Sunday, September 23, 2018

College Reunions: Friends and Priceless Memories

What is it about college reunions that just makes you crave for more and leaves you with a feeling of good will that stay with you long after the last Facebook picture is posted? Just a week ago, I traveled all the way to Vienna, Austria from New York to reconnect with my college classmates. It has been 38 years since we graduated from the College of Nursing. Twelve classmates from all over the world (United States, Canada, Oman, Philippines) descended on to picturesque Vienna to bond over shared nostalgic reminiscences and to join the 60th birthday and retirement party of our classmate Amie. In 2011, a group of us met in Las Vegas. Since then, we met in New York, and in the Philippines. Reunions are addicting.

We find joy in going back in time to fondly remember the times when we struggled with school and clinical rotations. Our professors demanded that we submit our assignment on time, our clinical instructors watched us like hawks, and our parents waited for our school grades after every semester.

Nursing school was tough but we had fun. We came of age in the 70’s, with the Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Eagles, and John Travolta. Somehow, we survived Martial Law and enjoyed the last three years together as Section 2 of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing class in Arellano University.

Half-day in classes with bookish professors then off to clinicals in V. Luna military hospital, Camp Crame, Mental Hospital, Quezon Institute, and the former GSIS Hospital. It was during our internships when we formed the deep bond that continue on long after the starched immaculately aprons and white caps have been replaced by scrubs and lab coats.

I remember our month-long rotation at the Plastic Surgery Ward where the patients welcomed each new group of nurses with enthusiasm and excitement. These were the soldiers disfigured by war in Southern Philippines. The student nurses were part-nurse, part-social worker, but we were actually entertainers for those suffering from depression, homesickness, and loneliness. This was when a special soldier sang Elton John’s “Skyline Pigeon” to me; an almost love story that never came true.

Bonding over the tedious work of group thesis, often sharing secret crushes while munching on sweet delicacies. Those were care-free days, of a time when we managed to enjoy an occasional outing with the barkadas; of out-of town trips disguised as community health nursing sessions. Those were the days when we dreamed of graduation, so that we can begin our path to our professional career. Those were the days when we promised ourselves that we will conquer the world.

Thirty-eight years later, we come back together to reminisce about our college, as well as to celebrate the men and women we have all become. At this time, as we are all within retirement age, we finally have the personal time and better finances to take vacations together. No more small children to bring along the long trip.

We don’t have rose-colored glasses; our lives were punctuated with disappointments and trials along the way. But on that week in September, we all agreed that we have come a long way from the wide-eyed young adults with big dreams. We appreciated the successes we have achieved. The deep bond of life-long friendship and camaraderie came full-force as we got to know each other again. We are different now, all grown-up with aches and pains in our hips, and yet we are still the same classmates who giggled at every silly memory from thirty-eight years ago.

My favorite moments from this reunion are the simple ones: when we shared jokes and school stories during our long bus rides, when we voiced our concerns about each other's health, and when we talked about our families. When we were able to spend a few minutes to find what makes us sad and what makes us happy. When we showed how much we care for each other. As we sang “That’s What Friends Are For” at Amie’s party, we surreptitiously wiped away our tears. Then, as we all decided, just gave it our all as we danced/flailed to "Tayo'y Magsayawan." Hala Bira! PRICELESS.

Life is short. The friendship we sustained is invaluable. Yes, we need to plan the next college reunion. And we better have more classmates (about 25 of them) to come this time.


Day 1 was travel time for me. Just a reminder that I have to save for Business Class accommodations next time.

Day 2 in Austria with 9 classmates from the Arellano University College of Nursing Class '80 section 2. Green is the color of the day. Bus ride to Salzburg then Ampy and I decided not to risk life and limb climbing a castle so we got separated from the group. Did our own tour walking the streets to the sound of our own music. The hills are alive, indeed, although we missed the chance to sing ala Julie Andrews. All the way to the Gardens. Under the rain past the bridge of padlocks. OMG, my aching feet. How I wish I'm 20 years younger. All worth it in the company of friends including Janet C who needs to go on Facebook. Thanks to our excellent hostess with the mostest Amie. Waiting for two more classmates Louie and Janita to arrive.

