Sunday, 18 February 2018


I have been been journaling since I was about 13. I don't like the sound of the word journaling, but I love the habit I've made out of it. I can still vividly recall the cover of my very first proper diary (I say proper as I recall using my aunt's ledgers as a writing material): it was a cushioned PVC, with the image of a brunette girl in a Victorian frilly dress sitting in a field of daffodils, writing in her diary.

My laptop is temporarily evicted from my home desk to make way for my journal

It had a padlock and a set of keys. I kept one in my wallet, and another somewhere in my bedroom where no one would find it but me (but I was too good in stowing trinkets I used to forget where I hid them). I religiously locked my diary even though I knew no one would dare touch it. Looking back, it was the initial stages of my attempts to build a wall around me, which, as I got older, meant that my defences were reinforced around people I have just met or I'm not comfortable sharing my private self with, or my thoughts on issues that really matter to me. There are things that are locked away and not meant to be shared with just about anyone.

I used my birthday money to buy it from National Bookstore--think of that place where everyone wherever you're from goes to buy school and office supplies, and books, of course. It was a tough decision between a Trapper Keeper and a diary (a teenage choice between being seen as cool or being branded as a geek). I got the former the following school year.

Just slightly above the girl's hair was a line that says, 'Life Is A But Dream." Mind you, I claimed that line first before Beyonce made her film (I can't stand her by the way, nor her music, so my childhood diary's tag line has acquired a cheesy pop feel to it that dampened the nostalgia). At 13, I had no immediate grasp of what it meant. I just thought I liked where the girl was: on her own penning her thoughts away without a care in the world. And the frilly frock was lovely. Just the kind of dress I would never had the chance to wear in a tropical country. I wanted to be that girl: lost in her thoughts in a field of daffodils.

Many moons after, I do find myself lost in my thoughts--at work, while seated on my office chair, surrounded by the humming and buzzing of the printer slash photocopier slash scanner, tapping of keyboards, slamming of folders on the shelves, and shuffling of papers, sans the daffodils. 

'The Artist's Way' author Julia Cameron encourages writers to jot down whatever comes to mind first thing in the morning. Three pages' worth of subconscious musings are the equivalent of morning exercise for the gym buff. I'm not a morning person, so I write at night, when the whole world quietly sits down with me. It's my form of meditation. Writing down my thoughts and feelings about anything I'd like to talk about is the only time nowadays when I completely put aside modern communication gadgets. I'm very happy I do not have a work phone. I would hate to have one issued to me.

For Christmas 2017, a colleague gave me a diary that says on the cover, 'Memories & Milestones: The Journal of a Future National Treasure'. I thought it was hilarious. We barely knew each other at the time, so it was exceptionally intuitive of her to gift me with something she probably didn't even realise I'd greatly appreciate. I could never ever topple Samuel Pepys as Britain's greatest diarist (perhaps I'd come in a close second to Bridget Jones), but everything I write down is an immense personal treasure from my heart and soul.

Grabbed from my IG

Journaling gives me insights into the various emotions and thoughts about certain issues at random periods in my life, and how my feelings about them have evolved, were resolved, or buried in time. My diary doesn't judge me or attempt to process things for me. It's a friend who pulls out  a chair, offers a drink, who doesn't say a word while I speak but nods in understanding of my complexities. When I'm done ranting, I close the page, and we meet again at an undisclosed time to pick up where we left off.

It takes courage to let ourselves be vulnerable in the presence of others. Or to disclose our darker side. Not everyone will be receptive. Or we may misplace our trust. I turn to my journal especially at times when not even the deepest conversations with a friend or special someone are enough. There are times when all we need is a written dialogue with ourselves. 

How about you, do you keep a journal?

Tuesday, 19 September 2017


I've been welcomed to the club by those who've been there. There was the usual outpouring of sympathy and empathy, and certainly no schadenfreude as the ones with whom I immediately shared a most recent life event were close family and friends. A few were envious and would swap places with me--for a considerable fee, of course. My advice was for them to be careful what they wish for, as I found myself unprepared for the position I subconsciously played in my head and which I am now in.

My cheese has recently been moved: I've been made redundant from my job of seven years. It's not unusual. It happens to the best of us, and more expectedly to the worst of us. I just didn't see it coming. Although I consistently went through hot-and-cold phases during my tenure, my misgivings didn't prompt me to quit without a well-carved-out back-up plan. 

