Sunday, May 20, 2012

To which I bid adieu

As I look at this humble space the past few months, the silence is palpable.  A few words here and there, barely an excuse for a blog.  

And as one who have written for you and you have read for me, I owe you more than a few alliterations and poetic lines.  You deserve better.  And better is not achieved without growth.  Growth is not achieved without struggle, learning, and finally letting go.

It's not so much that I had ran out of words or not know what to say.  In fact, it's been the opposite.  Stories, ideas, inspiration - all the things that can be beautifully strung together.  But somehow, those words felt more at home unwritten and untold. And like everything that is important and alive, this space grows too.  This blog, the wonderful escapes and inspirations it has allowed me to express, the images I openly share, has finally reached its own crossroads.  

But not all is gone.  I will still be around because your stories still need to be read, your world to be seen.  So know that I remain your audience.  And maybe, once I've passed a corner or two, I will be back a better version of me.

So in my honest diligence to growth, I say my thanks.  For all the laughs and stories you have shared.  For your wonderful recipes and beautiful pictures.  For bringing inspiration to me when needed the most.  For allowing me to meet amazing people across the world.  

Thank you.  Salamat.  You have been good to me.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bringing green to me

I haven't been writing much lately.  I found that after coming back from training, I haven't had the interest to dissect the yoga or my practice the same way.  Nor do I notice much around me in and around the hot room to write about.  Sure there's the occasional class that makes me want to crawl home, but it doesn't feel natural to write about them these days.  And as for my adventures in teaching, I tend to save that for fellow teachers.  Mostly because it's stuff that'll bore everyone else to tears.

As for cooking, it's been happening.  And lots of baking too.  The camera, however, has not been part of my kitchen.  A lot of times, taking photos distracts me from enjoying my food because it gets cold by the time I get to it.  And I have a serious issue with not piping hot meals.

I just wanted simple for awhile.  Words and material things.  And so I simple I did.  No writing, no cameras, no overanalyzing.

So what brought me back to here so soon?  Well I've found a new hobby - gardening!  

I've always been around gardens and plants growing up.  In fact, the only time I wasn't was when I moved into the city years ago.  Surrounded by concrete with pockets of green every other neighbourhood, it had finally becoming depressing.  I needed to bring the green to me.

Last two years, I planted some basil indoors to keep my tropical plants company, but that was the extent of my green thumb despite my dreams of a great balcony garden.  Secretly, I was afraid I was going to kill things which is not good for my self-esteem.  Yes, dying plants can take a toll on the ego.

Well, it turns out, it's kinda hard to kill basil.  With my green thumb confidence on an all time high as the new spring came around, I've decided that I was not going to hold myself back.

I went to my stash of seeds sweetly sent by the lovely Ninang Annapet at The Daily Palette, got some soil, and carried home as many pots as I could from the dollar store (gardening need not be expensive!).  I contemplated buying starter plants but I resisted.  I was going to do this all from seed!

A few weeks later, I've got myself sproutings of arugula (a funny story to come), tomatoes, lettuces, spinach, marigolds, basil, and lavender.  All in my humble balcony (well, indoors for now until the weather warms up more).  I've also discovered that the best place for plants in my drafty apt is in the bedroom.  Yes, the bedroom.

So naturally, I've been sleeping with my tomatoes and cilantro next to the orchids.  And every morning, I peek at them to see how much they've grown.  I know, it's like watching paint dry - you can't see a plant grow millimetre by millimetre, but that doesn't stop me from looking anyways.  Oh except cilantro, that stuff is like on steroids!!  I swear, I just took a nap and it's grown 3 inches by the time I wake up. 

Anyways, here's to a bountiful summer and hoping that I don't murder my garden.  If you see a frantic yogi in and out of her balcony, that's probably me moving my plants back safely indoors from the wind or moving them out as we chase the afternoon sun. And if anyone is around downtown Toronto and would like to do a seed swap (organic/heirlooms preferred), drop me a line.  I don't have much but I'm always willing to share what I got :)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The sad case of coconuts

It's no secret that I love cooking and food.  Being in the kitchen is my other favourite place besides the hot room.  As I was opening with a can of coconut milk, I became saddened.  Saddened at the fact that soon, the prices of a can of coconut milk is going to go up and the quality will go down.  And more seriously, the production of coconuts will see (or already is seeing) a sharp rise in response to the higher demand brought on by the health craze over coconut water and coconut products in general.