Day 3. Trip to Budapest, Hungary. Purple coding this time. Danke to Amie Carino Limjap for coordinating our expeditions. Sorry that you could not join us but we know you're busy with the prep for your big day. ASO! Enjoyable trip because of Aurora Villanueva, new Austrian friend who entertained us with her bugtong-bugtongan, fed us till we can't eat no more, and taught us German phrases. Ich danke dir sehr. The bus trip was so much fun and we learned interesting things about "bolitas" and pole dancing. Budapest is a beautiful country with impressive building architecture. So much history in this place. I would love to come back here again. The HopOn and HopOff bus ride and the cruise along the Danube River just teased us with a mere glimpse of the attractions and the culture with the majestic Parliament and churches that make the scenic Budapest skyline the "Paris of the East". The Danube bisects the hilly Buda side and the flat Pest side of the city.

Day 4. Prague, Czech Republic. Dobry vecer. Blue color coding for the day. As if we need to herd sheep along. It is difficult to keep 20 people together. Need more time to visit the place, five hours is not enough to explore Praha. Especially since I hate walking on the steep cobble steps up and down the side of the hills. Found a quaint Pinoy shop to eat Halo-halo which is being run by a Czech native married to a Pinay. Supposed to eat Czech food but ended up in Burger King Praha style. On the way to Prague, more bonding. Reminiscences of our nursing days, including a revelation on a college crush. Took the Flix bus then the train to Landstrasse station then to Hilton Intercontinental Hotel. Arrrggghhh! I definitely passed 10,000 steps today.

Day 5, Part 1: Exploring Vienna in our red AUCN reunion tshirts courtesy of mayora Cely De Belen Sabariaga. It must have been an extraordinary sight with our group of ladies and one gent (of a certain age) roaming around Vienna in our red shirts, us chattering away even as we (particularly me) struggle with the long walk. Started the day at Schonbrunn Palace where we posed to our hearts' delight. Then, the rest of the group went to the First District to shop for their Louie Vittons. Lita, her daughter Gerilyn, and I met up with Aurora to explore. We shopped for Lindt chocolates and enjoyed a cool cocoa drink,

Day 5, Part 2. Dear classmates, Thank you for the surprise advanced birthday treat. Your gesture certainly warms the heart, truly appreciated. We met up with the group to eat lunch at Brandauer's for authentic Austrian food. Then, surprise! I offered to treat the group but they turned around to treat me instead. Classmates, Thank you soooo much for the advanced birthday celebration. Four September birthday celebrants got our Austrian chocolate cake.Thanks Aurora for the Sacher torte and for your gift of time. Happy birthday to my fellow celebrants Lucy, Janita, and Gerilynn. A special thank you to Gerilynn for being our "mom" as she guided us through our stubbornness during our travels. Ich Danke dir sehr.

Day 6, Amie's 60th birthday celebration. With classmates from her nursing days at Arellano University. A surprise presentation. There is a longer version of our presentation. I did the into. Then we sang "That's what friends are for " (which made Amie cry). We followed that up with a rousing rendition of the VST & Company's "Tayo'y Magsayawan". Just with less than an hour of practice. Gutsy and heart-felt performance.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

TNT Boys... and the audience listened

Little Big Shots

Three young boys from the Philippines became viral sensations in just a year after they competed in a local singing competition. Mackie, Kiefer, and Francis, the TNT boys, racked up a massive international following of adoring fans and video reactors who have professed their love and support for these boys. Their joie de vivre upon setting on the grand international stage was infectious. Steve Harvey wanted to adopt them when they appeared on his show “Little Big Shots, USA” and he promised them a big house with a pool. The boys gamely countered with their requests for a basketball court and a recording studio. And then, they proceeded to deliver a feisty performance of Beyonce’sListen”. Dressed in white tuxedos and armed with incredible voices, the boys charmed the audience to their feet. Ellen DeGeneres even tweeted about them; what I am hoping for is for her to invite the trio to her show. The audience (and the world) listened.

