marjorie-gavan-archidiocese de bordeaux
Stories

The girl who can’t be loved

It is now covered in a haze, but five years ago, I truly believed I could never recover much less forget. It was not my heart that was broken, it was my soul. A torment, so finite it manifested as physical pain. I was constantly suffering from stomach and chest pains. I could hardly eat that within two months my weight dropped from 100 to 82 lbs. I sleep on my stomach, but in those days, I slept curled on my side like a baby. Crying was normal, laughing felt awkward. I tried to cope with karaokes, guitar, and poetry. There was never a night I didn’t cry myself to sleep, never a day I stopped begging the gods and angels for respite. I didn’t ask god, why me? I asked, what is the purpose of this misery?

The girl that built a wall around her

Some of my close friends told me that I have a wall. They could easily come up with several adjectives to describe me but friendly was never one of them. I am not comfortable talking with strangers like they’re my old friends, not that it doesn’t happen, but those few encounters are the exceptions rather than the rule. If I don’t have to talk to someone then I don’t. People say that I am unforthcoming and hard to approach; if they’re too intimidated, they don’t try anymore.

To be honest, I don’t really give a fudge. When I become privy of the talks people do behind my back of my seeming coldness and arrogance, I am more intrigued than offended. I am aware that I do come off as standoffish to people I barely know, but I don’t consider myself an arrogant person. I do have pride and the capability to not take shit from anyone, but I don’t possess a distorted sense of superiority over other humans. But I cannot make a case against ‘coldness,’ I’d be the first to admit that I lack warmth and could work on having sensitivity.  

I am a doubting Thomas, I take things with a grain of salt. It’s a must for me to see the evidence, make an observation, and verify the sources before I accede to an argument or a claim. Many times, a person would air an opinion or share information, but when I find loopholes, I’d be quick to point it out. I am logic-driven, thus I have little patience for people who are given to half-baked theories and unsubstantiated stories. And I used to be so blunt, I hurt many feelings. The only way anyone could make me back down is when I’m presented with facts.

Let’s talk about feelings. There was a time in my life when the mere idea of feelings makes me cringe. I’m horrible at it, I never really knew how to handle it well. I think it’s one if not the main reason my depression lingered more than it should because I couldn’t process feelings the way normal people do. All of a sudden, I got all these emotions swirling inside my chest that I couldn’t fathom.

Simply put, a great display of emotion makes me quite uncomfortable regardless if the emotion in question is mine.  

It’s because of these qualities that I have a wall. I am not the kind of person who lets down her guard easily. Trusting is a process; I gauge people by their characters, not so much for what they can or cannot do. I search for shared values and interests before I let someone in.

The girl who cannot be loved

I have always felt like I lack the necessary ingredient to build a romantic relationship; affection. Sure, I deem some men attractive, but to acknowledge a fact, in this case, a man’s features that trigger the dilation of pupils is different from wanting said man to be my forever-after. A beautiful man can make me nervous, but it doesn’t necessarily spell sleepless nights.

There is a reason for this ‘disorder’ one that is deeply rooted in childhood.

I grew up wanting love and stockpiling heartaches from people who could not reciprocate my feelings. In high school, I had many crushes and I watched them all chase other girls. I could only stare at them from afar, deathly afraid to show my feelings. I thought I was ugly and not good enough because what else could be the reason? Boys only go after the pretty girls; light-skinned, radiant smile, commanding presence. I, on the other hand, hang out with the average girls, my fellow plain janes. In the time where everyone seemed to be having their first love, I remained single and unwanted.  

But the lack of display of affection runs in our family. We were not brought up to kiss and hug, we do not greet or give each other gifts on special occasions. My siblings and I were raised through corporal punishment by a turbulent mother and an unpredictable father.

Seven years before our first brother was born, there were just the three of us, the eldest, me, and the youngest sister. Big sister was the black sheep of the family who chased troubles like they were drugs. I couldn’t count on my fingers the times she left home, only to return months later. Defiant and out of control, she spent a good part of her teenage years skipping classes, sneaking out at night, basically everything that she wanted to the chagrin of our parents. Our parents have done all punishments imaginable to her, yet she remained relentless in her pursuit to live on her own terms.

Our parents dealt with the problem that is my sister for many years. But I thirsted so much for my parents’ affection, I was sort of envious of all the attention that she was getting. I know how twisted that sounds but it’s the truth. Yet I was not as daring as my sister, I didn’t have it in me to defy our parents.

Our younger sister, on the other hand, was doted on being the ‘bunso’ in the family at that time. There was this day when I saw her lying down with a spherical toy in her mouth. I was suddenly gripped with fear that she would accidentally swallow the thing that I pried it away from her. My sister grew mad and started crying, calling the attention of our mother. Little sis told mother what I had done for which I received a good beating. Mama never cared to listen to my explanation. I remember crying in one corner, my young mind trying to understand what I could have done wrong.

My first memory of rejection was when Mama got pregnant with my young brother. Little sis pressed her ear against our mother’s belly to hear the baby’s kicking. Curious, I tried to do the same thing, but Mama grew mad and shoved me aside running expletives. I was shocked and confused. I didn’t cry but I do recall feeling a dull ache in my heart.

From then on, I stopped trying to express affection to anyone.

The girl who thought she found love

I thought he was the one.

As an NBSB (no-boyfriend-since-birth) and a girl who always wanted love, meeting someone who seemed to genuinely like me felt strange but exciting to me. There was a guy who showered me with compliments, even using self-deprecation to make it seem like he didn’t deserve a woman like me.

