Onto The Next

I’m writing this on the last week of June, but in my calendar it’s basically just a reminder that this quarantine isn’t going to be over soon, and I’ve long accepted that fact.

The question now is what to do with all this time indoors. If you tell me to work, well damn, I’ve worked more hours in the past week that I pretty much lost track of being a human. But that’s not to blame, though—I feel like I’m slowly seeing the light of day as my deadlines become more manageable and more work gets finished.

So, if you’re like me who counts the year not in months but in quarters, we’re heading into quarter three this July. Usually, on my calendar, this is where I gear up for PaperCon (supposedly this October but we’re turning it into an online event), prepare for production (aka shelling out $$$ for the next half of the year, in time for the holidays), maybe sneak in a trip during the last weeks of summer in the other side of the world, and/or maybe put out a book in the process.

Now that I think about it, wow it’s a lot. Lol. But such is the life of my workaholic self.

Anyway, for obvious reasons, this year is different in many ways. But I am excited for the change, even if it’s the only part of my life that I cannot control.

First thing’s first, ya girl finally sat on it and revamped this website. I’ve started editing it since last November but I had a little issue working with JupiterX and Elementor, because I am not used to this language. I just know basic UI/UX and what web design entails. So the past two weeks, I calibrated and dove into all the technicals. I’m pretty happy that I did this because I was considering on moving to another domain and hosting (Squarespace) but realized it would take so much time to set up again from scratch, especially if I could just edit this and make it better—which is what I did. Also, I already spent so much money paying my web developer before and paying my previous host who ghosted me for realz that I don’t want to spend more.

Thank you to GreenGeeks for keeping this site up and running and thank you to myself for learning to work on your own shit, seriously. Solopreneur life is the best path I’ve chosen since last year.

Another thing I did is this email course called Unlock Your Creative Potential that came up randomly in my brain’s storage ware (LOL). One thing I keep forgetting is that a lot of my learning experiences in this field have equipped me with the ability to share my knowledge and impart my insights to those who need it—YOU. So when I received a COVID aid (free for 3 months, omg) from Mailchimp (after attending a Creative Mornings talk featuring JK Glei, one of my idols ever), I knew it was time to jump in. The main reason I stopped my toolkit last year was because I couldn’t afford to pay the Mailchimp fees as my budget has significantly reduced. Now that the shop is up and running, and I’m earning a bit on YouTube (a bit like I get less than $50 in two months lol not much but it’s ok), as well as launching my Patreon this coming July, I am hoping I can afford it after the free period ends this August. For now, enjoy the 7 days of me saying hello in your inbox!

Quick shop update! It’s been good. I’ve been better at managing orders. I had to fire a previous assistant and I’m so relieved to finally get my other assistant back on track, even if she is way down south in the PH. Either way, we’ve been getting by, and it’s thanks to you! I’m working on the international logistics so that’s another challenge I’m taking on this next month.

Lastly, as mentioned, I finally worked on my Patreon page. It WAS NOT easy—I owe my thanks to Kaila big time for a Patreon crash course she gave me last year while staying with her in Japan. But it took me around half a year (plus the past three years because I made an account in 2017 LOL) to fully flesh out what I wanted out of it. Sure, I can do lettering, journaling, share my work, yeah okay. But I’ve been wanting to transition into something more than that—and I found that sweet spot. I want to be able to share my resources to you, as well as guide you on YOUR creative journey. This deemed really fitting ever since I started writing about it in Always Be Creating: A Field Guide to Living a Creative Life. There is so much more information I want to share with you, and through Patreon, I am hoping to do just that.

Earlier in the summer I started offering classes via Zoom. It was tiring. Huhu. I enjoyed it but I think my energy is not very suited to speaking a lot. I’m actually better at writing—even video editing and filming stresses me so much. I think I’ve accepted that fact in latter years of my life, especially also after putting out the email course which took me just two days to type (not counting the layout work, automation planning and all the technical stuff ok? It takes a lot of time haha). I’m glad I’m slowly learning to embrace the things I’m good at and focusing on my strengths. It’s one of the best things I’ve been doing in my career so far this year.

I stopped updating this blog for the obvious reason that most creators will tell you—either because of YouTube, Instagram, or both. And it’s true. It’s so easy to get sucked in the world of social media, where direct connection to your audience is available. I know that, and I’m fallen to that trap. But honestly, nothing makes me more comfortable than carving out this space where you can dive deep into the stories that exceed the caption count on Instagram, or don’t get that much views on YouTube since there are billions of users around the world. When I started moving to an actual website after my glory days on Tumblr (10 years ago WOEW), the idea of a website was so essential that I called it my “home” on the digital space—which is true. I learned this from my previous job in Advertising. Then all the social media platforms are just apartments or Airbnbs (haha) or rented spaces.

