Last year, my 36th birthday, which I vlogged but didn’t write about, has been — for the lack of a better word — meh. I paid a lot for it, stayed in a nice hotel in Makati, invited a few friends for dinner, enjoyed the onsen spa the next day, then went back to my apartment also in Makati. It’s what millennials call, “staycation,” one that although served its purpose didn’t really bring in that feeling of joy I’d been expecting. And so, on my 37th birthday, I had to do something more; it’s not by traveling somewhere, not by going alone at a café, but by repeating what I did last year with extra layers that would make things anything but meh. So here’s what went down.
Go home and celebrate with the fam
In my family, there are three people who celebrate their birthdays in August including yours truly. I don’t really know why we had to be born in the same month but my brother, Jake Naire celebrates his on the 11th, me on the 19th, and the youngest sib, Adriana on the 29th. I don’t get to see them a lot as I deem the act of traveling to Sampaloc burdensome, but on August 10, I went home to pick up my siblings so we could have our little birthday celebration.
Our house in Sampaloc looks worse than I remember, but there reside the most important people in my life. They didn’t know I was coming, including the neighbors who were quite surprised when they saw me walking down the street. I roused my two siblings from sleep and announced that they’d be spending the weekend at my house.
Nanay, my grandmother was happy to see me. I kissed her on the forehead, a gesture that we never do in the family, but fudge custom. I asked her how she was doing especially after the news of her sister’s (Lola Fely) passing. Now it’s just her and her other sister, Lola Tita, whom I have never met in my life. I kinda regret that I didn’t attend Lola Fely’s funeral when I found out Lola Tita was there. I had no special reason for not attending other than the fact that I was never that close to this side of the family. When I think of Lola Fely, all I could remember is that one day, she took one look at Barry’s naturally curly hair and decided to cut them all off, making him bald. Since then, Barry’s perfect cherub-like hair never returned.
Nanay is old and tired but still strong enough to walk around the neighborhood. She has survived the death of her parents, husband, four children, a grandson, and now her sister. I don’t know where she sources her strength, but I have always admired her resilience having lived a difficult life. She is one of the strongest women I know, not an in-your-face kind of strength that my mother portrays but one that emanates from within.
While waiting for the two to get ready, I went to my cousin’s place for a chit chat. My cousin, Jennifer was surprised (“shocked” is more appropriate) upon seeing me. She offered me some bread and instant coffee then we proceeded to update each other on everyone’s life (and by that I mean everyone in the family).
My siblings are my first ever visitors to my new home. I have held off any visitor from coming because to this day my house is still empty. In fact, my siblings had no choice but to sleep on the floor. The next day, we celebrated Barry’s birthday over lunch at Manam in SM Megamall.
Go to a hotel and host a pizza party with friends
I have many friends but only a few have made an impact on my life and it’s my biggest consideration when picking who to invite for my pizza party. I wanted to be in the company of people I am most comfortable with, those who have helped me through the difficult times, and those who supported me.
Through my dear friend, Cai, I scored a room upgrade at Valero Grand Suites by Swiss-Belhotel. It’s a premier one-bedroom apartment, about 60sqm in size. It has 2 single beds, a kitchenette with a coffee facility and a fridge, and a bathroom with bathtub and toilet. Likewise, it has a dining area and a living room with a couch and an LCD TV. The place is so spacious it easily fit my 9 guests.
6 p.m., my friends started coming in. I didn’t have a birthday theme unless asking all my guests to wear black counts. Black remains my favorite color, there is no other reason for the choice. I wore a high neck cut out swing dress. I brought my block sandals but spent the best part of the night barefooted as the rest of my friends. I’m not sure why they started taking off their footwear when they came in, but somehow it helped make things more casual and fun.
I played my Spotify playlist but kept the sound low to not eclipse conversations. Over wine, pizza, and chips, my friends got to know each other. The meek and the distracted found comfort through their mobile phones, the most vivacious were lost in lively discussions. Careful not to be drunk, I alternated between red wine and water. Part of growing up is knowing your limit.
In my previous birthdays, I captured things in moving pictures, edited amateurishly, that I posted on Youtube with a disclaimer, “I am not a vlogger.” This time I took the burden off my shoulder by hiring a videographer. The entire night he did his best shooting footages of the party, me dancing to the tune of Mother’s Daughter, my friends entering the room, us drinking and laughing, making fun of each other.
I instructed the videographer to interview my friends about me for more content. My friends reluctantly agreed after much convincing from my end. You will see these interviews in the video below.
I hosted a game that asked some questions about myself. One of them commented, how could I expect that they’d know all the answers, to which I replied, “I don’t expect you to remember everything, but at least you should know some of them.“
My reason for having this game is so that my friends would know me more. I could have mentioned these bits of pieces before, but memory is a fickle thing. If they have forgotten the information or didn’t know them until this game, well now they do. I don’t share a lot of me to people, not even to those I talk to constantly. But on this birthday, I wanted them to know a fact as random as The Little Match Girl is the first book I have ever read.
I’d be the first to admit that some of the things I made them do that night are narcissistic in nature. But even as they complained they humored me and did as I asked patiently. I guess they truly care about me, the why, only they can answer.
Each time I celebrated my birthday I only had one wish; to find the right guy for me. Obviously, it is not working or I wouldn’t have kept asking for it. This time, I blew out the candle with a different wish, to live long and healthy.
Go to a spa and pamper yourself
On the exact day of my birthday, I went to I’M Onsen Spa for some pampering. Not sure if it was the fact that it was a Monday or that I was too early that the spa is almost empty in my afternoon appointment. I went into the wet area and had the facilities all to myself. I went to the waiting room for my massage and I was the only person there. The massage area was empty save for a few staff. And when I went to the buffet, people didn’t start coming in until 30 minutes later. Not that I am complaining, since it was my birthday, I liked having the illusion that I reserved the spa for myself.
It’s hard to walk in at I’MOnsen and Spa, hence I booked online days before. I customized the services that I wanted to avail and paid over ₱3,000 for a package that included a 1-hour signature massage, access to the onsen, milk bath, private room, and buffet.
It was the ultimate relaxation, perfect for the occasion. Now that I’m getting old, I am more inclined to enjoy experiences like this.
I think that this year, I did it right. Seeing my family has somehow connected me to the feeling that I’d been missing in all my previous birthday celebrations; not that I didn’t enjoy any of them, but they were still incomplete if you know what I mean. I have been on my own since I left home 8 years ago. I have missed many birthdays and other momentous events, the same way my family was not able to witness some crucial moments in my life. Things have changed so much in my life and it was easy to get caught in them all. I think I have forgotten that before anything else, I had my family, and without them, there is no me. It is not too late, from here on, I will make it a point to celebrate with them every year.
Another realization is the importance of recognizing friends who have supported me all this time. I was sad that some of them were not able to make it, their presence would have made my party all the more meaningful, but unlike before where I throw a tantrum if people don’t show up, I have come to accept that our lives have already taken different directions. Nevertheless, they are still my friends and I will always treat them as such until the end.
For those who made time to attend, I am touched beyond words. I always believed that the best gift anyone could give is their time. Time is precious, time is something that you cannot get back, time is a piece of somebody’s life. And so whenever somebody gives me a little of their time, I’m always grateful.
This is how I greeted my 37th year of existence. I am happy to be here.