I’ve known him a long time through an online community and we were friends on Facebook. Twice, he sent me a message inviting me to meet; both times I ignored because he wasn’t really my type. A few years passed, he started making his presence felt on my Facebook wall by liking and commenting on my posts. I didn’t think much of it until a common friend, a girl I used to be close with, noticed. She advised me to give him a chance. I shrugged and thought, “Oh well, why not?

It all started by regular chats on Yahoo Messenger and at first, I couldn’t feel a thing. He seemed truly interested in me that I started paying attention. But it wasn’t until we met in person that my feelings grew.

I remember the first time he told me the three words that I had been waiting all my life, I love you. I didn’t expect that I would hear this and be miserable. The day he said it, he was also telling me that we should stop communicating because he couldn’t make a commitment. He was still seeing his ex-girlfriend and despite saying that he loved me, he ultimately chose her.

I knew right there and then that he didn’t love me. Thank god for emojis, he didn’t witness the mess that I was in that moment. I fudging wish he didn’t say it. I had been waiting for those three words all my life, only to hear it being dropped carelessly by a person who didn’t even mean it.  

I cried for three years, a long time for something that was shortlived. I thought I could never get over him.

I kept all these heartbreaks in the attic of my mind. It was like having things that you knew you wouldn’t use anymore but you kept them anyway, thinking you’d find some use for them in the future. But unlike an old object, I have no use for these heartaches, yet I didn’t know how to liberate myself from them. Hence, they accumulated and slowly ate away my self-esteem.

This is the root of my decade-long depression; I couldn’t express my love but wanted badly to be loved in return. Falling for this person who couldn’t love me was the last straw; I was completely devastated.

The girl who chose to love herself

2016, I had a breakthrough. It was not an immediate realization, I went through the days as usual. While having one of my reflections one day, I felt for my heart and found it was no longer broken. I have unchained myself from all the pain I had been lugging along all these years.

He suddenly came to mind but I could no longer feel the bitterness of his leaving. In my mind, I said to him, “It took me a long time and I don’t remember the exact date, but in 2016, I can finally say with certainty, I don’t love you anymore. I’m sorry that it took this long, but I am finally here.

“How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you”

― Rupi Kaur

I was able to move on when I started to chip at my wall. I made new friends and let go of the old who either didn’t want to be with me anymore or were bad for me. I kept my close friends who loved me even in my most unlovable state. And the grandest of all decisions, I forgave everyone who hurt me, deliberately or unconsciously, including myself.

My inner world is rich with dreams, but it was time to step out of my comfort zone and make them a reality. Thus, I packed my bags and went wherever I wanted within the Philippines and overseas. I stopped regarding travel as a tool to deal with my pain but a way to appreciate the beauty of the world, to understand other people, and to discover different cultures.

In exploring the world, I went beyond myself and made all my sorrows small. In my pursuit, I have learned to love myself and alleviate the agony of being alone. I no longer expect people to give me what I need. What I couldn’t get from others, I gave to myself.

Recovery didn’t come from loving another. It comes from loving oneself.

To the girl who is reading this

In the end, we all want love. To be with someone to go home to, to feel those warm fuzzies of knowing there is someone who sees his whole world in your eyes. Love is beautiful, there is no shame in wanting it.

But there is a danger in asking it from another when you don’t even know how to give it to yourself. It may sound cliché but it’s true, not knowing how to love yourself triggers all kinds of miseries. And so with all the love that you have in your heart don’t ever forget to love “you.”

And with this, I’d like to end this long piece with the words of Bukowski.

“If you have the ability to love, love yourself first.”

― Charles Bukowski

Food

13 Must-try Food in Bangkok

Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is world-famous for its food. Bangkok restaurants are thronged by tourists looking for authentic and delicious Thai food. Most tourists and travelers book Cathay Pacific Malaysia flights and enjoy Bangkok, its touristic attractions and great food.

When you visit Thailand, it is a must to sample Thai food. You are sure to get overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of restaurants, the plethora of street food vendors and those countless food stalls.  Every region boasts of a dish that is unique and different. There are many flights to Bangkok online booking that one can avail of. Look forward to a seamless booking experience when flying to Thailand and plan a special food tour. You will find the best specialties right on the streets of Bangkok!

Here are some must-try foods in Bangkok for those who are overwhelmed with choices and do not know where to start.

Note: This is a guest post.

Fried Chicken

Called Gai Tod, you must not miss out on the Thai fried chicken with golden brown looks. Enjoy them with sticky rice and topped with deep fried shallots.

Drunken Crab

Thai food is famous for crab dishes, and Drunken Crab is a hot favorite with the locals as well as the tourists. Those white chunks of crab meat are unbelievably delicious, although they look plain.

Thai Fish Cakes

You will love Thai Fish Cakes, known as Tod Mun Pla Krai. The fish is first battered before being deep-fried. Enjoy those hotcakes served with tangy and spicy chilly dip.

Crab Omelets

Another favorite dish is the Crab Omelette. Those huge chunks of crab meat are cooked with creamy omelet and can be enjoyed with fried rice and fried noodle.

Thai Steamed Dumplings

Known as Kanom Jeeb, Thai Steamed Dumplings are filled with fillings like shrimps, water chestnuts and shiitake mushrooms and served with fried garlic-soy sauce.

Fresh fish soup

Fresh fish soup is another food that should not be missed on your trip to Bangkok. Known as Tom Pla Kimpo, the quality seafood has been popular for generations here and is served with spicy salad.

Quail Eggs

You must savor those sunny sides up quail eggs that are popularly served in food courts and restaurants and street food stalls. The street food staple in Bangkok is hot and fast and a practical choice on the streets.

