean chapter of our lives and are moving on to the next chapter, we will always hold on to the many memories we made.  I am so grateful to God and I promise to share everything I have learned along the way.  But even while touring the world, there is a famous movie phrase that always plays in the back of my head, “There’s no place like home.”  For the first time in 14 years, I can say I am home.

Top (L to R): Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Rhodes, Greece; Dubai, UAE
Middle: Kusadasi, Turkey; Jordan River, Israel; Disneyland Hong Kong
Bottom: Singapore; Taipei, Taiwan; Ephesus, Turkey

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Coffee, Art, and Me

Top (R to L): Cebu and Shanghai, China
Middle: Taipei (Taiwan), Rhodes (Greece), and Pisa (Italy)
Bottom: Cairo (Egypt), Athens (Greece), and Jerusalem (Israel)

Coffee has always been significant to me and my husband.  Our everyday always starts with freshly brewed coffee.  On dates, coffee places are normally an expected stop over before movies, after dinners or just walking around the mall.  Even when touring the world, coffee has always been number 1 on our to-do-list. From Italy to France to Greece to India to Egypt to Turkey to Jerusalem, even in Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Bangkok and many more!  Which one was the best one you may ask?  That's a hard question but if I may answer, maybe in Italy.  Why?  I think the ambiance of the coffee shops helps.  We are fortunate and blessed to try many different coffees around the world.  Adam even tried the cat poop coffee!  It's a coffee made from the digested and excreted coffee beans from the civet cat.  Don't try to imagine, just take it. Urggg)$$&@!! He said it was really good. Gives a certain soothing feeling after every sip.  I say, I'll pass and go for my usual.  Simple cafe latte.

Adam drinking MY coffee!!!

That's why, when my bispren Adrian invited us to attend this grand coffee painting exhibit of a very talented young woman whom I thought was a dancer-singer-host-actress, and now a painter!  I thought I wouldn't dare miss this and support another Cebuana artist!  This dashing young lady is a regular in Abs-Cbn Cebu programs and shows and I have seen her grow as a beautiful and graceful performer.  Ikaw na Monica Orellano!  Ikaw na tanan!

As I watched her cut the ribbon, my anxiousness was just building wanting to see her art work.  This pretty lady has it all.  And all I could think of is how proud the mom must be- Cinbeth.  I am!  Another Cebuana making a noise bringing the artistry to the next level in our community!  I am a proud Cebuana especially after witnessing her creations, watching her beautiful smile, and entertain the press and everyone who attended.  Soar high Monica!!  You deserve all the success!  So proud of you!

Proud mother Cinbeth, the artist Monica, and Me at the
opening of her exhibit in Cebu

Monday, May 20, 2013

Insanity makes one sane.

For almost a week now, I have been writing my thoughts and sharing it on my blog. And I must say it is like writing a diary. Today, before I leave the house I thought of what to share..

Doing Core Cardio and Balance
after almost a year of not doing Insanity.
INSANITY!  This is an intense workout that can be done at home.  I describe this easy, yet hard. Confused?  Not really. 

Easy.  The steps and routine are easy to follow.  They are the usual movements being taught in school and practiced in different kinds of sports. Everyone did it at some point in their early life if you went to school and did P.E. (Physical Education). Example. Jumping jacks, running in place, etc... and from there it is just being changed and somewhat improvised a bit.

Hard.  It is the repetition that is turning my lips to blue and my face to red! Running in place for a minute is more than a challenge.  Jumping for a minute is like climbing a mountain.  I never experienced how drenched I am with sweat everytime I do this work out.  And I feel like I have just gotten rid of all the toxins in my body every time after I do it!

If you want to check it out, you can find the videos in YouTube.  But just some advice from someone who has been doing the workouts for 3 years now, please, please know your limits and be conscious of your knees!  Ok, Beachbody should pay me for promoting their product.  Joke!  I believe in what they offer.