After doing a little website overhaul, I’ve started to go back into that mindset and decided to update here as frequently as possible. Since I went absent on social media for two weeks, a lot of my priorities have drastically shifted; and so has my energy. Where can I put my 100% where I know that I’ll get back the same 100% or more? What avenues of my career do I need to pay attention to, and what needs to go? What’s next for this uncertain creative career? Where am I headed in the next five years?

Of course, I don’t know. But I have a gut feeling the next half of 2020 will be equal parts exciting and scary. Not just for me, but for the rest of humanity and what the world is going to look like.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

Is that still a popular thing to say? I always say that when I finish ranting a very long sermon to my friends on Telegram. LOL.

And since the first half of the year was mostly spent in quarantine, here are some recommendations from my current consumption history:

From my YouTube watch history:

On my current reading list:

  • Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
  • Up next: either The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka or The Art of Losing by Lizzy Mason or Normal People by Sally Rooney
  • Or maybe I’ll finally finish up An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green (I feel I’ve been out of YA novels as I get older)

From my podcast history:

On my series and films watch list:

  • Finished seasons 4 & 5 of Orange Is the New Black last week. I couldn’t turn off my iPad, lol. It was so good—also very relevant and important to watch especially at this time.
  • Queueing up The Politician season 2 next week
  • Watching RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 5 every Saturday with Sophie for live commentaries, lol
  • Not on Netflix, but I’ve downloaded Chernobyl and finished it in a short few days. It’s hauntingly beautiful and depressing.
  • I have switched my genre to mystery/thriller and sci-fi. HU U, ABBEY? Recently watched Gone Girl, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and The Truman Show. ALL AMAZINGLY DONE.
  • Also very much not over Portrait of a Young Lady on Fire. Films like these make me happy to be alive.

What are you looking forward to for the next half of the year?


Film Diary: Suspended in Time

I never really took my travels for granted. But I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much of a withdrawal from it until in recent months. With the restrictions to meet people IRL ongoing since the start of summer, it feels so different looking back at film photos this time last year, when I was out and about the whole time in a completely foreign city, to say the least. I’m thinking about the friends I made on the other side of the world, how they’re doing, and when I’ll be able to see them again (maybe next year? the initial plan was this year).

Weekends used to be spent outdoors, taking the U-bahn to another neighborhood, soaking in the sun. Now, weekends are just excuses to binge more on Netflix episodes and carve out more time for myself after a busy work week staring at laptop and tablet screens until the wee hours of the morning.

Thinking about brunch with Sara, talking about the most mundane things—life, art, the intersection of both, the bigger picture. The things that I never talk about back home. Thinking about my Umma Hyon and her art studio where I used to frequent during the cold November with her preparing a cup of pourover every time I knock on the door.

Missing meaningful conversations with Lei and Emily, who are both in different parts of Germany right now. That peach scene we can’t stop talking about from Call Me By Your Name. Important discussions on race, our futures, the lives we aspire to have. Thinking about late nights out and laughing about things like “why does the bartender take so much time picking out a mint leaf to garnish our drink?!?” and until now, I don’t know the answer to that.

Remembering that day when it was thirty nine degrees and we commuted to Schlachtensee and I was terrified AF of the water or getting caught changing clothes at the back of a tree trunk (there were no public toilets).

Fast forward to October with a quick escape to Singapore (the usual), binge watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, coffee runs with Christie, and movie nights that ended up making us sleep like a baby just in time for Sunday.

Finding comfort in knowing that for a time, hanging out in coffee shops was still a thing. Ordering from a counter, waiting for your coffee to be served in a bustling cafe right smack in the middle of a quiet street in SG.

Throwback to the first weeks in the office, where Sophie and I made do of filming with limited equipment and set ups, back when there was no Internet yet and we barely knew that our last meeting for the year (so far) would also be a filming day.

Honestly feels like I’ve forgotten what it’s like to live outside of my home. For months, it has been an ongoing battle between wanting to be somewhere else instead of here. But let’s face it—reality trumps fantasy, and it won’t be easy to get into the new normal (gosh, I hate that phrase, really). I try to think that I could travel back in time in my memories or maybe take a look at the mirror of Erised—which obviously will show a different Abbey speaking Deutsch and basking in the summer heat on the other side of the world, maybe taking a side trip to Florence so she could finally explore the city unlike her first encounter in 2015.

But that’s not what’s possible for now. Everything feels suspended in time; and maybe that’s what’s the universe is trying to tell us now. To right the wrongs. To fix the errors. To carve out time for self-healing.

Until then.