Tom Yum Pork Noodles

Tom Yum Pork Noodles are available in thin, flat, wonton and vermicelli and serves in clear, spicy soup. You can enjoy different add-ons, like a poached porkfish ball, pig liver and ground pork.

Grilled Chicken and Pork Skewers

Pork Skewers are skewered pork that is cooked over charcoal and has a smokiness. You can try different types of chicken and pork skewers that are served with a peanut dipping sauce.

Braised pork trotters

Locally known as Khao Kha Moo, the Braised pork trotters have been popular for more than fifty years now. What makes it popular is the unique sweet taste of the meat and the large size of pork trotters, that are braised in the Chinese herbs and spices for long hours.

Thai Crispy Crêpe

You will fall in love with this crêpe snacks that are topped with sweet dried coconut and meringue. Known as Khanom Bueang, they are best had when made fresh and can be addictive. It is a must eat when you’re in Bangkok.

Oyster omelet

Another Bangkok delicacy that your taste buds will enjoy is the Oyster Omelet. This is a Thai version of what you get in Singapore. You are sure to refer the starchier and crispier ones to be found on the streets of Bangkok.

Fresh Spring Rolls with Herbs

The Thai spring rolls are known as Kuay Teow Lui Suan. The spring rolls are filled with a variety of meat to vegetarian ingredients and are made fresh in the night markets. Enjoy them fresh and hot with the signature chilly dip of Thailand.

iloilo city
Philippines Travel

Visiting Iloilo City? Do not miss these spots

In my post-traveling days, I had many misconceptions, one of which is that modernization doesn’t touch the provinces; evidently, I had been living under a rock. Good thing I started traveling and found out that even in provinces there are cities with a business center, modern establishments, among others. I’ve been to many cities around the Philippines, but nothing is more interesting to me than Iloilo City.

They have roads that are long and wide, huge malls just like in Metro Manila, and food establishments and other businesses that urban dwellers enjoy. Modern but not crowded or disorderly; the streets are generally clean. I liked it so much I found myself nodding to the possibility of moving there should an opportunity presented itself. I’d been there two times and have gotten to know the city a little. Getting around is easy, you could either take a taxi or jeepneys. Whether you traveling there DIY or with the help of a Philippine travel agency, here are some of the spots that you may want to visit in Iloilo.

Iloilo Esplanade River

The River Esplanade is the most beautiful spot I’ve seen in the city. It’s a long stretch of a brick pathway with a garden that sits by the Iloilo River. The view is amazing and the locals like to go there for a run or to cycle. There is an Iloilo sign on one end of the river, a good picture-taking spot if you ask me. There are some restaurants and cafes nearby, so it is indeed a good place to hang out.

If you feel like walking it would only take you roughly 20 minutes to get there from SM Iloilo. But you could just take one of the jeeps in front of the mall, take the one with the Leganes or SM Mandurriao route.   

Carpenter’s Bridge

At the end of the Iloilo Esplanade River, on the Senator Efrain Treñas boulevard side, you will see the Carpenter’s Bridge. It is named after the first civilian governor of the Moro province, Frank W. Carpenter. It offers a fantastic view of the Iloilo River. There, you could watch some local folks fishing, cycling, or taking a stroll.

carpenter's bridge iloilo

Molo Church

Just a 5-minute walk from the Carpenter’s bridge is one of the oldest churches in the city, the St. Anne Parish Church, more popularly known as the Molo Church. It is called as the “feminist church” because of the 16 statues of female saints placed on each pillar. This Spanish colonial church was built in 1831, the architectural design, a fusion between Gothic and Romanesque styles.

molo-church-iloilo

It is quite easy to get there, just take a jeep that plies the Molo or Arevalo routes; these jeepneys pass by the Molo Plaza where the church can be found.

Madge Café

Inside La Paz Public Market, you will find the famous Madge Cafe. It’s a very old café, which dates to 1951, owned by a man named Vicente De la Cruz. He named the café after the nickname of his wife, Magdalena. It’s a small café and eatery that old people like to frequent. This is also where the tourists go to seek out what the city claims, the best coffee in town.

The first time I went there I couldn’t justify the hype. If the nods came from the interesting way the coffee is being prepared, then I wouldn’t argue. I’ve never seen coffee made this way before. They use a cloth called, culador that kind of looks like women’s stocking to filter the coffee grounds, then put it inside a tin pot with boiling water. Then they pour the coffee into a cup and sugar and milk, according to one’s liking. It’s kind of fascinating to watch really.

But there was nothing special with the coffee, I found it too sweet. Well, that’s what I thought then until I returned and tried a much stronger flavor consequently shifting my opinion. Apparently, I just needed to get a strong coffee. Unlike the very expensive coffee that I like to indulge myself in back in Manila, the coffee here is cheap, only 40 to 50 pesos.

The café is open everyday from 5:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Kasanag Wellbeing Center

If you’re in want of some kneading of them muscles, I recommend you visit Kasanag Wellbeing Center. “Kasanag” is from a Hiligaynon dialect, which means brightness. The massage place can be found in an old two-story house. The spas I frequent are mostly Thai-inspired or have zen interiors, thus I find it quite interesting to see one that is Filipino-themed. The receptionists are donned in the traditional baro’t saya, the place is lit with yellow lighting that further imbibes the atmosphere of the olden days.

kasanag-iloilo

I chose the Kasanag signature hilot, a one-hour whole body massage. Instead of a towel, I was given a malong to wrap my body with. The massage itself felt so relaxing I almost dozed off.

Kasanag is open from 2:00 p.m to 12:00 midnight.