But here I am, navigating a more competitive job market than what I knew from a decade ago, forcing myself to sign up for LinkedIn which I protested against for so many years as I viewed it as a vanity project for people who have nothing else going on in their lives apart from their impressive yet empty job titles, and finding out that even though I'm now considered a veteran in my industry, being unemployed is a social status leveller.

For the first couple of weeks, the question of what is next was rhetorical rather than sequential.

It's scientifically proven that our bodies undergo rejuvenation wherein our cells are replaced by healthier ones which in turn create a repackaged version of ourselves. As a former allied medical science student, I learned about the processes cells go through for renewal. Each type of cell has its own life span. The myth is that the whole process is a cyclical seven-year period, which is a random choice of time frame for the 50 to 75 trillion cells in our body. When I look back at mine (not my trillion cells, but my major life events from 40 years down), I had a realisation that I have been through several seven-year periods where I break my life down to the basics to rearrange my pieces back together.

It's now apparent that my cells are reconditioning themselves, or I'm blooming like giant Himalayan lilies do after being an unassuming clump of leaves for five to seven years. Whatever the case may be, unfavourable circumstances have been prodding me to reinvent myself yet again. 

I'm embracing the change by challenging myself to come full circle and confront what I've been running away from for a long time: getting a formal training in creative writing. 

I have not fully abandoned writing, from the time in my early 20s when the craft was my main source of income. But I drifted in and out, partly because writing alone couldn't pay the bills, partly due to myself moving to another country where my confidence took a slight beating, and mainly because I joined the rat race where I was actually more like a vole  squashed by marauding rodents. 

For the last seven years, I've been checking--no, I stand corrected--stalking the start dates for Creative Writing and Critical Analysis courses on the university's website while coming up with as much excuses as possible not to sign up. The excuses dried up. I secured one of the last two places. 

Together with at least 20 other participants from all over the world, of eclectic professional and creative backgrounds, and diverse age groups, we are finding and reinforcing our writing voice, constructively analysing our words and sharing our thoughts via our forums that are moderated by our tutor whose book I previously read to get a glimpse of his literary style. We all have one goal: to bare our souls through our written words.  To be physically naked is daunting; to mentally undress for strangers can be crippling.

I don't know if I've got what it takes. My attention is divided, my dedication rusty, and my patience deficient. But my desire is definitive: I don't want to regret passing up the chance to indulge what my core screams for. 

So, what's next? 
Your guess is as good as mine.

Sunday, 18 June 2017


Just as the camera briefly hovered over the doctor's bag on top of the dining table, I burst into tears without warning. 'Doctor in the House', a BBC documentary series about a GP invited by families to investigate their health issues, was on that night. I normally would attribute the emotional outburst to an incendiary mix of hormones and fatigue.

That night,I had no reason other than I miss my father.

My dad was a Physician-Surgeon, or a GP, as we call them here in the UK. He wasn't able to specialise in a specific field of Medicine because he and my mother, who's a nurse, were offered posts at Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health back in 1979. They were looking specifically for a husband-and-wife team. My parents made the final cut. By the time they decided not to renew their employment contract, it was 1989 and I was on my way to high school. Priorities have changed. 

His friends and classmates from medical school--at least the ones I met--have said that if my father managed to do further studies, he would have been brilliant. He wasn't the theoretical or overly academic type--just the man to turn to for practical applications and when all other options have been exhausted. As someone who originally wanted to be a mechanical engineer, he must have viewed human anatomy as a machine to unravel. 

Please excuse the red sofa (and my matching red shorts), my father's massive bling that I joked was his engagement ring, and myself for looking like a little boy that grew a Dora-esque hairdo. I left almost all of my childhood photos in the Philippines, I don't have more decent ones to post.

His name was Cosain. I have no idea what it means in Arabic, or if it's Arabic at all or an amalgamation of words in Maguindanao dialect. Funnily enough, when I googled it, the results came back describing a word with Irish roots. There's absolutely nothing Irish in him (as you can see in the photo), except probably his ability to handle his alcohol during his pre-Mecca inebriation days. As his Muslim name was very unusual and unique in my mum's Catholic hometown where I grew up, my school teachers had an excuse for word play. Perhaps with, or most likely without pun intended, he was 'christened' as Cocaine, at least on my report card. How my teachers managed to come up with the idea of a person being named after a type of recreational drug is beyond me (I came across the word cocaine in my father's Legal Medicine textbook when I was about eight ), but no one even noticed it at the time apart from when I mentioned it to my mother. She probably won't even remember this incident.