Yes, I am very aware of the hypocrisy of where this is coming from.  I, an Asian in Canada, is opening a can of coconut produced from Thailand.  It may seem on the surface that I am no different than those who carry cases of coconut water on their way out of Whole Foods, that I am a willing participant in this international dance of supply and demand.  Yes, I am guilty.

But while I am consumer of coconut products as warranted by my cultural culinary needs, my people's occasional stock and use of coconut milk is not what could lead to the possible ruin of coconut farms in the near future.  I fear that the current craze over the health benefits of coconut will lead to really bad things.  And the biggest consumers of this craze?  The yoga/fitness/natural health industry.

Here's a snapshot: Multinational corporations, after seeing the demand for coconut water, will soon or have already bought out small local companies in order to increase efficiency, and of course, to cash in on the current health craze.  Farming methods will change in order to produce more, similar to current milk and egg production (we all know how well criticized these are).  This move will change the landscape of local economies, adding to the already long list of foreign ownership of once-local farms.  It will increase the price of coconut and coconut products locally, hurting those who regularly use it in their cultural cuisines, while we, on this side of the world, are willingly pay up to $4 a can for coconut water.  When the next superfood is 'discovered', this industry will be abandoned, causing major loss to local farmers and local economies.  Similar to how the Peruvians can no longer afford their local quinoa, the coconut producers will soon be this way too.

Over the course of 3 years, the price of a can of coconut milk has increased (inflation put into consideration), as well as the coconut juice that my mom has been buying for us since we were kids.  These aren't of any special quality either, just your typical Asian fruit beverage health snobs wouldn't even touch.  But now, I'm seeing them more and more in grocery stores at an alarming rate.  It doesn't seem normal to have THAT much coconut juice that people ignored for 20 yrs before.

I might have a can between classes and teaching when eating is not possible or when I'm desperate, but generally, I realized that I have subconsciously prevented myself from drinking coconut water.  I enjoy coconut differently than the typical drinker today. I enjoy it because I grew up with it.  A lot of our cultural foods use it not solely because of its health benefits (which, btw, have been discovered long time ago by indigenous tribes), but because it was local and accessible.  I enjoy it because it reminds me of home, of my grandma's desserts, of the oils that waft through my mama's kitchen.  Not because my health will suddenly improve or that it suits the cleanse I am on or that they supplied it in cases during yoga teacher training.

Let's help maintain a healthy system for coconut production.  To my fellow yogis, please think about your karma yoga when you buy that can of coconut water.  Because, despite what you read about, once that coconut water is canned, most of its nutritional value is diminished.  And you just spent $4 for it.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

This too, shall pass

Over the past two years, I absolutely enjoyed that my practice had finally become something I didn't hesitate about.  The fear of falling, the disappointments of my body's limitations, the frustrations - they all slowly melted away as I matured onto my mat.  I loved it.  

And I knew then that I was a hatha yoga practitioner for life.  I had known this for a long time, thus being one of the reasons I pursued teacher training.  I was growing, moving forward.

Or so I thought.

After reaching new depths, I started settling for just the right amount of 'edge', instead of pushing healthy boundaries.  While on my mat, I became routined, unadventurous.  I was comfortable. 

Slowly, it started to catch up to me.  The past few months, I struggled to find something that challenged or inspired me.  Disillusioned, the hot room was no longer the place it was once before.

I simply took up space.  I felt numb.

As a teacher, I remain excited and enthusiastic for the students, as I am ever the cheerleader.  Inside, I mourned my own yoga, grieving and aching for those days where my heart would race so fast I feel it all the way to my fingertips or be so calm that the earth stood still.  My practice wavered, unable to reach that inexplicable 'amazing feeling' I've always found before.  I've stopped pushing myself, I let the outside world in that hot room, allowing others to steal my peace.  Still, I continued to show up with a slowly breaking heart, knowing that things have changed.  