Camiña Balay nga Bato

To glimpse a piece of history, visit Camiña Balay nga Bato (house by the river), a small museum in a well-preserved ancestral house of the Camiña family along Osmeña Street.

camina-balay-nga-bato-iloilo

It’s a showcase of how the affluent lives in the 18th century. They look ancient now, but I could discern how the stuff in the house could only have been used by the wealthy during that time. There are silverwares, intricately painted ceramic plates, walls, floors, and furniture made of sturdy fine kamagong and narra woods, a turntable (might have cost exorbitantly in that period), etc.

At the end of your tour, you will be served with a cup of thick hot tsokolate de batirol and toasted mamon.

Plazuela de Iloilo

Plazuela is a business hub that is a favorite among the locals for shopping and dining. It’s a two-story complex with Spanish-Italian architectural design. It sits close to SM City Iloilo.

plazuela-de-iloilo

Pit Stop

For restaurants to try in Iloilo, Pit Stop is on the top of my recommendations. I love their mango pizza so much, I’d be willing to cheat on my keto diet for it. It was just amaaaazing. Also, try their mango baked macaroni, it’s just as equally good.

Recommended Accommodation

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Iloilo City, I recommend the following:

Injap Tower Hotel

Injap Tower Hotel is at a prime location, just across SM City Iloilo. Rates are reasonable, around 2,500 per night. The room is equipped with a mini kitchen, microwave oven, hot and cold shower, and a LED cable TV. There is free Wi-Fi that is reliable, a swimming pool area, and a spa. My favorite part of this hotel is the Horizon Café on the 21st floor as it offers a scenic view of Iloilo City.

KR & Quisa Airbnb Dorm Room

If you are on a budget, I’d like to recommend this Airbnb place owned by an amazing woman. The place is clean, the neighborhood is quiet. It is off the main road, but it can easily be reached by taxi or a jeepney. For only P600 per night, you got a yummy breakfast, free Wi-Fi, and one of the best Airbnb hosts I have ever met, Ate Quisa.

Click here to get a discount on your first Airbnb booking

I came to Iloilo expecting nothing. I never really bonded with any of my previous Airbnb hosts, hence, I was pleasantly surprised when I met Ate Quisa. She treated me like a friend, gave me many tips on how to get around Iloilo, and told me some stories about her life. She joined me during breakfast (Ate Quisa said that she doesn’t want her guests go about their day with an empty stomach), drove me to some places where I needed to be, and lastly, walked me to the jeepney stop and waited until I was able to get a ride back to the airport. Never have I been treated by an Airbnb host like this before. It truly warms my heart and made my stay even more memorable and meaningful.  

alliance-francaise-de-manille-b1-workbook
Stories

Learning French – the joys and struggles of learning a new language

The Filipinos are raised bilingual or multilingual, the latter most true for people born in the province. Our ethnolinguistic nation has two official languages, Filipino and English, and an estimated number of over 187 dialects. Metro Manila, also known as the National Capital Region (NCR) is inhabited by the Tagalogs, the second largest ethnic group in the country. This is where I came from, consequently putting me under the bilingual spectrum. While I loved coming from the city — the place that many rural dwellers aspire to move to for studies or career prospects — I was none too thrilled with my bilingual state. I wanted to be, as people from the provinces with their own dialects, a multilingual.

In May 2017, I made it happen. I enrolled myself to an evening class at Alliance Française de Manille (AFM) to learn the French language.

Why French?

The Filipino language is heavily influenced by other languages like Spanish having been colonized by the Spaniards for 333 years. The spelling, as well as the pronunciation of these languages, share many similarities that it makes more sense or easier for us Filipinos to pursue Spanish. But I am a little bit ambitious (that or I just have this weird compulsion to burden myself) that I set upon learning French.

Kidding aside, I find the French language beautiful and elegant; the words are spoken softly with a melodious rhythm that is pleasing to the ears. Thus, I picked French.

French language history

French is the official language in over 29 countries worldwide. It is among the Romance languages that evolved from the Vulgar or Colloquial Latin. Once upon a time, France and Belgium were part of the Gaul, an ancient region in Western Europe. Back then, the people spoke Gaulish, a Celtic language until the Roman invasion in the 1st and 2nd Centuries. The colonizers imposed upon the use of the Roman language causing the eventual phase-out of Gaulish.

Before the diminishing of Gaulish, there are over 150 words passed on to Latin. Over the years, the language of the people of Gaul continued to evolve and change, including adaptations from some other dialects and the German language. And this is how the French language came to be.

Learning French in Berlitz

I had my first stab at learning French in 2009 at Berlitz, a language center founded in 1878 by Maximilian D. Berlitz. He developed what is now known as the “Berlitz Method” that teaches learning a new language through conversations. The center offers courses in different languages, such as English, Filipino, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Fookien, etc.

berlitz-makati-philippines

We were a small group, a class of four female whose interests in choosing the language vary. From day 1, our professor spoke to us in French. Naturally, we were all stumped the first time, struggling to make sense of what she was saying. It was only hard at the beginning, soon, much to our surprise, we were already getting it. She used visual aids that proved to be helpful in helping us figure out what she was trying to convey. I had been the keenest student in the class, never missing a session and quickly picking up the lessons. In most instances, I was the first one to get it, perplexed at my classmates’ seemingly perpetual state of confusion.

Berlitz’s focus was not on grammar structure but on daily conversations. However, we could no longer progress to the second session when one of our classmates expressed her disinterest to continue. Berlitz could not open a class if the quota of at least four students is not complete.

Thus, my bid to become multilingual has been postponed.