I've heard it said by others who lost loved ones that grief never really leaves you. It certainly has took up home in my psyche. Although I no longer think of my Papa--as I called him--on a daily basis, there are occasional reminders of him that turn me into an emotional wreck. I once cried in the middle of the men's shoe department of Harrods, surrounded by all the Guccis, Ferragamos, and Ballys that I wanted to get for him using my staff discount. Papa was a Rooster. In Chinese astrology, they're the dapper ones. He was fashion-conscious, with a preference for bespoke tailoring. When he passed, he still had several pairs of shoes he hadn't worn. In Islamic tradition--at least in the Philippines--the family has to give away all the material possessions of the departed save some personal effects that have sentimental value. I wasn't there when he left us; I could have kept at least one of his pairs. While waiting for my train at London Marylebone station a couple of weeks ago, my attention was caught by a display stand of Father's Day greeting cards. I don't remember giving him Father's Day cards. I phoned. Or did I? 

I last spoke to my father exactly 11 years ago today. There are things that are slowly becoming blurry, but the sound of his voice remains intact in my mind. It sometimes feels inaudible, so I close my eyes and play it back in my head over and over again until I can hear him clearing his throat before speaking up. Unfortunately, time is slowly disconnecting my memory from the sound of his laughter. It scares me to lose recollections of that part of him. But I'm at least still left with the physical reminder of his cheeky laugh: his gregarious grin immortalised in his photos.

He would have turned 72 this year. When I see men his age achieving long-held dreams or trying new interests for the first time, I wonder what else he could have become. Papa was constantly chasing new knowledge, endeavours, and skills. I inherited my appetite for reading from him. I can imagine he would be dabbling in social media if he were alive. He once had a Q&A health program at his local radio station where patients would phone in and he would either diagnose or give advice on air. He probably would have run for public office again, this time in my mum's hometown where he was intending to retire. Or he would have been a lawyer, because being a GP wasn't enough. Mama recounted, during one of those late-night conversations we have about him after his passing, that he was planning to enter law school. I'd say my father had a predilection for intervention--medically or legally speaking.

I think I'm not alone in going through periods during our growing up years when our knowledge of our fathers was boxed into details of what they did for a living, which school they went to, which hobbies they engaged themselves in if any, or maybe how they met and courted our mothers. Around the time my father died, we were just getting to know each other past the father-daughter familiarity. The generation gap was closing in--we were becoming friends. And I guess it's what breaks my heart: I lost my father and my friend too soon.

As I write this, I was chatting with my mother to check if what I knew about my father's history was accurate. One day, I may have no one left to ask about him. That drives me to write about my father as much as I can. One of my most treasured possessions is a pen that he left me. It's showing the years I've kept it. I thought it was just another random gift from my father; little did I know that he symbolically wanted me to tell stories, relive his presence in my life, and remember him in my own words.

His story does not end with his demise. 

Happy Father's Day to my own doctor in the house!

I also wrote a tribute to my father in 2013. If you have time, click HERE to read. Many thanks.

Friday, 16 June 2017


I'm a hayfever sufferer, and would greatly benefit from not being outdoors as much as possible. Trouble is, I do love being out in the woods or in the garden where I'm most susceptible to my number one allergen: pollen. Where I shouldn't be or spend too much time in is where I'm drawn to. 

I recently visited the RHS Chelsea Flower Show at the end of May, which was both a visual delight and an immune system assault. My friend recently introduced me to David Austin Roses who is a major exhibitor at the show, and has bred a rose variant called 'Miss Alice' after Alice de Rothschild.  She can be found of course at Waddesdon Manor's Rose Garden which was a year-2000 addition to the garden attraction of the house. 

I did intend to see her, but it was like one of those parties where I got distracted by conversations with other guests (mind you, that's something big for me as I hate small talk), I failed to pay courtesy to the host and only realised it when I've left. 