Photos taken using my film camera (which is currently rotting at home), 2019-2020—Berlin, Singapore, Manila

Life Lately: Finding a New Normal

I’ve put this post on hold for the longest time, but since I’m temporarily out of Instagram (also realizing how time consuming using the app is) and I just woke up from a nap (I *finally* napped—it’s one of the habits I never got to stick to because #workaholic), I thought I’d swing by here and write a little before starting the new week tomorrow.

Life lately has been weird. Suddenly the future’s been put on hold for everyone—and no one really knows what’s going to happen. I was supposed to be preparing for my move to another city this summer, but my visa’s still on hold as the embassy’s currently closed. I’ll admit that was the first concern that I encountered during the first week of the ECQ. With that in mind, I seemed to have lost hope in one of my biggest 2020 goals yet. But alas, I have no reason to complain. It’s better at this point to stay safe physically (and mentally).

With the weeks that came after, it had dawned on me that this wasn’t going to be over anytime soon. I moved back my office to my room, temporarily closed the shop (and shifted to my digital shop), tried to regularize my daily routine (happy to report this is generally still how my days look like), got into the Dalgona coffee craze (didn’t we all), and had some rough days (it happens). This is becoming the new normal for me. On weekends like today, I kill time in the mornings making breakfast for the family (today it was banana muffins!), preparing lunch (leftover pasta sauce = instant carbonara), buying turnips and reorganizing my area in Animal Crossing (lol) and reading up on new recipes to try with our current food stash.

I took a few days off work last week and I realized it was the first time I ever did that. Last summer, while I was still in Berlin, I’d multi-task with studio work and freelance during my free time. I’d sleep and think about deadlines the next day, or plan up new ideas. For a few days last week, I allowed my brain to just be blank, and dive into other things. Got back into watching films (recent fave: Tigertail by Alan Yang on Netflix) as well and finishing How I Met Your Mother. Now watching Big Bang Theory too.

And also, spending a chunk of my week playing Animal Crossing:

As funny as it sounds, I’m finding this game to be a great way to cope with how I’m feeling lately. And as much as this feels like an escape—I mean, yeah, it is—it’s nice to know I can exist in this bubble even for a few hours in a day. Also lezbereal my character is more fashionable and responsible (in catching fish, crafting DIYs, and traveling, among other things) than me IRL. Lol. [Also yes I journaled about it here]

I’ve also been keeping myself busy in the kitchen. One of my life goals now when I move abroad and have an apartment to myself (what a goal) is to have a decent kitchen setup. It doesn’t even have to be big; it just has to be a place where I can experiment and have fun. The kitchen setup here at home is quite different—I had to bring home my pans and knives from my own studio (lol), but I’m slowly getting used to it.

Some of the online resources I’ve been following for cooking ideas:

Work lately—catching up on book (or e-book) deadlines. The Updated Edition of The ABCs of Hand Lettering is in the works, and I’ve been filming regularly on my channel (my new series is up! Watch it here). New stuff and announcements will be out soon as well…which I will share more next month. Sad to have cancelled our supposed pop-up last March 28, though. I feel like I forgot about March already lol.

I’ve gotten into the regular habit of doing yoga. I started with Yoga with Adriene last March, and then on some days I join in a Zoom yoga class my cousin invited me in (which is very hard to say the least). Yesterday my good friend Chinggay hosted a yoga class too, and I took it with Mimi and Koko. I miss my friends! It’s nice to bond over stuff like this and at least see their faces, lol.

A quick backstory: I have a weird relationship with my body. I work out regularly but it wasn’t only until last year that I became more comfortable with what my body can and can’t do. I remember growing up that I wasn’t included in school dances because I wasn’t skinny enough…and getting PCOS and other body transformations (my mom even got me into an expensive diet plan a few years back which obviously, I failed at because I had become depressed) didn’t help at all. I stopped baking and cooking because I used to eat so much of what I made. Luckily since last year, my eating habits have been regulated and I no longer binge. I work out to help with my anxiety as well and to hopefully reduce my medicine intake (one year anniv in May).

Anyway, lol my body is so sore rn because I did two classes back to back yesterday. I’ll get back on the mat tomorrow.

Last but not least, collage making has been a new hobby I’ve been enjoying. I don’t know why I started doing this just recently; but I remember looking at other collage artists and saying “ah, I’m not as ~good enough~ and I might just get criticized for my work. But alas, 2020 is the year of IDGAF in terms of venturing into hobbies, and I finally downloaded collage kits at Rookie and do these collages regularly. Most of them have personal meanings; this one above is about my fear of swimming and how I feel like life lately has been diving into the unknown.

No one knows how things will turn out from here…so for now I’m wishing you all well, stay safe, and take care.

Choosing My Battles

Life lately has been a hodge podge of experiments. I wish I could say I’m improving with my mental health, but some days are just generally worse than usual. Then, a few days later, I’d feel guilty and disappointed with myself of having wasted such time having these episodes.