The TNT boys also performed at the UK version of the “Little Big Shots” where they performed the same song, battling each other, hamming it up, sassing it up, and showing off their individual strengths, then harmonizing like no other young singers have done before. With the interview, the boys showed us a glimpse of their effervescent personalities.

Steve Harvey and the American audience could not get over the TNT boys. They could not even wait a year to invite the trio back. Their second appearance at the LBS show was met with fireworks as they sang their hearts out to Queens’ “Somebody to Love”. Francis belted, Mackie riffed, and Kiefer whistled out of nowhere. The performance elicited a shout-out from a former Queens band member Brian May.

GGV guesting (November 2017), “Listen” starts at 1:04

They did not even win the “Tawag ng Tanghalan” singing contest from which they once competed with each other. Kiefer Sanchez, 13 years old, came close when he placed second. Mackie Empuerto, 12 years old, came up third, and Francis Concepcion, 12 years old, claimed the 5th spot.

The group was “accidentally” formed at the Gandang-Gabi Vice show, a variety show in the Philippines where the top five kids from the recently-completed talent contest gathered. Vice Ganda saw something that we never saw. The host wanted the three boys to battle it out in a song and egged them on to be the fiercest they can be. And so, they took their fighting stance, challenged each other, and just bedazzled every one of us. That raw performance of “Listen” started the boys’ amazing journey to international recognition.The impromptu performance at GGV was serendipitous; it was meant to be.

Your Face Sounds Familiar

Today, August 19, the TNT boys emerged as the winners of the celebrity impersonation show called “Your Face Sounds Familiar, Kids edition Season 2” with an unprecedented 100% domination of the judges' and public votes. The group performed an explosive rendition of “Bang Bang” and channeled Jessie J., Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj in full costume, make-up, stiletto heels, and sound-alike voices. The 16-week show featured other talented kids but the TNT kids by virtue of their other international appearances and devoted video reactors elicited a lot of attention. Their most famous transformations were as BeeGees, Mariah Carey and the Boyz 11 Men, Supremes, ABBA, Destiny’s Child, and (gasp) as the Three tenors.

The impersonations are spot-on. With just one week to prepare between shows, the trio studied their characters and showed their fans that they are not just singers, they are also dancers, actors, and comedians. To jump so easily to one genre to another- from pop, hip-hop, to opera, what can they not do?

When Tomorrow Comes...

The winners took home a grand package- trophy, house and lot, a whopping 1 million pesos, and a gadget showcase. The TNT boys came from humble beginnings. Both Mackie and Kiefer lived simple lives with their parents, somehow making the effort to sing at every concert they can find. But it was Francis who struggled the most; he collected garbage to recycle so that he and his family could eat. One of nine kids, his parents were so poor that his aunt had to adopt him to give him a better life. At another interview, he had to hold back his tears when the clueless host asked about the mother he had to leave behind.

But more than the monetary rewards,their future in the music world is secured. Now, all three boys are poised for more fame and success. And we are hungrily devouring the videos of the boys who stole our hearts. We are an obsessed nation of wanna-be mothers and fathers who cheered on every vibrato, every melisma, every "birit" and every whistle note.

Their recent success is a testimonial to the hard work, discipline, resilience, and dedication by these boys. Their performances are well-polished and it is evident that they practice their craft with the same intensity of their song delivery. The fire in their eyes showed of their passion to follow their dreams of making it to singing world in the Philippines. But they probably did not even consider international success, all beyond their wildest imagination.

Their stories are inspirational to all, young and old, who dared to reach out for the stars. For all the kids who dared to dream of a million dreams, all they have to do is just look at the group. There are many similar kids in the far-away provinces who try to sing their way out of poverty. For some, their singing gives them a respite from the hard times, as well as give them hope for a reasonable chance of survival.

