Day 82: #100HappyDays
Homer Sapiens

Happy Birthday Homer

Happy Birthday Homer

When it comes to family, God pretty much assigns you the people you are to call your brother, sister, mother, and father. You don’t have a say on who you end up with in this department.

But when it comes to close friends and one’s lifetime partner, you always have a choice. And that’s what makes friends and romantic partners special; you CHOOSE them and they CHOOSE you back amidst all your horrible flaws like being self-absorbed, mired in poverty, and forgetful of important dates like BIRTHDAYS.

I know. My utmost mortal sin of the BFF not to greet him on his birthday. 🙁 Bridal stress be damned, this day must not go uncelebrated.

But I hope that even if I cannot really take him out for ice cream because of his busy schedule, this record will somehow serve as a reminder to me and the whole world of what he means to me. 🙂

What would life be without Homer Pagkalinawan? Would the world be complete without a smile from my very good friend?


Honestly, I cannot really imagine such a life. And I never will imagine a life without Homer, because that’s not really part of the options of my life.

That’s the thing about having such wonderful friends. You are having such a wonderful time in their company that you forget to say basic things like thank you for being my friend, I love you, and I am really happy that we are friends. It’s so basic, and yet so few people get to do it regularly.

Homer’s warm and welcoming demeanor and fun outlook in life is a home to weird people like me. 🙂 I can just be myself, look absolutely okay with my good hair days and monstrous on my bad hair days, throw my tantrums in a fit of panicky bridal rage, or just have something to be giddy about. And he will embrace me for who I am, no matter what it meant. No matter what he finds in there, be it the loch ness monster or the angel of life. He can either come in with a shovel to bury the skeletons in my closet or come with a handkerchief to wipe away my tears. In this friendship and with a person of this calibre, you come to the dining table with so much excitement and zero fear of being judged or ostracized.


I do not always have chocolates and roses, and sometimes I feel like I am in a rotten canal than in a spring field. But with friends like this person, I really believe that I got so much better than what I deserve in life. I can never do anything outstanding or good to deserve the company of my friend Homer. He is a definite keeper, someone that you will always meet up with even if he gets stationed on Timbuktu. He is a person worth going out of the digital cave for.

For someone so smart and accomplished, he is so down to earth, practically thoughtful, and caring in the little and the big things. And yes, often it’s the little things that turn out to accumulate into the big one in the end. I can talk to him with just about anything, from mutual funds, to romantic issues, to board exams, to academic life or corporate life… I can go on and on and exceed the word count limit of this space but it won’t give justice to the wonderful person that Homer is to me and to many other people.

Dear Homer, my friend, I may have missed everyone’s social media greetings on your wall. But we have the other days in the rest of the year to celebrate the wonderful person that you are. Not just this year, but many more years, which I fervently wish for you to have.

Happy Birthday, Homer. I hope that even if I am bad with calendars, you will still forgive me. 🙂 <3 Love you!!!!

Day 54: #100HappyDays
Coolitan sa Cool Beans

homer helen machele I discovered Cool Beans Maginhawa with my two close friends Homer and Machele. Just take a look at our very happy faces and you will get the idea that we had a very satisfying time. In fact, we spent around 5 hours in that place after we ordered coffee and pasta. It was just so nice to relax with Machele and Homer. It’s been a while since we last saw each other and it’s nice to catch up with them minus all the talking shop that other people are horribly fond of doing. Some from our group just cannot stop talking about their jobs and other professional prospects and it’s refreshing to be with the friends who are still the same fun and awesome people they were before we got our licenses.

We did not talk about math or surveying or programming this evening. We talked about our personal lives, our romantic interests, our investments, our future ventures together, our dreams, and how things turned out after we took our board exam in 2010. This is slowly but surely becoming a rare thing for me. If you wanted an intimate winding down dinner with a friend or your circle of close pals, you should try going to this place.