So in the span of availability I have to manage my working energy and be as human as possible, work in that sense has been okay. You’d think I’m used to what every day brings, but apparently not. Lately I’ve also been testing myself, thinking about every experience as a test to see how long I’ll last. I’ve been reading pages of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Omnibus, a book my cousin gave me during my time offline last year.

It was pretty apt; I think after reading two pages last Monday I instantly felt like a better person. Which doesn’t mean I can quit my meds and start reading and heal immediately. My doctor just told me he wants me off the meds by May (a year from when I first started taking) and by doing that, I have to workout at least five times a week. Five! I’m typing this on my way to my fourth workout of the week, wall climbing—a long overdue plan as I was busy working on my visa last week (more on that next time).

Yesterday I went rowing and the past weekend was also spent working out. It’s been good, except lol my daily clothing has been transformed into workout clothes: think leggings, dry fit tops, and my trusty Nike Pegasus pair. Who. Am. I!

Let’s also add the fact that I finally found something I’m having a hard time being good at: pottery. I’ll admit my control is pretty strong, which explains exactly why my hands can’t seem to hold the clay well—does this reflect how I live my own life? Too controlled and limited? Wow, existential questions during pottery. Who knew? Nevertheless, we’re halfway through the sessions and I’m enjoying it a lot despite my tiny panic attacks as I load a fresh batch of clay on the wheel for spinning. I wish I knew how to be better, but I’ll accept my average output for now.

My focus has been all over the place—what’s new. And it feels extra weird not planning for any upcoming trip because of the ongoing coronavirus. Pretty relieved though that I can stay and save up for now. The rest of my 2020 after June is still blurry, and as much as I want everything to clear up, I really don’t mind leaving it that way for now. I’ve been keeping in mind that there are things outside of my life that I really can’t change. And that shitty things happen every day even if I hate it. I keep forgetting that getting through those “small things” won’t get me anywhere except being lost in my own thoughts. I’m also accepting the fact that I really need to just choose my battles. I can’t win them all. I can only choose, win some, lose some, and move forward.

One Year of Anxiety and Counting

Before you continue reading: if you suffer these kinds of symptoms or feel the same way, please seek a health professional and/or talk it over with friends or family. This is a personal essay from my own outlook on how I am living—and dealing—with anxiety.

I don’t really know when or how it started. Next thing I knew, I got it, and it won’t leave my body.

But it’s been a year since I knew I was suffering with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder).

I wish there was an easier way of explaining this complexity of emotions, but there isn’t. I just know I have it. And it’s a tough challenge to live day to day with this weight on my shoulders that won’t seem to be leaving anytime soon.

Part of the inconvenience of an unstable and ever-changing job description is the uncertainty of a future yet to be unfolded. And while I am slowly learning to keep my eye on what’s right in front of me, the hesitation to refrain from looking ahead further inhibits my association with how I would like to live in the latter years of my life. I thought by default it was normal to worry like this; but it has reached an extreme level that I sometimes cannot control (sometimes I think I’m aware but I disobey myself either way).

How I look at the world seemingly influences this way of thinking. I believe the world is evil (don’t ask me where I got that, I have no idea either), and I am bound to experience this evil in every waking moment of my life. The way I go about it is this: I try to do what I think is right, I try to follow the rules, but when things get out of hand, I know something bad is bound to happen. Or, also, if everything seemed to be going according to plan, you best believe I already have a hunch that a plot twist is just waiting to happen. And also, when a problem seems to be brewing, I immediately come to the conclusion that it cannot be solved. I jump to a faulty conclusion only to find out that I could have solved it if I looked closer.

As much as I get into a crazy trance knowing I suffer this 24/7, I also find it quite interesting how the human brain—how my human brain works. Let’s say, growing up, I have been so anxious of seeing cars pass by, waiting for my mom to fetch me—only to realize that it will take at least 30 minutes to see my car’s plate number, and I’ve lost hope. So when I wait for a Grab driver to show up, I almost always assume it won’t show up. When it does, I’m relieved. But I’m not supposed to worry—because I know it will come (how weird). Or even the act of problem solving: I hate math problems. What is the total number of oranges that Sam picked from the yard? Assuming there were 10 farms in their village, what is the estimated time that he was able to pick out a batch from each? HELP.

Early this year, my brother briefly instructed me on how to use his Dolce Gusto coffee machine. It looked so simple and I nodded to all his instructions. Only to find out that I pressed the wrong button the next day, was not able to get my coffee properly, and panicked for a good ten minutes. All for a cup of coffee. This isn’t even counting the stain I managed to put on my host’s countertop during my first apartment stay in Berlin, because my idiotic self put the hot water on the wrong compartment in the Moka pot. Sometimes I think I’m dumb, or the general anxiety makes my brain cells diminish. I don’t know.