The future looks bright for the TNT boys. I am confident that the boys will overcome the challenge of puberty and will emerge even bigger. This is just the beginning.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Song Challenge

I could not keep up with or commit to the 30-day Song Challenge so I settled for 15 songs (16 if you count The Carlton). So, here's my 15-songs-in-one-day challenge.

1. A song that reminds you of yourself: Kelly Clarkson, “Stronger”

This is a song of empowerment, of surviving through all the trials in our lives. It's a reaffirmation that we just have to carry on, no matter what. I believe that even when life's challenges seem to be weighing me down, all I have to do is look around the many blessings that came from up above. I just pick myself up, dry my tears, with head held high. I am so worth it, so just have to keep fighting, for my own survival and for those who believe in me. I am strong, I am woman, I am a child of God.

2. A song that you remember from your childhood: Julie Andrews, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”

I am dating myself. This was my first movie experience and it was magical. Julie Andrews was a wonderful Mary Poppins in this 1964 Disney musical. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” is a 34-letter mouthful that just means "something to say when you have nothing to say". I was a young child who was enamored (for life) with movie musicals. I went around the house singing the song until my mother finally told me to stop with my incessant bragging of my mastery of the word. She told me that I was even singing the song in my sleep.

A bigger challenge is: Can you spell the word?

3. A song that makes you want to fall in love- Perry Como- “And I love You So”

“And I Love You So” was written and first released by Don McLean in 1970 for his Tapestry album. Perry Como recorded the song which reached No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. No surprise there, the song achieved No. 1 status on the Easy Listening chart. Perry Como's voice warms the heart and promises all those wonderful feelings, and evokes memories of those sweet moments of tenderness. The song (and the voice) can make you fall in love, even if you have sworn off it.

4. A song by a band that you wish were still together- Eagles, “Take It Easy”

Well, they're still kind of together, with Glenn Frey's son replacing his father in the band after Glenn passed away. The song was written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey. Rolling Stone’s Bud Scoppa wrote that Take it Easy" was "simply the best sounding rock single to come out so far this year (1972)”. The song is catchy, danceable, calming, and such a feel good song. So much so that I envisioned myself standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona on a flatbed truck flirting with Jackson Browne or Glenn Frey look-alikes (when they were much younger).

5. A song that you think that everybody should listen to: Morissette Amon, "Akin Ka Na Lang" LIVE on Wish 107.5 Bus

A song and a singer that needs to be heard. Asia's Phoenix Diva Morissette, a Filipina singer, performed “Akin Ka Na Lang (Please Just Be Mine)" in a music studio bus and belted out the song effortlessly while sitting down with nary a strain on her face and in her voice. Her flawless vocal registry and unbelievable range inspires the question, "Why is she not a global superstar yet?" And that whistle? As the many reaction videos show, it is just a matter of time that Morisette will take her rightful place on the world stage.

6. A song that has many meanings to you: Rod Stewart, “Have I told You Lately That I love You”

At a vulnerable period in my life, as I was driving in my car, this song came up on the Delilah radio show. I started crying for all the lost chances and what it seemed to be a lonely life ahead of me. When I was grieving for my father, the song at first poked at my heart. I sobbed as I asked myself, "Have I told him that I love him?".

I have since recovered and had realized that life goes on, and in fact, has given me much more to be thankful for. The gift of Love comes from all the unexpected places and comes in many forms. I have learned to always tell my loved ones that I love them.

7. A song that makes you think about life: Michael Jackson, “Man in the Mirror” live music awards 1988

This is a humbling reminder that one has to self-reflect and change within one's self before one can challenge and change the world. The mirror is truthful, and the person must accept the message loud and clear.

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place

8. Favorite classical song- O Sole Mio: Patrizio Buanne and Amira Willighagen (then 12 years old) perform 'O Sole Mio'

Opera superstar Patrizio Franco Buanne, a Neapolitan-Austrian singer, was clearly impressed with the young singer when they performed together at a concert held in South Africa in July 2016. Goosebumps! Amira Willighagen won the sixth season of Holland’s Got Talent when she was just 9 years old.