The empty wine bottle tree

The Rothschilds are keen gardeners, from Baron Ferdinand's mother, Charlotte, to his sister Alice, and down to Lord Jacob Rothschild's daughter Beth, who's a trained horticulturalist. Although a French landscape architect designed the garden, the look and atmosphere are a mix of French formality and English romantic parkland. The extensive restoration and innovation have won Waddesdon garden the Europa Nostra Diploma in 2000 for 'the extraordinary re-creation with modern techniques of a major Victorian garden'. 

Part of the Parterre, which is the major attraction of the south side of the Manor. During World Wars I and II, the flowers were replaced by vegetables and hay. Today, the Parterre blooms with 110,000 perennial and annual plants maintained with the help of  automated irrigation systems. 

The Garden Department of Waddesdon has 9 full-time staff. They also maintain a trainee gardener scheme enabling students to spend a year at Waddesdon, then complete two more years in other gardens. There's also a volunteer programme for foreign students where they assist in cultivating the gardens.

If a garden is a proper permanent department in a Manor, it's no wonder that starting a horticulture hobby is so enormous for me I don't know exactly where to begin. 

Called the Frog Fountain,, there is no record as to why it has been called as such. The steps are quite majestic leading downwards to the park, and upwards to the Parterre.

The Rose Gardern is located near the Aviary, and was planted in 2000, in the same year when 'Miss Alice' rose was introduced at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The garden is circular and was created and planted with David Austin roses.

I was overwhelmed by the sight of the roses, it was difficult to pick the ones to take photos of. Here are some of the beauties.

Waddesdon Manor hosts year-round and seasonal events such as food and performing arts festival, wine tasting, exhibits, garden parties, discovery talks, floristry workshops, meet-and-greet the avery keeper, artisan food market, wine cellars talk, and more. The Manor Restaurant can also be booked for traditional afternoon tea, or families can opt for ice cream and open sandwiches at the Stables Cafe.  

I'll surely be back for some of these events, and you're definitely coming with me.

If you missed the first two instalments of my visit to Waddesdon Manor, please click HERE and HERE

Bye for now, and have a lovely weekend!

Waddesdon Manor
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire
HP18 0JH

Sunday, 11 June 2017


With over 300,000 visitors received annually, Waddesdon Manor has won Visit England's Large Visitor Attraction of the Year category just this year. On the day I came, I felt as if I was on a school trip as the buses that took us from the welcome pavilion (as mentioned in my previous post, the Manor sits on a 6,000-acre land, the estate has its own fleet of buses to take the guests to the house and the grounds) were heaving with children. Waddesdon was hosting an event called Colourscape which you can find out more about HERE.

Some of you would probably know that the Rothschilds are European banking dynasty. With the wealth they have amassed over the years, the family had accumulated and commissioned the finest art collection, furniture pieces, textiles, and objects of interest. These have adorned their homes that numbered up to more than 40 all over Europe. Some can be found at Waddesdon Manor, which has been bequeathed to the National Trust in 1957.

My first taste of fascination with interior decoration was in the late 80s when we moved in to our family home that my parents built. My father and mother bought a variety of interior design magazines for inspiration. I remember leafing through them and taking in either the opulence or artistic flair, or both, how the colours are matched and mismatched, and ornaments strategically placed. Those rooms where you feel at home the moment you walk into them? They've captured your personality.

Some homes look like museums, some like garage sales. I like mine to have a random personal touch.

There's nothing arbitrary about the carefully curated collection, some of which are commissioned, at Waddesdon Manor, but these ones are my whimsical picks--the kind I'd purchase if money and space were not constraints.

'Porca Miseria' ('Oh my Goodness' in Italian), is the Waddesdon's approach to contemporary arts and designs. It was commissioned for the Blue Dining Room in 2003, and designed by Ingo Maurer, a German industrial light designer known for his quirky creations. Made of broken porcelain, I thought it resembled a fascinator.

Porcelain model of the nanny goat with suckling kid made in 1732. As sculptors often have trouble keeping sculptures of this size whole in the kiln, there are large cracks in the porcelain. It was made for Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. He established a porcelain factory  at Meissen, near Dresden. It was the first European factory to succeed in making porcelain. This sculpture is located at the Breakfast Room of the Bachelor's Wing. I took a particular interest in this one as I'm a Capricorn which is symbolised by a mountain goat.