And then, you have the usuals: What if the driver doesn’t show up? What if the elevator doesn’t open? What if we miss our flight? What if there won’t be any parking? (my worst fear, really)

There’s more and more each day. My brain logs all these permutations, processes it, and makes sure I know how to deal with common situations in order to avoid conflict at all costs. It’s also making me curious which part of New York actually caused this. Was it the relatively horrible 2-hour commute from the other side of the city? Was it because two professors disrespected me? Was it the cold weather I wasn’t used to? Was it the rainy day I spent locked out of the house; or the conflicts I had with people close to me? Was it the week-long dread that heightened my quarter life crisis? I don’t know. But I think I’m way past the stage of feeling like shit thinking about it. New York was a bad choice; but it led me to Berlin, so I have no regrets. Except I really could have booked an apartment in Brooklyn instead. I swear.

Anyway. That’s not the point.

My point is, I should probably learn to be more responsible for my own thoughts. As of this writing, I’ve been taking anti-depressants for seven months now. This week, I purposely cut down my dosage. Taking these SSRIs as prescribed by my psychiatrist definitely helped, and my coping mechanism for the past months proved to be great. But there really are days that are tougher than the others. The others are usually covered up by a huge amount of workload that never seems to end. And this brings me back to my initial observation: I have been working with heavy workload since 2015 started, so it’s no surprise that having periods of idle time has messed up (okay, not exactly the term I wanted to identify with but close enough) my thought process in general. That, and this person I used to talk to who’d never reply to me until every two days. Ever since, my relationship with the two checks on Viber, Telegram or WhatsApp scare the hell out of me.

When I went into a conflict on the road (aka my car was hit by another car and of course since I’m a woman, I was immediately accused by this government-operated vehicle that I was a weak driver), I immediately started seeking professional help. The doctor said I had unipolar depression, which meant I was never extremely happy. It was always sad or neutral (which holds very true; I don’t have a lot of feelings in general). This apathetic attitude has thoroughly affected my work habits, and it’s also why a lot of the work I started doing after 2017 felt so indifferent to me. At some point, I felt like a puppet moving along and just doing work, not really entirely sure if I still liked it or not. A lot of my decisions are (surprisingly) emotionally driven (but logical at times), so it’s quite apt to say that a lot of my experiences stem out of my inability to know myself at a deeper level.

For the longest time, I always felt like I couldn’t find myself when it feels like I have thoroughly reached a point where I have. Of course, it’s a facade. I never really know yet. Maybe it went with time. Maybe I was too naive back then—all I cared about was working and earning money and reaching “success”. But as I wrote in my latest self-help book, the meaning of success changes over time. For now, my measure of success is assuring myself that I can live a good life, free of the conformities of societal constraints (such as but not limited to: getting married at a certain age, having kids, staying in my hometown etc), and that I can make art that I want, versus what others expect of me.

But also my measure of success would be to heal my anxiety. It may be far away at this point, but I’m at this period of acknowledgement and not pitying myself anymore—so that is definitely a start.

Happy anniversary, anxiety? Please learn how to calm down, @self.

Twenty Seven

As it feels apt, I’m sharing my Twenty Six blog post as a reminder of who I was and how much of me has changed in 365 days.

No words can describe how this transition to being twenty seven has been. Needless to say, as I *always* tell myself, change is indeed necessary in order for growth to take place. I find this statement so apt as I’ve recently been back and forth going to Quezon City Memorial Circle to buy some plants for both my room and office (!). It’s amazing to be able to find growth in little increments; and that’s making me more aware of how my life has been in lieu of little changes.

I’m now on my seventh year of my twenties—from 21 to 25 I was working my a** off and basically sacrificed my life for my job (no regrets, though, past Abbey is still justifying she did that #peakcapricorn). From 26 onwards I learned to look the other way. Last year’s happenings were essential in order for me to be this person who is typing out this entry on the eve of January 13th.

While I’m back home in Manila celebrating another year around the sun, my mind wanders constantly and drifts to faraway places—as my head is wrapped around the fact that I will be away soon. But soon is such a complex timeframe to think about—lately I’ve been focused on January in general, and a few things until March, and that’s only about it for now. It’s good to be back, but I can’t deny that most of the life learnings I picked up were from my travels last year: enduring 8 hours in a train station, meeting new people and finding meaning in sharing values. Realizing I can’t just fall for people because they seem perfect (and I’m so not). Train rides that end up being the wrong one, so you run to the next station and cross your fingers until a new train arrives (which always does, anyway). Learning how to cook because buying takeout is more expensive. Telling myself that I deserve to be happy to and I shouldn’t deprive myself of that. And of course, how can I not forget: coping with short-lived friendships, or unreal ones, or a combination of both, and knowing that maybe, it wasn’t my fault.