Learning French in Alliance Française de Manille

May 2017, eight years after Berlitz, I enrolled in Alliance Française de Manille, a French-language school in Makati. Alliance Française is an international organization established in Paris, France in July 1883. It now operates in 137 countries including the Philippines where there are two branches, Makati and Cebu.

AFM offers French classes to everyone, adults, teenagers, and children. They have regular classes, workshops, online courses, private tutorials, even corporate services. Because of my work (plus I don’t want to give up my weekends), I selected the evening classes. It’s two hours of class, twice a week, every Tuesday and Thursday.

I paid around P7,000 on my first enrollment, inclusive of a reference book, workbook, and one-year individual membership. AFM membership provides perks such as a 10% discount on coffee and drinks at their in-house café and restaurant, Le Coude Rouge, access to multimedia library services, 10% discount on language classes, and invitation to cultural events.

In my very first class, the room was packed, brimming with students held with eagerness to learn a foreign language. As time went by, as to be expected, the numbers noticeably dwindled. A few have stopped showing up to class, others enlisted no more for succeeding sessions, some went abroad or moved to some other places, etc.

Challenges of learning French

I considered myself the “star student” in my Berlitz class, unfortunately, the brilliance stopped there. At AFM, I fare rather miserably particularly when it comes to the listening part. AFM’s teaching style is different from Berlitz, they are all about structure, the proper usage of grammar, rather than the practical use, a method I regard as more difficult. When in Berlitz, I could already order coffee in a restaurant after just one session, in AFM, I couldn’t properly engage in a decent conversation until the A2 level.

Oftentimes, I find myself questioning my intelligence and abilities, more so when my classmates are doing so well. Every session, I feel like I am constantly bombarded by rules and information that my brain is taking some time to absorb. Before I could even retain any of these, we are already learning something new, another grammar rule, a pile of new vocabularies.

I also don’t get to practice. After class, I couldn’t converse with anyone in French. I am relatively close with my current classmates but even if they are better than me, we are all on the same boat. Nobody is fluent yet to correct when it calls for, to teach what we don’t know.

French nuances

Moreover, there are some things about French that are entirely different from my native language and English, making the process of learning, extra challenging, such as:

1. French pronunciation – How it is written may be entirely different from how it is pronounced, for example:

French words English meaning French pronunciation
pas not pah (silent “s”)
pourquoi why? pooh-kwah
comment ça va how are you? commo-sa-vah

2. French accents – A great number of French words use accents:

  • cédille (ç)
  • aigu (é)
  • circonflexe (â, ê, î, ô, û)
  • grave (à, è, ù)
  • tréma (ë, ï, ü)

A word changes meaning or context depends on the use of accent. For example, the word parle (speak) will be a past tense if written as parlé.

3. French gender – This is a gendered language, meaning all nouns are either masculine or feminine. Also, there are similar words that have a masculine or feminine form, for example:

English French Masculine French Feminine
tired fatigué (when used for a man) fatiguée (when used for a woman)
preposition, “a” un livre (a book) une pomme (an apple)
he/she is a barber il est coiffeur elle est coiffeuse

4. French conjugation – Probably the most complicated part of learning French is the conjugation. This is when you change the form of the verb depending on the tense. Here’s an example for the commonly used tenses:

English French present French past French future
i eat, i ate, i will eat je mange j’ai mangé je mangerai
you eat, you ate, you will eat tu manges tu as mangé tu mangeras
he eats, he ate, he will eat il mange il a mangé il mangera
we eat, we ate, we will eat nous mangeons nous avons mangé nous mangerons
you eat, you ate, you will eat vous mangez vous avez mangé vous mangerez
they eat, they ate, they will eat ils mangent ils ont mangé ils mangeront

Note: Second person in French has two forms; informal (tu) and formal (vous).

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. French is hard I tell you.

French B1 Level

A French-language course has six levels:

  • A1 – Beginners
  • A2 – Elementary
  • B1 – Intermediate
  • B2 – Upper-Intermediate
  • C1 – Advanced
  • C2 – Master or proficient

Just last Tuesday, the new session began and this time, I am on Level B1. According to AFM’s site, B1 level students can do the following:

> understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.;

> deal with most situations likely to arise whilst traveling in an area where the language is spoken;

> produce simple connected text on topics, which are familiar or of personal interest; and

> describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions, and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

Current status

Even as I floundered through our classes, I have made some progress. I can read French and have a general understanding of the text. I know how to pronounce words correctly (at least most of them), I can string simple sentences and talk to someone. I can write and express a thought even when my grammar structure is far from perfect. I can now say with some confidence that, je parle un peu française (I speak a little French).

When I went to France last December, I was able to use what little French I know to communicate with the locals. Granted it was broken French or in Tagalog, “barok,” the important thing is, I was able to express myself enough for French people to understand me. It was a great feeling that regardless of my inadequacies in French learning, it appears that my money, time, and effort have not been in vain.

Want to learn French? Here are my tips

It is never too late to learn another language. I was already 34 when I enrolled myself to AFM. Adding a new skill or finding education in whatever forms is never a bad idea. We can always improve ourselves.

Whether you want to study at Berlitz or AFM, it’s up to you. I recommend both, the only thing is, Berlitz is not French-centric and there is always that chance a class gets dissolved, as what happened with mine, when they are not able to meet the quota for the number of students. I recommend Berlitz if you want to be able to speak French in no time.

If you want a more formal and standardized approach to learning French in a classroom setting, go with AFM.

Also, don’t be like me, a lazy ass. I know that I could do better by listening or watching French movies, podcasts, or music everyday but I don’t. I only do it when it’s convenient because I got other things to do. I’m still working on getting that motivation to take this more seriously. Back to my point, you could acquire the language a lot faster if you put in the time.