9. A Song That Makes You Sad: Carpenters, “Goodbye To Love”

This plaintive song was written by Richard Carpenter and John Bettis in 1972. Tony Peluso’s incredible fuzz guitar solo was just amazing. But the words tug at the heartstrings and you can only pray that someday, one can find peace and love in other ways.

So I've made my mind up
I must live my life alone
And though it's not the easy way
I guess I've always known
I'd say goodbye to love

10. A Song That Makes You Happy. Pharell Williams, “Happy”

With 265,078,848 views on Youtube, well, I will be ecstatic and deliriously HAPPY as I imagine Pharell is.

11. A song to drive to. Backstreet Boys, “I Want It That Way”

BSB is back on tour. Darn, I missed their Las Vegas residency. Although I have not kept up with them over the years, I just could not help dancing and singing along in my car when this song comes on. Turn up the volume and groove to the music. People may stare and point at the woman (of a certain age) gesticulating inside the car. Nobody has to tell me why their song is such a good release song. Nobody has to tell me why the BSB is the biggest-selling boy band of all time.

12a. A song that makes you want to dance. Bruce Springsteen “Dancing in the Dark”

Bruce!!!!!! I was a real fan girl back then, complete with a huge poster of his “Dancing in the Dark” pose. Bruce with the raw, rugged, masculine looks and that raspy voice and awkward dancing. Then he pulled a wide-eyed, short-haired Courtney Cox to the stage where she matched Bruce’s dancing with her unusual dancing moves.

12b. The Carlton Dance: Alfonso Ribeiro copied Courtney’s awesomely awkward moves and Eddie Murphy’s frenetic spirit to gift us with the iconic Carlton dance to Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual.”

13. A Song That Needs to be Played Loud- Journey with Arnel Pineda. “Don’t Stop Believing”

In his native Philippines, Arnel performed with his new band and showed everyone that dreams do come true. In a world of cynics, there is poetic justice when success lifts you up beyond imagination.

14. A song you like with a number in the title: KZ Tandingan, “Two Less Lonely People in the World”

KZ covered the Air Supply song and used it as official soundtrack for the independent film “Kita Kita” as the Philippine entry for an Asian Film Festival. Something finally went right, indeed.

15. A song that you will sing at a karaoke. Carpenters, “Jambalaya”

This is an original song by Hank Williams in 1952, the song was re-recorded by the Carpenters. I have sung this at karaoke but only when most people have gone home and I was surrounded by loving friends who did not take offense of me butchering a perfectly beautiful song. They probably just value our friendship too much. Or maybe they just think that I sound like Karen Carpenter.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Mighty Ukulele

Credit: Renee Dominique

I almost learned how to play the ukulele. As a teenager, I tried to strum along on a cheap ukulele that we bought in Cebu, Philippines. Back then, my father used to blast Don Ho’s “Tiny Bubbles” and the “Hukilau Song” throughout the house. The ukulele made me think of Hawaii, of its gentle breeze, of ocean air, of swaying palm trees, and of graceful hula girls. A ukulele is a portable music on the go; instantly bringing you to a place of simple, happy tunes.

The mighty ukulele fascinated me; just a diminutive instrument that did not scare me like the guitar did. I told myself, "I can do this, surely it couldn't be too hard". Just four strings... not intimidating at all. The ukulele is folksy and carefree, innocent but exotic. The sound is described as “chunk-chunk” but the instrument is much more welcoming of someone like me with chunky fingers. Even Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam took a fancy on the ukulele and called it “less strings, more melody”.