There are things that no longer serve me at this point in time—I’ve learned that while it’s important to serve the people around you (my friends, my family, you, my readers), it’s also as important to treat myself well. What do I want out of life? There is nothing in particular (yet), really. At this point my career, I feel has shifted to a new direction, and guess what? I’m here, riding with the waves, seeing where I’ll end up going.

One of the best things that has happened since January started is finally moving into an office (as you can see in the photo). It never occurred to me how vital it was to separate work and personal endeavours until I experienced working at a studio while I was in Berlin. I remember telling my mom to please fix our old house (she needed to repair the house, it’s 29 years old!) and temporarily provide the ground floor (which used to be our living room, dining room, and kitchen) for inventory storage and filming purposes. Seven months later and several trips to furniture shops, hardware stores, and appliance centers, it’s finally done. I can finally say “I’m going to work!” and not feel guilty about it. I also finally have weird idle time like tonight where I questioned how unproductive I was since I stayed home today…in my room.

I don’t have any birthday wishes, except maybe my wish of living abroad and working from anywhere. I also want to manage my finances better, as I feel this is the next step to getting to my ultimate goal (which is still unclear, as of now). Maybe when I’m in my early thirties, I really just want to have a nice flat in a nice city (ahem, Berlin, looking at you), with a balcony full of plants and a place where I can create and make stuff in peace.

But for now, really, I mean it when I say it’s good to be home. For now. 🙂

Here’s to another year of ups, downs, everything in between—and, if I’m not mistaken, (maybe) my Saturn Return. Welp. Hello, twenty seven!

PS I no longer think I’m old. Thank goodness. I’m just…not young anymore. Oof!

En Route: A 2019 Photo Diary

What used to be a regular routine of me writing in transit has lost its fire. And while things have transpired in the course of what my blog column had become over the years, I found myself organizing my travel photos from this year—something I rarely do, considering I have quite a backlog of images to review from the life-changing trips I’ve had this 2019. Photography has always been a go-to creative outlet—for me it’s more than just hitting the shutter button. My eyes look at things that establish itself in the shots I create; at some point my brain already knows what images are going to come out. Some snapshots were captured on film, some on digital, but nevertheless, they are one in the same a moment preserved in time.

So, in true Tumblr fashion, below is a visual diary of my 2019, summarized in cities I’ve explored, people I’ve met, experiences I’ve had, and memories I’ve created.

Related post: A Year Summarized in Cities

A Year Summarized in Cities

This year is probably the most traveled one, if I could recount the numerous flights I took to and from Manila, as I searched far and wide for cities that would feel like home.

For me, travel used to be a foreign concept; I thought I was supposed to just stay in one place for the rest of my life. In the years that passed, I grown to love it as a way to discover not only myself, but the world around me—how things work, how systems are formed, how people thrive in different parts of the world.

Visiting Barcelona in the springtime was a visual feast. Gaudi’s masterpieces on every corner, Spanish fare spoiling us every single day, and the chance to experience a city’s vibrant atmosphere was unforgettable. Our flight to Cape Town took me by surprise—from the European architecture, to staying over at Babylonstoren in Franschhoek, you best believe it was life-changing. I never knew I could be in a place that felt so surreal and beautiful and majestic, all at one. Como tied in second, despite the long transit time that led us to this gem in Northern Italy. Milan reminded me of my first trip to Italy (which I barely remembered), but seeing it with fresh eyes made me love Brera, a neighborhood brimming with beautiful buildings and flowers branching out on every balcony. Berlin in the summer was the best: long hours of daylight, major realizations about art and life, meeting like-minded people, and falling in love with a city that was never on my go-to list. There was never a “why am I here” moment, but there was always a “I can’t believe I’m here” that I’ve probably lost count of how many times I’ve said it, really. Munich was a dream—a little R&R that I needed before flying back home. Geneva was a nice surprise, after which I ended up going to Blausee during the fall. Singapore and Malaysia were always the usuals, and there’s nothing like feeling comfort in places you feel like you’ve known forever. The fall trip to Berlin was short but sweet, but needless to say, it was the clarity I needed to be able to sit still and type this right now in Japan. I’ve been in Tokyo since last week, and next week I leave for Osaka for my last trip of the year.

But is it just me, or I don’t know. The more I travel, the more the foreign becomes familiar. I no longer look for the tourist spots, the places people line up for to eat. I settle for the ordinary, the mundane, the cheap thrills in the convenience store. I no longer spend a full day out and about, and it’s in the little things that make me appreciate cities more than the big things. Maybe I’ve learned to look at it in a different way—and, well, I guess different is good.

All my travels are filed under #ABCEnRoute on Instagram.