Enjoy and make friends. One of the best things that I like about going to AFM is meeting new people who have now become my friends. My current class has been together for 4 consecutive classes that we are now tight. Whenever we can, we go out for dinners.

cosmic-vegan-restaurant
Dinner at Cosmic with my classmates with our Swiss professor and his wife

Lastly, don’t be too hard on yourself. If French is a new language for you, it is perfectly normal to not get it right away. Whenever I get frustrated, I always tell myself that I am just like an infant, still getting introduced to the words, still learning how to speak. If you think about it, it’s not that far from the truth. When we were kids, our vocabularies are not rich, in fact, it took us many years to build our language’s repository in our heads. Thus, it is okay to make mistakes, it’s okay if you’re struggling a little bit. The important thing is to keep on trying. Remember the words of Jacques Cœur, “For a valiant heart nothing is impossible.”

“À vaillant cœur rien d’impossible.”

Jacques Cœur

You will get there too, believe me, I am not the most brilliant student in my class yet I can now speak French.


Information

Alliance Française de Manille
209 Nicanor Garcia Street,
Bel-Air II, Makati City
Telephone no. +63 2 895 7585
Email: info@alliance.ph

Berlitz
2F Peninsula Court Building 8735
Paseo de Roxas, Makati City
Telephone no. +63 2 813 2231
Email: cco-mk@berlitzph.com

brad-kelly-ireland
Stories

Dear Ireland, I’m sad but I don’t hate you, maybe I’ll see you someday

I have been to seven countries with visa requirements and never have I been denied (including Schengen). At no time did I violate my visa terms nor did I do anything in a foreign country that would require the intervention of law enforcement. I had complete requirements and money to fund the trip. Thus, I was confident when I passed my visa application to the Ireland consulate. To my astonishment, my application was turned down. Apparently, I am not welcome to the country that calls itself the land of a thousand welcomes.

This is not a success story. If you’re looking for tips on how to get visa-approved for Ireland, I’m afraid this is not the article for you. However, I hope you will continue reading, there are lessons to be had even from failures. Who knows, you may learn a thing or two that will help you score that elusive Irish visa.

The plan to go to Ireland

Ireland is not included in my dream destinations. I have nothing against it, after all, it produced the likes of The Cranberries, Bono, and Liam Neeson. In Northern Ireland I could visit the filming locations of the HBO hit series, Game of Thrones, which I am a huge fan of. But Ireland doesn’t give me the same urgency, that excitement one feels while daydreaming about a place.

The main reason this Europe trip came to be is my friend, Pancake. She got married and moved to Ireland with her kids to begin a new life. When her despedida (going away party) ended and we said our goodbyes, just before she jumped into the Grabcar, she waved and told us to visit her in Ireland.

We all looked at each other and I said, “Tignan mo tong si Pancake, maka-request bisitahin siya parang nasa kanto lang ang Ireland.” (Look at Pancake, asking us to visit her as if Ireland is just around the block).

Yet there I was, months later, fixing requirements to get an Irish visa.

Irish visa application process

Pancake said that the Irish Consulate is strict, it would be wise to get a Schengen visa first to increase my chances of approval. I did just that, successfully secured a Schengen visa thereby boosting my confidence to get the Irish visa.

Related: A Guide to Schengen Visa Application Philippines

Prepare visa requirements

I applied for the “C” or short-stay visa. This is the visa for tourism or those who want to pursue a short term study of the English language course in Ireland. It allows a person to travel the country for up to 90 days.

The requirements are pretty much the same as the Schengen visa.

Visa Application Form – Signed with my details.
Proof of financial capability – (ITR, 3 months payslip, bank certificate, bank statement).
Itinerary – Travel plans, list of destinations.
Proof of employment – Certificate of employment, a letter from the employer indicating that they approved of my leave and they are expecting me to return to work on a specified date.
Travel History – Photocopy of the first page of my passport as well as the stamped pages. Copies of my previous visas.
Proof of accommodation – Signed letter from Pancake signifying her intention to take care of my lodging as well as a photocopy of her ID.
Travel Insurance, Flight Reservation, Passport sized-photo, and Birth Certificate.

Fill out the online application form

I went to the Irish visa website and filled out the AVATS online application form.

avats-irish-online-visa-application

Set an appointment

I called up the Irish Consulate to the Philippines to set an appointment at the telephone number, (02) 896 4668. On October 16th, I went to their office located at 70 Jupiter Street Bel-Air 1, Makati. Waze directed the driver to Max’s Restaurant along Jupiter. I stood there perplexed, wondering where the hell is the Irish Consulate. I approached the guard standing by the doorway of Max’s and asked where the consulate is. He told me that I’ve come to the right place, the consulate is on the third floor.

I climbed the stairs, noticing how old the building is, then I saw the door that leads to the consulate. I was expecting that there would be a lot of applicants just like at VFS Global but there were only four other people in the room. They sat waiting in front of the glass window where a bespectacled mild-mannered lady was sitting. I looked at the other guests; they were talking about random stuff. The girl was busy fiddling with her phone, the boyfriend stepped out, the mother decided to talk to me.

She shared that she and her daughter will be going to Ireland to see her mom and that this is her second visit. I told her that I’d be going in my lonesome as a tourist and somehow she found this remarkable. I think I waited there for a good hour and so until I was called in by the lady in the window.

She meticulously checked my papers that she almost made me nervous. I wondered whether I had forgotten to include something. She told me that my documents are complete but I have to give her 4 copies of everything. She directed me to a nearby photocopy place, about 2 blocks away. But before I stepped out, I paid around 3,600 pesos for the visa fee.

