Of Birthdays and Surprises


Last Friday, I celebrated my 35th birthday. My birthday fell on a weekend so I kinda celebrated the entire weekend, haha!I wanted to celebrate it differently than how I’d been celebrating the past couple of years with a good number of family and friends over great Filipino food. There was food of course but I just thought I might do something else…

The past couple of years, celebrating my birthday wasn’t really something I dreaded or wasn’t really about getting older. They say you’re another year wiser (yeah, right!). But it kind of gave me a reason to look back what I have done or what not. Birthdays are a perfect time for you to be nostalgic, yes! It’s also like New Year’s day when you try to make your resolutions (and can’t keep it 🙂

This year, I included in my Bucket List (my life list) to ‘choose to inspire’ myself or others.

With that in mind, I started my day going to the place I used to frequent on weekends back in early 2000 til about 2009 (when I left for the US).

This is the Carmelite Monastery in Cebu City, Philippines.

I used to visit this place every weekends and I would light a candle and say my prayers. What’s interesting about this place is that you could write your prayers or petitions (what you want to ask in prayer) in a piece of paper and drop it in a box  and the nuns will read and offer it in prayer. So it’s like a room full of nuns saying your prayer, more like angels praying for you. At least that’s how I see it.

I lighted some candles and said my prayer.

I found an empty bench and just sat quietly, looking around the people who just come and go.

It’s amazing what people-watching does to me. I see these people and I know they have different stories to tell. Mine was more a sense of gratitude and inspiration. I thought about why people get so curious why I left the corporate world and became a teacher. I always give them the same answer: “Some people want to be doctors because they wanna help those who are suffering from an illness. Some people chose to be lawyers because they want to uphold justice. I chose to become a teacher because I choose to inspire”.

It was my birthday and I thought I wanted to do something for myself and for a stranger. So I went to Fully Booked (a bookstore) in Ayala and left a note in one of the book sections.

I left some other post it notes in the other bookstore in Ayala. When I went back to check if the sticky note was still there, it was gone. I hope I’ve inspired a stranger that day and if you’ve just checked my blog, this is the reason why I left that note 🙂

Most often, during birthdays we splurge and spend on food and entertainment. We usually get money from the bank, right? Well, I told myself not on this birthday. Instead of withdrawing money (most people would use their credit cards, arrghh!), I invested.

It’s a very meager amount but it’ll earn me 17% per annum. Yes! I felt good about that and I hope to keep up with it and invest my money there rather than keeping money in the bank where you hardly earn 1% a year. At least here in the Philippines that’s how it is.

I had a great dinner buffet at El Viento at The Marco Polo Hote with my husband and three-year-old daughter. The dessert station was just heaven for my daughter.

It was just a quiet dinner for the three of us, or so I thought. Halfway into dessert, the band playing suddenly burst into the “Happy Birthday” song and announced it was my birthday. Everybody dining in the poolside sang with the band. My daughter said to me “mommy, they’re singing.” A waiter came and gave me a cake with a candle to blow. I made my wish and my daughter and I blew the candle…

and I thought it was just a quiet dinner for us, haha! Thanks to my dear Tristan for that nice surprise.

I think my daughter enjoyed that little surprise as much as I did. My husband and I talked til midnight, just talking about a lot of things, silly things. Good, silly things.

And you thought my birthday was over? NOT!

In the Philippines, or in my part of Cebu, we usually celebrate birthdays for days, haha! The following day, I had to meet up with my good ‘ol highschool friends. We call ourselves the ‘Guizo Girls’ (the neighborhood where we all grew up) and the name kinda stuck. I didn’t get the chance to celebrate my birthday with them last year so this year I wanted to make up.

We went to one of my favorite Italian restaurants, La Tegola in Busay, Cebu City. The restaurant is up in the hills with a breathtaking view of the city lights. My favorite pasta dishes like Penne Campanola, Spaghetti alla Diavola and Cartoccio were not as good though as in their Lahug and Ayala restaurants but the pizza was good.

The celebration doesn’t end there (and you thought that was it?).

The following day, a Sunday, I went to my parents place (even if they don’t live there anymore as my parents have migrated to the US) and celebrated my birthday with my relatives over dinner. I brought all-time Filipino favorite dishes and we ate and enjoyed everybody’s company.

It’s these memories and life’s little surprises that we ought to celebrate life.

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