Despite this loss, the dreamer in me believes that something better is just around the corner, that this, all of this, is a test to my conviction. Because there was a time when my practice wasn't this way.

In times of physical injury where I am forced to be more patient, I tell myself this simply a lesson that I needed to learn about myself.  Maybe this, whatever this is, is an injury of sorts as well.  And that it will heal itself, too.

Tomorrow, I will return to the hot room.  And I may fall and I may struggle.  But I will also make a promise to remain hopeful even when I find myself grieving, standing on that mat.  

This too, shall pass.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Five seconds

The other week, I was watching a TED video of a woman, someone maybe famous I do not know, who spoke about going after what we want.  In my weak attempt at summarizing, she noted that we stop ourselves from doing whatever it is that we really desire, pushing aside and squashing ideas within the first 5 seconds instead of entertaining them.  At least that's what I got out of it.  (edit: video is now embedded at the end of this entry, thanks to The Native Homesteader!) 

The video came at the heels of a previous entry, where I came face to face with my own fears by allowing myself to be put out of my comfort zone, to end bad patterns, to be more human, to take more chances.  And so since then, I have been making grand efforts to stay true to my goals.

With grand being a relative term, I set out for new adventures. Trying things I never would even go for and having just a little bit of a looser grip on my life in general. 

A fellow  writer/blogger also decided to do something similar and  I must admit, I was elated.  I had someone to share my war wounds with!

And because life doesn't wait around, I dove right into the pool of uncomfortability.  There was no way to do it but jump right in.  I couldn't let the five seconds pass, just like the TED video said!  I was going to listen to my gut and my heart, whichever screamed the loudest.

In the past 2 weeks, I practiced at new studios, even a different kind of yoga.  I signed up for the most random things and finally got that orchid I was too scared to take care of. 

I reorganized my closet.  I bought clothing that did not have Lycra or spandex and would not be found on any yoga clothing websites.

I had wine on a weeknight.  I wore lipstick and accepted almost every invitation came my way despite my mind screaming 'no, don't go.'

And this morning, as I stood waiting to get seated with the audience at the Marilyn Denis show (one of the things I spontaneously signed up for), I saw Charles the Butler, an endeared expert whose knowledge of cleaning makes this neat freak's heart skip a beat. 

Before I could stop myself, I told him I was there to see him, not anyone else.  The first few seconds garnered a gasp from myself, not believing I had become a teenage groupie who just saw her favourite rock star.  Then I smiled a silly grin, letting go of any judgments and laughed at myself.  After I had run away from him quickly, of course.  But I did not get very far, because somehow, the universe had seen my cards, called my bluff, and raised the bet.  By the end of the hour, I was on TV, albeit very briefly - something I absolutely would never in my wildest dreams, ever do.  I'm even blushing just writing about it.

So what have I gained so far?

In just a short amount of time, I rediscovered the meaning of spontaneity.

I learned that I'm a better baker than I had thought, after suffering through a full seven minutes the baking demo that I signed up for (even yogis have their limits).

I stood my ground, heard my voice, and took control without being cold and cruel in the process. 

I ended relationships that were way past their expiration dates.

I trusted my instincts more than I did before, especially within those first five seconds.  I listened to my heart and allowed myself to figure out what I really wanted, even if it meant it was something I also feared. 

I've been more honest to myself, and to those around me.  And because of that, I've been having fun, laughing even at the most awkward moment when I walked to work with a shovel over my shoulder. 

I had won it from the show, among other things.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Pinoy Plate

Alright, I aint gonna lie.  This is a bit of a venting post.  I rarely write these because I try to be the picture of sunshine and rainbows when I talk about food and life is simply too precious.  I'd rather spend my time in the kitchen or the yoga room than be angry.

So why the venting?  Well, as many of you might know, I'm of Filipino ancestry.  Born, half-raised in those beautiful islands. Until my parents packed our meager belongings in eight balikbayan boxes to Canada, I had never had to 'identify' nor 'describe' Filipino food to others simply because everyone around was just like me growing up.

But all of a sudden, I was surrounded by people who didn't understand why I would eat rice for breakfast.  Or why my dipping sauce smelled like rotting fish (yum!).  Or use a fork and a spoon, or *worse*, my hands - kamayan.  I was asked to describe what Filipino food is like, because most people back in that little Canadian city never tried it.  Some have never even heard of it.