I had the documents xeroxed, went back to the consulate and passed them all to the lady. Just as she inspected my original documents, she was very thorough in checking the duplicates. Once satisfied, she advised me to go check the status of my application on Visa Decisions page of their website; processing time is up to 8 weeks. Unlike the Schengen visa, I didn’t have to surrender my passport.

Wait for the visa decision

Each week I checked the website, my confidence slowly diminishing each time I didn’t see my application number. Pancake’s faith was unwavering, she assured me that I would be approved; I wasn’t so sure. All visa decisions are posted on the site for everyone to see and I observed that the difference between approval and rejection is significant. There are more refusals, the common reason indicated is that the applicants weren’t able to justify that they have a reason to come back to the Philippines.

Note: As of January 2019, the reason for denied visa application is no longer shown on the website.

One week after, there are still no words from the consulate. December was fast approaching, I still haven’t booked my ticket to Europe because I didn’t know which ticket to buy; is it Ireland or is it France?

My friend, Agnes messaged me that there is a mail for me in the lobby of the apartment. It was a long brown envelope, the same one that I used to carry my papers for the visa application. I opened the envelope and saw all of my original documents inside. Attached is a letter from the consulate; my heart sunk, my visa application was refused.

It listed all the reasons why, the gist is, I couldn’t prove my ties in the Philippines. It bewilders me that despite my COE, ITR, and a letter from my employer they implied that I would not return.

Dealing with the blow of the rejection

My first reaction, as anyone dealing with rejection, was one of anger and disbelief. How dare they insinuate that I would overstay in their country? First of all, I wouldn’t even think of going there if it wasn’t for my friend. Second, I have been to several countries already, not once did I ever think of hiding there and not returning to the Philippines. They could easily prove that in my passport and travel history.

I have a job, one that I am good at, one that I love, I have every reason to come back. I don’t even have a friggin’ Irish boyfriend and the only thing that my friend is shouldering is my accommodation, the rest of the trip, I will finance on my own. I have shown them proof of my financial capacity, I have more than enough to cover for it. What the fudge is wrong with them?!

If they didn’t want me, fine, I don’t want them too. There are other European countries I could explore, not my loss.

These are the thoughts that ran through my head. Outside I looked cool and collected, inside I was seething in fury. I just couldn’t believe it.

When I’ve cooled down I have started seeing things from a different perspective. First of all, Ireland doesn’t owe me anything. They could accept or reject tourists as they pleased and they don’t have to explain themselves. It’s their prerogative, I am a foreigner, if they thought my documents are not enough to make a case for my application, then there is nothing I can do about it.

Once I’ve made this assessment, or reflection if you will, I felt shame. The reason I was truly hurt was my ego. I had been overly confident thinking that my past travels are enough to speak for my intention. I realized that just because one is well-traveled doesn’t mean he/she could get anything that he/she wants.

I cannot make demands to be allowed in a country, I can only make a request. The embassy is free to say no, I can only respect their decision.

The Irish consulate allows denied applicants to make an appeal within two months of the date of refusal at no additional cost. I opted not to pursue it anymore because it took them a while to make a decision, I’m afraid they would make me wait some more. I no longer had the luxury of time to wait as the date of my trip was drawing closer.

Final thoughts

Nobody is comfortable sharing their failures, but I think it’s necessary. Life is also about losing as much as it is about winning; the latter is rewarding, the former makes us learn. This experience reminded me…

…to be prepared. The Irish Consulate obviously requires more than a complete set of documents. I should be more prepared should I attempt to apply again next time. I must make an effort presenting solid proof to make a good case. I shouldn’t just rely on past experiences; to consider each application unique and plan accordingly.

…to be humble. There is a thin line between confidence and arrogance, I should keep myself in check and steer myself to the path of humility. It is good to remain optimistic and to believe in myself, but when faced with defeat, I should accept it with grace.

to be willing to change perspective. Life is not merely black and white, situations and circumstances vary and the reasons may not be obvious the first time. If I remain stubborn with my beliefs without trying to see other’s perspective then I will never learn. And what is life if not a series of learnings and experiences?

…to look at the silver lining. In this case, the silver lining is Austria. Ireland didn’t happen but it gave me an opportunity to visit this equally gorgeous country where I experienced snow for the first time.

… to rise up when I fall. Lastly, failures happen to the best of us. If met with defeat, I am allowed to be sad, but I should keep going on.

Dear Ireland, thank you for serving me with these lessons. Maybe it’s not yet our time to meet. Maybe someday we will.

Food

Keto Filipino – The answer to keto dieters’ sweet and bread cravings

A friend asked me a month ago whether my summer body is ready. I said that summer is ready, not my body. Frustrated, I decided to take a 30-day keto diet challenge. As I write this I am on my 17th day, but let’s save the details for later; I will post a story when the challenge is over. For now, let’s talk about one of the things that I found while doing this diet, the one that helped me get through my cravings for bread and pastries, Keto Filipino.

What is Keto Filipino?

Keto Filipino is a keto friendly bread and pastry shop that sells online. It started in December 2017 and it is named as such because the company aims to offer keto options to Filipinos. The person behind this is Kay Guevarra, who herself started her keto journey in October 2017.

She said that she tried all kinds of diets from vegetarian to juicing until she discovered keto.

“I really loved it because I saw the result in as fast as 1 week. This is not just losing weight but suddenly, I have more energy.” —

Kay Guevarra

Any diet is difficult, but keto takes it to a whole new level by taking out sugar and carbs. We, Filipinos have a great liking to sugary treats, plus rice is a staple, we eat it at breakfast, snacks, and dinner. So to say that this diet is challenging is an understatement. I happen to have a sweet tooth and I like bread and pastry a damn lot. Kay also shares the same sentiment.

