Determined to start the year right, I got myself a new planner to organize everything—my daily to-do's, appointments, activities, and projects. I loved the feeling of checking things off the list. It's my kind of endorphin that motivates me to keep on finishing. I wanted to take things further than the checkmark though; something visually appealing and that would push me to focus even more. So I thought it would be nice to have a DONE rubber stamp to mark the important tasks and events as complete. I follow several social media channels promoting locally handmade products, so I asked around for recommended Filipino makers who know how to make custom stamps. I eventually found my way to Tish Hautea's Etsy shop called SQooiD. Specializing . . .
I bought my first domain—stefgonzaga.com—back in 2010. It looks clean and profesh now, but it went through so many identities and changes before this look. From freelancer website to personal blog to creative writing journal, you just couldn't tell what it's meant to be anymore. Getting this domain was a HUGE thing for me though because it's my piece of space on the internet. This tiny thing became a growing excitement over building and designing basic WordPress sites. I bought domains and built sites for creative projects, an online shop, and new blogs. They expired and were deleted eventually, but I made a quick audit of all my active sites before they returned to the digital oblivion. I've been doing this audit since 2012 . . .
1 Loss. When all that’s left are the fleeting memories of tall cups of coffee and literary exchanges, an intertwining of passion and hunger for experience. That thin recalling of how your eyes glistened with pride as you displayed your autographed copy of James Tate’s poetry collection, how you managed to earn an afternoon with him. My hands fumble when writing about loss, but when have I not fallen in my attempts to write? Those pages filled with poems on themes I didn’t understand then, those lines wrought with pure angst and sexual frustration. They wither in my hands as how I withered when I read the notice: “If you would like to send flowers, we request that you please send white flowers.” Read and re-read. Read and . . .
I unearthed a letter from Stephanie of 2009. Written in blue paper and tucked among the letters I kept over the years, she asked the following questions: Did you still look back and wish that things would be different? How is life for you now? Were you able to do what you wanted to do in your life? Did I still wish that things would be different? I’ve three kids, a home, and a daily serving of time to make the most out of my life. I made mistakes. I lost so much. I’ve experienced a lot of physical and emotional pain and frustration. Countless times I’ve lost myself to the dark. But, you know what? I managed to do things that Stephanie of 2009 never would have imagined I could do then. I’m able to send two of my three kids to . . .
After a fruitful first week in Maryland, my next stop is seeing family in Albany and Long Island, New York. I flew via United Airlines and arrived just in time to see my Ai Myra and two of my favorite cousins, Matt-matt and Shoti Mark. Our itinerary is to tour Albany on the day of my arrival, and then pack up for Long Island the next day. This is pretty much the vacation/pleasure half of my stay in the US, so I made the most out of it by doing all of my sightseeing and shopping here. I soon realized that three days just isn't enough to tour and experience New York, but I managed to do 15 things before flying back home to the Philippines. . . .
When I'm on the road or visiting a different country, I don't take pristine photos of everything around me. I prefer to immerse myself in the experience of the travel, and just take snapshots of the place when something catches my eye or if there's some downtime in between moving. Maryland is no exception, but thanks to good friends and family, I managed to capture memories of the place that became sweeter because of their company. Here are my three significant Maryland experiences: . . .
As much as I hoped to reenact the famous opening scene of Hairspray on a beautiful Sunday morning, I ended up arriving at Dulles International Airport at 5:00PM in the evening. Philippine Airlines decided to wait a tad bit longer before taking off, causing me to miss my 21:28 San Francisco flight to Baltimore. Immigration check took long, baggage claim took longer, and so my flight bid me goodbye before I could get to it. I was frantic, scared, and alone. I didn't know what to do, who to go to, or where to go to get off the airport. I probably spent P2,000+ worth of data just calling my sister and Jayson for help. It was devastating for a first-time overseas flyer like me. . . .
Whenever I think of how I managed to get to where I am today, I always come to a close debate with myself. Am I here because Fate and Destiny promised this journey for me, or because I took control and action over my life? . . .
As soon as I got up from bed, I looked out the window to see if it had rained. The clouds were pretty grey, but the weather overall looked like it was going to be in our favor. I got some work done while Glaizee was still catching some shut-eye. I thought of where we could eat breakfast and managed to locate a cafe in Intramuros, our second stop and the highlight of our Manila trip, called Marso Cafe & Restaurant. . . .
October 2015—My good friend Glaizee and I decided to visit and tour Manila. More for her than me, since she hasn't seen much of Manila when she last visited. What luck that my trip to the US would land on the same weekend we'd be traveling. I had to make a couple of adjustments to my itinerary to make both fit, and thank the heavens it worked out in the end. . . .