What I’ve Been Up To in Manila | Life Lately

I’m *still* thriving! Says me who’s writing this while packing for Malaysia (we leave tomorrow at midnight) and preparing mentally for a sea of events happening once I get back.

It’s so overrated for me to say that I’ve been busy since I got back from Berlin, but it’s true. In one of those *busy weeks*, I decided to film A Week in My Life, because why the hell not? Coincidentally, that week I had a lot of work, got sick, basically all of *the* things. Well, such is life. I get by and that’s what matters!

[watch the video below]

In work-related things, I am honored to be part of Keds’ Ladies Unite campaign for Women’s Equality Day last August. I got to work on this campaign (*ahem* first time to model) with theater actress Gab Pangilinan (I watched El Bimbo a week before we met at the shoot, lol coincidence) and a long-time friend who is an amazing musician, Reese Lansangan.

I edited our photos from the shoot~ (used Procreate)

You can check out our video here.

We also had a luncheon a week after the shoot, wearing our #LadiesUnite shoes. I’m not very open to collaborating with brands BUT I was more than game to work with Keds because I strongly believe in equality—especially for women. Growing up in the art industry was admittedly a struggle I had to deal with, and all these years I didn’t know that it was that way (until I realized it in latter years).

Also, let’s be real you guys—I bought my first pair of Keds (using my own money!) in high school. I’ve always loved the brand. I mean, I love my Nikes, but for casual wear, Keds is always top of the line. Not to mention I have two pairs of Rifle Paper Co x Keds shoes!

You can read up on some of the articles we were interviewed for below:

  • Wonder: Reese Lansangan, Abbey Sy and Gabriela Pangilinan Talk “Empowered Women Empower Women” with Keds [click here] This article focused on our beginnings, our struggles growing up as creatives and how to proved our younger selves wrong.
  • Metro.Style: Abbey Sy, Gabriela Pangilinan, Reese Lansangan On Being An Empowered Woman [click here] This article centered on the innerworks of the respective industries we were in, what it means to be empowered, and how we use social media as a platform to inspire others in our own way.

My weekends didn’t feel so chill. Also haven’t ran in weeks :(( But it was okay—I got to sneak some time with friends and family and just *not* being in my room 24/7 (which is where I am most of the time now). My sister and I went to a bazaar and had lunch at The Grid. But the highlight was this box of Mo Cookies for to-go. We rarely go to Makati so imagine this rare occasion, lol.

I rushed to a meeting after that. But of course!

CH & I are working like crazy to make it in time for our ~PaperCon content~. PaperContent? Lol. Our two organizers focus on the operations while we do the chunk of promotional materials and social media, so we always end up co-working and frying our brains at the end of the day. Add to that our one-woman team shop woes and brainstorm sessions. I’ll admit though, it is very fun! I always enjoy bouncing off ideas with someone who also thinks similarly as me. 🙂

In other news, I think we both agreed this morning that if PaperCon happens again next year, we might need to hire a team for the creative work. She did the website + posters and I work on all the socials (and also model them, because #budgetconstraints lol) for this year, and it’s A LOT (we both run our respective businesses so you can imagine the craziness). We’ll see!

From my previous post, you’d know I went to Switzerland for a quick work trip. I really, really wanted to extend but my schedule is just not cooperating. But anyway, here’s a pretty view of the Alps from my window seat on the way back to Manila, and here’s a photo of me actually looking like I slept well on my first day even if I was running on three cups of coffee before arriving in Geneva, lol.

The day after I arrived home, I had a scheduled signing at Manila International Book Fair. I felt guilty I wasn’t able to take part last year (when my new book was released—because I had already flown to NY then) so I made sure to see my readers this year.

What caught me off-guard though was shopping for pens. LOTS of them. At a book fair? You betcha.

I got two pen sets (Zebra Sarasa and Pilot G-2, both my faves), stuff from King Jim (including Kitta tapes) and a few more *essentials*. I’m going to Japan this December and I am preparing my wallet omg~

In YouTube-related news, I have reached 13.1K subs!!! Thanks so much. I have also been able to work with sponsors so yay for $$$! I spent so much on shop capital this year + my Berlin residency so I really have to earn my $$$ back.

My assistant (and fellow stationery addict and good friend) Sophie and I commuted to Divisoria last week. It was SO FUN (and also tiring)! I live near the LRT2 and I didn’t realize how accessible it was (especially if you’re going to Manila). We’re working on a Journaling Under $10 series for my channel and so far, we’ve been to 6 shops. Now comes the part where I actually use these tools for journaling. We’re scheduled to film tomorrow before we fly (talk about #productivity lol). I’m so excited for this and I hope you all will like it too.

Most people think journaling is so expensive and it’s a costly hobby. I beg to differ—when I started journaling at 13, I just needed to be resourceful and used what I had (there were no stationery stores back then). So it’s no surprise that (of course) we were able to find affordable materials that are journaling-friendly.