I miss this look. Christmas 2010.
Constant Insanity at this time.
And had so much dessert!
Why do I do this as much as I can, you may ask?  It is NOT because I want to be skinny and all. It's because I want to eat!  I love eating.  I think it's what my husband and I do best!  But we all know that we have to be responsible and wise enough to know our limits when eating.  But that is another story.  We all say that health is wealth.  But for me, I don't want to deprive myself from having ice-cream and cupcakes and pastas and all that.  But considering my age and how my body is changing everyday, I have to have balance it all at some point and take it seriously.  Diet and exercise have to go hand in hand, I've heard different ratios like it's 60% diet and 40% exercise.  I don't know the real statistics and I would bet it's different for every person, but I know it's impossible to be healthy without both.  As a performer, it is my responsibility to present myself as professional looking as possible.  But it also helps, every Insanity workout or mile that I run also helps with my endurance while singing a "belty" song effortlessly.  And considering most of the events I do, I am being paid!  So the best I can offer is to always work on my product, which is ME!  And if I feel good about myself, it only shows from the outside how I feel about myself from the inside. Point is, if you are happy with what you are, regardless of your weight, complexion, hair, and all, it will always show how you feel about yourself inside. And no one can control that but us!

Patience is a Virtue

I have been postponing and procrastinating my need to renew my drivers license.  My birthday has now been over a month ago and I found every excuse not to go.  But today, at the urging of my beautiful bipren, Adrian, I decided to get up and do it!

Entertaining ourselves while waiting...
I was #50
For the past few weeks I've enjoyed having a hot American driver, driving us through the streets of Cebu.  I appreciate you, my love!  Can you imagine Adam and me and how our patience is being tested and we are forced to learn the sweet, soft way of communication?!  Many times I forget that when I give him directions, I start speaking Bisaya.  Than all he says is... Huh???  Hahay!  A few times he told me ever so sweetly how high and loud my voice becomes and all I can respond is... Huh?  No because I'm a singer!  (Huh?!$&@#%*)  Still with a high voice.  I'm telling you, giving instructions in English can be as critical as playing charades, cranium, or taboo!   Adam driving in the busy streets of Cebu, full of tricycles, motorcycles, bicycles, and jeepneys, from driving on the wide, organized highways of Ohio is not an easy adjustment.  Giving instructions in English, especially when there is no time to even think, let alone translate, is not a joke!  Not only have I experienced nose bleed but I think my hair became straight when getting frustrated and confused as to which is right or left when in the middle of the intersection.  We both either end up arguing or just laughing at each other.  But we always sealed it with a kiss.

Mission accomplished with the support of my family!
Thank you to SM Cebu LTO, the whole process took me from 11am until 5pm.  There were times when the area became so crowded, but all you can see from all Cebuanos are the smiles, patiently waiting for their number or name to be called.  My only complaint was I couldn't change to my married name, because that would have meant a trip to yet another office.  I think Adam will understand!

While I am a little disappointed that I had to give up my morning Insanity workout, I have never felt so much support in renewing my license.  I had my parents, my brother Mike, my bispren Adrian, and at the beginning (until he had to go to our school) my husband Adam.  They all waited patiently with me, and we even got to take a lunch break together!  Not a bad day for a busy Monday!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I promise to sing my story from now on.

I am writing everyday because so much has happened and there is a lot to share. Thank you to everyone who has been loyal in reading my random rants.  This Sunday afternoon is making me crave so much for coffee (but I already had a cup this morning.. scared I might have a hard time sleeping tonight, so I refuse to brew and have it again).  I thought of the things that happened yesterday, aside from that lovely wedding my husband and I attended,  I smile and think of VisPop.

My husband and I have always wanted and dreamed of having a music school, not just because it is our ultimate passion and calling, but also we both need a venue to share what we have learned, are blessed with, and have been experiencing since the time God decided to give us the gift of singing/teaching/MUSIC.  We have been blessed, it is only a calling to somehow give it back and share.

One of the things I want and dream of doing is to push original music out to the community again. It was my project study when I went back to school to finish my degree of BA- Mass Communications at USJ-R in 2008.  I know, sounds really big, complicated, and impossible to even start, knowing the frustrations now happening in the music industry.  But I must also say I have so much respect for those artists who continue to make original music.  Please do not stop!  Anyway, I love it when I am being challenged.  I love reaching impossible things.  I always say, God gave us the ability to dream, so we might as well dream BIG!  So yeah, I want original music and compositions come back to life here in the Philippines.  There are some, but I want a lot and I want to be part of those who make original music.  At some point we have to make a new generation, go in a new direction.  What had meaning 50 years ago may not anymore.  It's good to look back with respect, but we also must continue to move forward.  That is one big reason I support original music.