Don Ho- “Tiny Bubbles”

A new find

Just recently, I heard that distinctive sound of the ukulele again. Instantly, I remembered that long-ago moment in time, with my father’s music as we both swayed to the music of the “Hukilau’ song, grass skirts and all. In my later years, I now understand that the ukulele is not just for Hawaiian songs; that it is actually versatile and can sound just as good in any kind of genre. Albeit a nostalgic reminder of my father's music, the mighty ukulele has retained its magic and its carefree appeal.

The ukulele brought a new discovery for me. Renee Dominique is an 18 y/o Filipina musician who weaves magic with her ukulele and her airy, soothing voice. Her songs are eargasmic pudding in the brain. She is proficient in different musical instruments, but she exerts a compelling presence with her ukulele as she croons oldies and contemporary songs with a combination of pixieness and sultriness. Her wide repertoire appeals to both young and old.

Renee's original songs are beautiful poems sung with her unique sound, part-millennial, part old-soul. Her videos have metamorphosed into stunning visuals but there is still that soothing voice of a woman with her mighty ukulele. The songs she write are odes to her own journey. Her angst is familiar to me; similar feelings from a long time ago, but nevertheless, something that reached out to me. She is a gem.

And then there are more ukulele sensations:

Jake Shimabukuro went viral (before the word was invented) with his rendition of the Beatles’ “My Guitar Gently Weeps”.

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole- The Iz- 'Over The Rainbow' & 'What A Wonderful World'

Zooey Deschanel & Joseph Gordon-Levitt- “What Are You Doing New Years Eve?”

Uhm, I must confess, I still have not learned how the play the ukulele. It's not the chunky fingers; I just don't have rhythm.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

My Top Eleven Favorite Duets

“Perfect” is my latest LSS (Last Song Syndrome). Like pudding in my brain, this earworm has taken a special place in my cerebrum, helped as well by the constant rotation in radio airwaves. It is the latest hit from British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran. My obsession with the song grew when I saw the video of an orchestration of Sheeran’s duet with Italian tenor THE Andrea Bocelli.

Wow, simply "Perfect". Pop blended with opera in a magical rendition of a love song. The look of awe on Ed Sheeran's face as he listened to greatness- Precious. Just like Andrea’s wife who closed her eyes to listen to the Great One’s voice soaring up to the heaven above, I was transfixed. Andrea sang in Italian but I understood the emotions behind the words. ""Tesoro, sei perfetta stasera". I was dreaming I was the woman dancing in the dark with someone’s arms around me. Sigh.

Ed Sheeran and Andrea Bocelli- "Perfect" (2017)

I am fascinated by song duets. There is something special when voices blend in harmony, when singers become one. Even though some celebrity pairings are unexpected and surprising. Sometimes from different genres, and even singing in a different language, and yet the singers connected to each other on a different level.

In no particular order, here are some of the duets that resonated with me and had even been my LSS at some time:

Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake- “Love Never Felt So Good” (2014)

The King of Pop with a hugely talented dude named Justin. The song was written by Michael Jackson with Paul Anka. It was released posthumously and Justin gave it an airy, sweet, and funky sound. I found it nostalgic and quite sentimental watching MJ’s dance moves. Justin is a heck of a dancer himself. No wonder the song was a huge hit.

Bette Midler and Wynona Judd- “The Rose” (1997)

Pop diva meets Country Diva. A powerful duet that gave justice to a great song. I have always loved these lyrics from Amanda McBroom.

Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger
An endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower
And you, its only seed

Lea Salonga and Brad Kane- “A Whole New World” (2015)

In 2015, the original singers of the “A Whole New World” reunited on Good Morning America. Twenty-three years after Aladdin’s magic carpet ride, Lea and Brad sounded incredibly the same. It’s a different world now, but their crystal-clear voices still soared, tumbled, free-wheeled, still with excitement and youthful exuberance.

Here’s the original recording session in 1992. I dared to close my eyes, and Wow! Still the same magic.

Tina Turner and Cher- “Proud Mary” (2008)

Okay, what excuse does anybody have not to be as fit as these two ladies? In 2008, they were already in their 60’s. I guess all that rolling and shaking do wonders to the abs. Living legends, indeed. The Ultimate Divas. Showmanship at its best.