“It is the hardest when I am at work and cannot find anything on the supermarket to snack on that’s low-carb except for peanuts. I’m a bread lover and skipping rice was not an issue, it’s mostly bread.”

— Kay Guevarra

So what’s a girl to do when she couldn’t find what she’s craving for? She gets creative that’s what. Kay started experimenting on keto recipes particularly bread, cookies, and crackers. One day, she posted the fruit of her labor on Keto Living PH to share her excitement with fellow keto dieters. What she didn’t expect is that she would receive a lot of comments asking her where they could buy her products.

Thus the birth of Keto Filipino. Kay turned her hobby into a thriving business. Eventually, she left her corporate job to focus on building her biz.

With hard work and passion, her business started to grow. Keto Filipino is now selling other products, such as muffins, cupcakes, and loaf bread. It started as an online shop but now they have a store pick-up we just moved last week at Greenhills Towncenter Granada St. Valencia Quezon City. To make sure you will find the products that you like when you visit their store, place an order via Instagram or their Facebook page as they have limited items available for walk-ins.

What are the must-try Keto Filipino products?

I discovered Keto Filipino by the recommendation of my colleague, Michel. She personally knew the owner and she is supportive of my keto diet endeavors. Knowing that I’d been missing bread and pastry, she told me to try Keto Filipino. It is a bit on a pricey side and I am a bit frugal, but I was on my 8th day of keto, I wanted to eat something other than chicken.

I went to their Facebook page and placed my order. The first time I ordered, I got cheese loaf and cupcakes sampler. You have to pre-order and they only deliver every Wednesday.

Cupcake Sampler

As soon as I got home, I wasted no time eating the cupcakes. If you can’t decide on a flavor, try the sampler, it has 6 cupcakes and you can pick two flavors for P400. I had matcha and ensaimada. The ensaimada is topped with a generous amount of grated cheese, the first bite was bliss.

The cake is not as soft as the regular cupcakes; the texture and consistency reminiscent of the Filipino coconut macaroons but not as crumbly. It is not sweet, but after days of not eating sugar and carb-filled food, this cupcake was enough to pacify my cravings. The matcha flavor is also nice though I prefer the ensaimada better.

Macros: EnsaimadaMacros: Matcha
Calories – 165
Protein – 4g
Net carbs – 2g
Fat – 14g
Calories – 164
Protein – 3g
Net carbs – 2g
Fat – 14g
Sugar – 0.05

Cheese Loaf

The cheese loaf I speculate, will not appeal to the sweet tooth simply because it has no hint of sweetness whatsoever. I find that it goes well with peanut butter, but if you’re doing keto, make sure the spread is also unsweetened.

Macros per slice:
Calories – 124
Protein – 3g
Net carbs – 2g
Fat – 11g

Flaxseed Loaf

If I would suggest which loaf to buy, this would be my recommendation. It is moist with a texture that is a bit like wheat loaf. It also smells good, like the scent of bread fresh off the oven. Moreover, flaxseed has many health benefits; it is loaded with nutrients, high in omega-3 fats, rich in dietary fiber, may lower blood pressure, etc.

keto-filipino-flaxseed-loaf

Toast it, slather on some butter or peanut butter, then enjoy! Flaxseed loaf is at P360.

Macros per slice:
Calories – 154
Protein – 3g
Net carbs – 2g
Fat – 12g
Sugar – 0g

Pandesal

Their latest product is pandesal, yeah I know, very Filipino! I don’t know what magic Kay is whipping in the kitchen but she sure has a knack for making some of our beloved products into keto friendly version. The pandesal is incredibly soft and unlike some pandesal that hardens come afternoon, Keto Filipino’s stayed soft the day after.

Macros per piece:
Calories – 50
Protein – 5g
Net carbs – 4g
Fat – 1g
Sugar – 0g

Chocolate Obsession Cake

Reserving the best for last, chocolate obsession cake tops the list of my most recommended Keto Filipino products. It’s Keto Filipino’s take on the very popular dream cakes. The cake is such a surprise, I was honestly expecting that it wouldn’t be sweet given the fact that the rest of the products that I tried were not. But oh boy, this one blew me away. I had been sharing the keto food that I was ordering to my colleagues and they weren’t so keen on them. But this one was an exception. They loved it as much as I did.

It is smooth, creamy, and tasted almost like the chocolate dream cakes that I had in the past. I said almost because this may be sweet but not as much as the dream cakes. It feels so good to eat something minus the guilt. I am keeping half the can all to myself, no more sharing ha ha…

The cost of Chocolate Obsession Cake is P700, served in a 6-inch tin can. It can last from 5 to 7 days, so long as you keep it in the fridge.

Macros per slice:
Calories – 268
Protein – 4g
Net carbs – 3.4g
Fat – 26g
Fiber – 1.3
Sugar – 1g

Is Keto Filipino worth trying?

Absolutely! I am not discussing it in full right now but keto diet is one of the hardest diets there is, more so for Filipinos whose motto is “rice is life.” And when it gets extra hard, it is good to know that there are people and businesses out there who exist to make things easy for you.

Keto Filipino for me is more than a business, it is also a means to introduce people to the health benefits of a keto lifestyle. And through their bread and pastry, they minimized the woes that many keto dieters face, which is having that sense of deprivation for sugar and carbs.

On whether I will continue keto or not after the 30-day challenge, I am not yet sure. What I am sure of though is that while I am on this diet, I will rely on Keto Filipino for my bread and pastry cravings.

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