Located in the East Gallery is a musical automaton in the shape of an elephant. It plays four different tunes and when wound up, the tail, trunk, and ears move, the flower petals spin, along with other figures. H. Martinet, a French clockmaker, made this in London in 1774. 

This tapestry panel is from the L'Historie du Roi series, designed by Charles Le Brun. Depicted are Juno (Queen of the Gods), Eros (God of Love), Jupiter (King of the Gods), Diana (Goddess of the hunt), and Mars (God of War). The Ancient Greeks called them Hera, Cupid, Zeus, Artemis, and Ares.

To the left is a Reynolds painting from 1774 of Mrs Sheridan as Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music. Born Elizabeth Linley, she was blessed with a wonderful singing voice. She married the famous playwright, Richard Sheridan. To the right is a Romney portrait of Mrs Jordan, an Irish actress who made her acting debut at Drury Lane Theatre in 1785.

To the left is Lady Emma Hamilton as Calypso. Although married to Sir William Hamilton (the British envoy to the court of Naples), her relationship with Admiral Nelson was more famous. Together, they had a little girl named Horatia. She was apparently renowned for her 'attitudes', which perhaps translates to modern jargon as being a poser.

All of the above portraits of famous women lined the private apartment of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in the house.

In some homes, this round table laid with a porcelain vase, photo frames, and other ornaments could be the equivalent of a console, sideboard, mantelpiece, or a piano top. It creates a focal point, especially for smaller space.

A carpet pattern in the Baron's room

As someone who loves to write and collect notebooks and journals, it follows that I love desks. The first time I had a desk was when I was around six years old. I like to have all my writing, research, and reference materials all in one place so I do not get interrupted when I write or read. A new desk/work area is currently one of my projects.

Most of the carpets in the house are from the Savonnerie carpet workshops (named as such as the original site was an old soap factory). I'm not fond of busy carpets. But then again, I can't afford them.

A view of the front part of the Manor from one of the winding stairs

Ruby and garnet are two of my favourite shades of red. This late 17th-century ruby glass candlestick was highly prized because of its colour that alchemists found difficult to produce. 

This unglazed porcelain miniature version of Etienne Maurice Falconet's sculpture of Pygmalion and Galatea shows off the whiteness and fine surface of a Sèvres soft-paste biscuit porcelain. Pygmalion, King of Cyprus, fell in love with a figure that he had sculpted. He begged Aphrodite to grant him a woman in that image. That woman became Galatea.

Above is a Florentine hardstone mosaic table. I have seen something similar at The Wallace Collection in London. The materials include lapis lazuli, agate, quartz, amazonite,  and marbles.

A goblet from Germany made of rock crystal, gold, and enamel. It was hollowed out with saws, drills and grinding wheels, emery, and diamonds. The handles alone are exquisite, depicting imaginary creatures with open mouths and fishtails.

A Spanish pendant made of gold, enamel, diamond, emerald, and sapphire. It was originally an aigrette where real plume is tucked, and adorned men's hats in the late 16th century. The transparent and colourless diamonds make the piece dramatic. The point and rose cut diamonds maximise the reflection of light both inside and out.

The Sèvres Rooms are the my most favoured part of the house. Created during the centenary restoration, these occupy Baron Ferdinand's bedroom suite. Sèvres dinner services played an important part of 18th-century court ritual and in diplomatic relations of French kings. During the 19th-century, every Rothschild household had at least one 18th-century Sèvres service for entertaining. Waddesdon has three.

The patterns range from blue florals, cornflowers, roses, and pansies, and birds. Some 235-piece dinner and dessert service were ordered by Marie-Antoinette from Sèvres in 1781.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a good friend of the Rothschilds. Some of his letters are on display. In one, he mentioned a political coalition. We probably could use some of his wisdom now.

A forerunner of modern-day toilets. I wouldn't want to be the servant assigned to the task of disposing the contents.

Below is the Armoury Corridor located in the Bachelor's Wing. It was actually Alice de Rothschild who formed the collection of arms and armour and not her older brother, Baron Ferdinand. She organised this to replace the collection of treasures which were bequeathed to the British Museum in 1898. 

If you missed the tour of the some of the rooms, visit WADDESDON MANOR (Part I): THE ROOMS.

We'll be out the marvellous gardens next time!

Waddesdon Manor
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire
HP18 0JH

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