The Voice Teens Philippines Battle Round: Christy vs. Mica – “Ave Maria” (2017)

This will not appear in any music professional list, but I love the raw talents of these two young contestants from Voice Teens Philippines. Their coach, my favorite Lea Salonga, was beaming with pride as her two charges sang pop and opera flawlessly at their young age. The future looks bright for Mica and Christy. A few years from now, they will meet again, in a bigger stage, no doubt about it.

Bruno Mars and Red Hot Chili Peppers- SuperBowl XLVIII half-time show (2014)

I admit I know nothing about football. Sorry, but I only watch the SuperBowl for its halftime show (and commercials, too). When I joked on Facebook why there is a sports game in Bruno Mars’ concert, I was almost stoned /bashed to death. But Bruno Mars gave an energetic, sweaty performance with the hyper-active Anthony Kiedis.

Harrison Craig And Tim Moxey- “You Raise Me Up”, The Voice Australia Season 2

Breath-taking duet. Two beautiful voices. Just watch the rapturous faces of the judges. So worth it to see Seal in ecstasy.

Charice and Celine Dion- “Because You Loved Me”, Madison Square Garden (2008)

In 2008, Charice Pempengco from the Philippines shared the stage with THE Celine Dion to sing a beautiful and heart-felt tribute to her mother. Oprah paved the way for her to sing with the international superstar. It was a goosebump-inducing moment for the audience as we saw the young singer hold her own with Celine. It was a masterful performance; something that her fans will always remember, even though Charice is now known as Jake Zyrus.

Claire Ryann and Dave Crosby- “You've Got a Friend In Me” (2017)

A heart-warming father-and-daughter moment as they shared their love of music. And to think that Claire was just four years old when their video went viral. When dad Dave joined the music contest The Voice, Adam Levine recalled how he connected to their video after the birth of his own daughter. Define adorable.

Marcelito Pomoy- “The Prayer” (2016)

Technically, this is not a duet. Just listen and pick up your jaw from the floor.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Self-reflection, Day One 2018: My Two Buckets

Day One… it just seems so apropos to pause in meditation. A time for self-reflection and a time to give thanks… for the blessings of the past year and in anticipation of more gifts from the Lord for this year 2018.

With the 10-degree frozen world outside my window, I am warm and toasty inside our house. Warm for a little bit until I have to venture out for a church activity, all worth it because I have been truly blessed. So thankful for a life well-lived.

It has been my personal tradition to look at two buckets… my bucket of thanks and my bucket of to-do list.

My bucket of Thanks:

1. Vacation 2017- a chance to hug my mother again, to visit my father’s grave, to hang out with my family and goof off in Art-in-Island, to play tourist in beautiful Philippines (Vigan and Ilocos), to go on food trips with family (so happy that my dollars went a long way), and to go on a side trip to South Korea. Bonding with my Philippine family and with my son/travel buddy.

2. My job- being in charge of my own ED where I can leave my stamp of leadership. Applying what I've learned from leaders who had mentored me to be a role model and to lead with heart and emotional intelligence. Work accomplishments I am proud of. One of my someday dreams came true.

3. My home- after all these years, finally being able to afford home improvements. First project was my kitchen with the dark cabinets, backsplash, and new oven. Not that I plan to start cooking again.

4. My family and friends- what matters most and what keeps me going.

My bucket of To-do list:

1. European reunion trip with my college classmates
2. Red front door and hardwood floors
3. New car? Or maybe not. I really don’t want to shell out a monthly car payment any time soon.
4. More writing. A new book.
5. Finish what I started in 2014.
6. Present at a national conference
7. Lantern award for the ED
8. Clean up my room :(
9. Be financially savvy
10. A healthier, leaner me.
11. Pay it forward (do more)

“O, my Father, I now deeply meditate
On the blessings You give day to day
Truly, you have never failed to care for me.
And You provide my every need.”