Of course, being the food lover that I was even at a young age, I described it as strong in flavours.  Lots of rice.  And seafood.  Poundage and poundage of pork.  Vegetables.  Spices.  Herbs. 

Cured, pickled, fermented wonderments to the tongue!

Steamed, fried, grilled.  

Banana leaves.  Pandan.  Kalamansi.

I shared the culture's love of coconut, our garlic, and our range of vinegars - a list of varieties long enough to make your head spin.  Don't even get me started on the fruits!

I would go on for days when there was anyone who cared to listen.  Then they would ask the ultimate traffic-stopping questions:  Is it like Chinese food?  I heard it's like Chinese food with a Spanish flair? 

My young, fresh-off-the-plane self would stare at them with my brown eyes, furrowed eyebrows, and confusion.  Did they not just hear what I have said?!  I told them of the wonderful things that describe our food, my food, my ancestors' food, and all they could ask was if it tasted like our colonial neighbours up north and west?  I found myself shaking my head too often.

Over the years, I would encounter these questions over and over again.  And, worse, I would hear my own people describe it as a mixture of Chinese and Spanish food, each time, my heart dying a little inside.

With all do respect with Chinese and Spanish cuisine, our food, the Pinoy plate, is not like Chinese nor Spanish cuisine at all.  Yes, we have similar ingredients, just like the countries of the Mediterranean.  We have similar cooking methods, maybe some shared names.  Yes, we've integrated their cuisine into ours through trade, through war, and subsequent colonizations.  But we, the people of those 7,107 islands, have our own food passed down from generation to generation, traditions tested and tried from our ancestors.

While I am most certainly not the expert on Pinoy food, I do know that our food, the Pinoy plate, is not like others at all.  The Pinoy plate differs from every region, every island, every village, every family.  Hell, I dare you to ask two families from different Pinoy provinces how to cook bulanglang and you'll get two entirely different dishes.  Similarities can end as early as the dishes' names!

A quick search of adobo would pull up thousands of recipes as well as articles on how many varieties there are.  From the vinegar-soy to vinegar only to coconut milk kinds, suddenly not so simple to describe one dish, is it?

So do us and our islander ancestors a favour,  Next time someone asks you to describe Filipino Food, don't limit our food identity to those of our two colonizers.  A little education will go a long way.  And maybe spend some time in the kitchen.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Last night, after a long day, I crawled into bed and watched old clips of Sex and The City.  I was simply too tired to make it to a yoga class so I had a date with my old self circa 1998.  And a bit of 2004. 

While the series itself sent the feminist world abuzzing in its day, it came out as I was heading out of the small city.  I, for the first time, was free to truly discover myself so naturally, I've always associated it with good things.  Great things even. 

I was excited, I was ready for a bit of nostalgia. 

As I watch the relationships unfold on the show, I couldn't help but feel differently.  I watched these characters grow, laugh, cry, fall, and then make the same mistakes all over again.  My present self cringed at some of the things I had missed in observation a decade ago.  But mostly I cringed because I myself am guilty of those things, things that will remain unmentioned, of course.

Things I wasn't aware I was capable of.  I wasn't as tough as I thought I was!

With the entirety of the series unfolding in front of me in one night, highlighting mistakes, heartaches, and their choices, my life of the past 10 years flashed before me.  I became increasingly horrified to face a few things about my 2012 self: the way I handle relationships, fears, my secret distaste for self-vulnerability despite its inevitability in human life.  Have things really changed much?  Shit.

Buried under my blanket and old insecurities, I waivered from hopeful to hopeless and finally settling on being more self-aware.  Which way do I go that will not lead me back to the same path?

Of course, it's up to me to put theory into action.  I have already dedicated myself to a 40-day yoga challenge, with a different goal before last night.  Now, with under 30 days left, I've added more to that list: to allow myself to be put out of my comfort zone, to end bad patterns, to deal with my fears, to be more human, to take more chances, to make peace with myself, circa 1998 and the present. 

It's going to be a long challenge, lol.  Who's with me?