Anyway, I’m geeking out.

In tech-related news, first off, I just wanted to share that I ended up wearing an outfit inspired by Steve Jobs (I’m a big fan of Apple, obvs) and I just had to post this side-by-side comparison.

Reading up articles on how successful people only wear “uniforms” that they repeat for work inspired me to dress simpler. Nowadays, I always reach for black or white tops, plain-colored shirts, and jeans. That’s it. I save the fancy schmancy stuff for events and workshops, so either way I get to play around with my closet.

It’s funny, because a few years ago I have been so uncomfortable with my fashion sense, and now I really think I’ve reached the point where the simpler my outfit is, the lesser decisions I have to make, and the more professional I look. Then it’s a win-win-win.

OK relating back to tech, I recently watched Inside Bill’s Brain, a three-part documentary series on Netflix about Bill Gates’ life and I was hooked. I finished all the episodes in one night, lol. He’s quite a genius, and I admire his intelligence, discipline and persistence. Definitely a must-watch!

Last week I had this grudge over social media, specifically Instagram and how the metrics affects my perception of the Internet and the totality of my existence on the www. So I deleted my app, ended up cleaning my room (especially the messy shipping area), rearranged my shelf (added my baby photo and first newspaper feature), blasted Lady Gaga, Fergie and Beyonce on my headphones, and did A LOT of packing work.

At the end of the day I was just literally staring in space.

I mean, these are things I never show on social media. And I don’t mind. Overall this job isn’t 100% glamorous anyway, no matter how you put it. But for me, the feeling of accomplishing tasks drives me to move forward and pat myself on the back, regardless of whether it’s published online or not.

But anyway, I had to redownload the app because who am I kidding? I can’t NOT be on Instagram. But now I’m learning that my blog is STILL more important than social media. So here’s to updating here more often. In a place where I feel most like myself. 🙂

Okay, back to work. More updates soon! Hope the Libra season is treating you well~


Thriving in Virgo Season

Every time I finish an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, RuPaul always leaves with this quote: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen?”

And you know what? I felt that.

Since coming back from Berlin, I have had quite a couple of breakthroughs both in life and work. And as much as I tried to feel like I didn’t deserve it, I really think it was high time I finally gave myself that chance to be free and open to what the world had to offer.

Work has been a whirlwind, but in the sense that I actually enjoy it—after four years of trying to be at a state of constantly proving that I deserve to be *here*. What was that for? Where was *here*? It’s not a secret that the real reason why I made it this far is my hard work and disciplined work ethic, and that’s something I hold accountable for up to this day.

Earlier at the gym I was playing Destiny’s Child songs on repeat (like I always do), from a playlist I made called “Girl Talk”. I curated this list after DTR-ing with a guy 2 years ago (needless to say I never felt so #wreckedt at that time, but then 2019 brought me to an even more crazier state of #wreckedt, so I regret nothing), and ever since, I’ve been glued to this playlist for most of my work week. Then it hit me: why was I so conscious when I’m in front of people? When I’m in a public place trying to be like everyone else? I was accustomed to an environment where I never had the chance to express myself (blaming it on my very strict schooling) and stand out, until I consciously made the effort to do so in the latter years of my life. And ironically knowing that I’m not just a regular person now, when a hundred thousand-ish people are following me on social media. Lol. Life has its plot twists.

Then I had this eureka moment of writing this entry, after realizing my absence here as it has been really busy working on several self-initiated projects: my newsletter (which launches today!), ongoing content for my channel (I’ve just received my second paycheck last month, yay!), PaperCon (a paper conference happening in October), and a scheduled work trip next week. Oh, and did I mention running a shop entirely on my own is quite a joyride? From design work to production to execution and accounting, you best believe Virgo season is giving me all the good juju life has to offer. I didn’t know it was possible to live a life this—where everything feels bearable despite my constant attacks of anxiety at weird hours of a day. I wonder what it’d be like not having to constantly worry about the littlest things and how people looked at me, and how people viewed me, but I definitely know it’s going to take quite a while to get to that point.

But for now, it’s safe to say I’ve gotten quite a good hold of myself in several aspects of my life. I never look forward to the future that far anymore, because I know that my efforts really bring me to places that allow me to become my best self, and that I’m not lazy at all. Medications may weaken me at some point, but I always have this drive to keep doing and working and really diving headstrong into this career that always felt so accidental but necessary. Necessary for me to realize that I don’t think I’d ever find purpose in this life if I didn’t make art, draw letters, take photos, or journal about my travels. These may seem like visual images only from another perspective, but for me it’s the main reason I’m still powering through.

That, and content planning. I think social media is really in my blood. Lol. Even if I hate it 50% of the time.

How’s your Virgo season going?