Me with Gary Granada and Nelia Navarro
I was fortunate to be invited to be one of the judges of the first VisPop here in Cebu together with Mr. Gary Granada and Miss Nelia Navaro. And I must say, there are just sooooo many young geniuses in Cebu!! I felt extremely proud with all the finalists, especially the winners.  Congratulations to all of you!  Cattski and Manna were the ones who have been communicating with me on this event and I must say thank you for this great venue!  Musicians, singers and composers badly need this!  I need this!  Hearing and watching all original music last night was a complete high.  I am so glad I was there to witness it.  I have been fortunate to be a part of songwriting competitions, mostly as an interpreter, in Manila (Philpop, Himig Handog, Metropop), but it was nice to see it here in my hometown of Cebu.  We have had CebuPop contest (I was an interpreter many years ago, and also guested this year) and I am glad we now have one more for the Visayas.  Thank you to VisPop, AritistKo and FILSCAP for this amazing venue!

As an ambassadress of MUSIC in God's eyes, I promise to continue to help and support all venues that will only create a vast melody in any kind to help my community.

BISAYA KO!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

My Music teacher got married for the 3rd time!

With Tita Mila Loyola

I am sure you all are so curious about this one.  I know you are!  We are born wanting to know things around us.  In other words, mga chismoso/a (gossip)!  Well, hope you will read this blog till the end.

At the age of 3, dancing was my greatest hobby. Well, it has been because up to now, I still love dancing. But when I was growing older, at the age of 7,  I discovered something I thought I should try. You see, aside from having musically inclined parents and siblings, I have a very loving and supportive Godmother who also started teaching and guiding me how to sing!  Her name is Tita Mila Loyola.  She was my music teacher in all my years at ASMS- de la Salle.  I owe her so much, for she is partly the reason why I became who I am now.  Both of us travelled together many times going to other provinces and la Salle schools to compete for Kundiman.  Many times she put me in concerts at school and made me join Minus-1 singing contests.  I will never forget that Praise Concert I did, the time I promised myself that I will never stop singing!  I don't normally regret things in my life, but there is one thing I do regret big time.  The time I didn't take my piano lessons seriously when Tita Mila tried to teach me.  I was more into playing tago2, gubat2, shatong (hide and seek... Filipino children's games) with my neighbor friends.  Gengen Reyes, Jojo Image, Milson Silab, JoeMike Bartolata, Arvin Balberona, Leslie Diyotay, and many more..... you know who you all are!!!!  I miss you all!!!  Had I pursued it, that could have helped me with my songwriting and making music.  I can only blame myself.  But, I can only choose to move on.  She made me love and be passionate with performing and singing anyway.

Tita Mila and Tito Jack, happy 40th Anniversary!  I just heard this is your 3rd wedding!!!  A marriage and now 2 vow renewals!  Adam and I are so happy to have been there and witness it!  I would never miss it for the world.  I love you both and all the beautiful Loyolas!  To Ate Malou, Christie, Matet, Jacky and Mila, your Mom changed my life.  And I will never forget those times she guided me on how to sing the right way.  Thanks to your great mother!

I love you Ninang!!!!

Friday, May 17, 2013

First Ever Post

So at the urging of some friends and business colleagues, I've decided to start my first ever blog.  There isn't a specific format, just what is going on with me and what.  Some times I might post about food, maybe traveling, maybe friends or family, could be about work, maybe a new restaurant my husband and I found.  I will push myself to write at least once a week, if not more.  I will start with a note I posted on Facebook this week when getting home after spending a week working in Manila:

So, I was in Manila the entire week and just flew back last night. Did some meetings with Genesis Management and a few tv guestings. Sooo happy to be in the arms of the husband on our cozy bed. But yesterday, I had a taping for Mars- a talk show in GMA 7, and I had so much fun with Camille, Susie, and LJ (which will be aired on May 22) 6pm. This experience woke me up, reminding me on how important it is to read books and be aware of how texting and technology affect my ability to spell!!! We did a game and had to spell some words and I honestly am sooo EMBARRASSED to say, (..that was one of the words I misspelled because I thought I heard it pronounced as past tense, darn!) I didn't spell a word, yes, not even one word, correctly!!!!! With that been said, I will have to set a goal to go back to reading and finish at least 1 book a month. I love posting on something I promise to accomplish because I am pressured and pushed to really do it. So meaning, I am doing this for me, and just really sharing my thoughts. 

Peace and Love to all!!!!!