The food is not the most sumptuous or unique I have tasted, but just about right for its price range (Php 200 per head would do). I must say though that I got quite intrigued with the coffee beans from Apayao up North. I had to order that, even though it was too strong to drink on a Monday night. My drink was the smallest one on the far left of this photo:

Cool Beans Coffee

Cool Beans Coffee

Apart from the good food and the good company of my close friends, I enjoyed the bookshelves. 🙂


And I was not the only one who cozied up to the substantial variety of reading materials:


We had around 100 photos during this dinner date because of excessive camwhoring but it was well worth the time. I felt at home on the outside and on the inside. I went home late, but really happy with how my evening went. <3

Chillaxing Cheat Days and Calorie Counts

Having a meaningful and stable life involves balancing all the elements. While I became a fitness enthusiast recently, I did not make any measures to deprive myself. I established my own cheat days in between workouts so that I will not gorge in all the sweets my hands could get. Sometimes, even during the middle of the week, I can grab a chocolate bar.

But I usually strategize that my cheat days would fall on the days that I have to meet my friends, for maximum enjoyment. 🙂

The Wallflower Attempt to Imitate the Wall Painting

The Wallflower Attempt to Imitate the Wall Painting


For the longest time, I avoided going to J. Co because of the legendary queue that rivals those of the most in demand FX or AUVs in the city. It’s really insane. The only branch that does not have much of a line of customers is the one in Eastwood. But Homer and I went to that branch in SM North, college days style.

J Co

J Co

Catching up over a yummy sampling of J. Co’s famous donuts and signature J. Coccino drink is something I consider as welcome breathers to my otherwise rigid, semi-monastic hermitage. I rarely meet friends these days, and on the rare occasions that I do go out to meet the nearest and dearest, I make sure that I document it for safekeeping, online and offline.

Photo collage from Homer

Photo collage from Homer

Like a well-matched pair of glazed donuts to ice cold coffee, true friends are sweet, fabulous, and refreshing to be with.

J. Co Glazed Donuts. Loving the tissue inscription <3

J. Co Glazed Donuts. Loving the tissue inscription <3


You do not dread seeing them, and they love you whether you are shaped like a Coke Litro or a Coke 8 oz. bottle. And true friends like that are quite hard to find, so even when schedules are busy and deadlines are a-plenty, it is always just right to fight for the time to see them and keep in touch.

Not having a social media account or presence makes most friends complain. They say that it’s hard to track me down. That it makes me a friend from hell. And I admit that it is true. But it makes all my subsequent interactions more meaningful.

Now, when I have a date with someone, Facebook does not get ahead of me in announcing news about important updates in that person’s life. While status updates are quite nice to stay on track with other people’s happenings, I still think that there is a unique charm when you hear the updates straight from the person and face to face.  Smileys cannot capture everything. Smileys are definitely no replacement for fooling around with the camera offline and looking silly but happy in a very public place:

jco-fun1 jco-fun2


I really spend a huge chunk of my free time with my meditative pursuits and my partner. The balance of managing commitments to friends, to my partner, and to my large family is quite a challenge. It’s good that I was able to extricate myself from the noise of too much digital information on people’s timelines. This is a challenge that comes from the inherent blessing that I have a lot of people to love. And most of the time, they miraculously love me back. And when they make time to see me even when I am not really visible in the usual social channels, it makes me feel even more loved and valued as a person.

Even if I am trying to live a healthier lifestyle, I do not really fare well with counting calories religiously. But I know that somewhere in the fitness journey, you have to handle these things.

If you ask me if I am counting calories, I will say YES AND NO. Allow me to explain.

I do not make a detailed count. But I tend to make mental estimates. I also do not hang on to the weighing scale or tape measure that much; I just estimated my initial improvement based on clothing sizes. I only knew that my waistline was a 26″ already when I bought tight 27″ jeggings from Bench and it was still a bit too big for me. I knew that I was a 32″ or 33″ in 2013 because I had to buy new pairs of pants in that waistline range that time.

When I look at something so yummy like this:



I do two things, and two things only.

First, I enjoy the goodies to the extent that I am able. I developed this skill of being in tune with my body. So when I am full, I make everything in my body aware of that fact. But I enjoy every single bite without guilt feelings.

I already have an inkling when it is 70-80% full. I eat my food and chew it slowly. When I reach my 70-80% fullness level, I stop eating. If I know that I am going to eat desserts, I make sure that my main meal is very light for the evening. I also sometimes do offsetting in other times of day by eating one tablespoon of rice less during lunchtime to make room for an extra dessert during dinnertime. Or I jog in place during afternoon for a few minutes to advance my feasting in the evening.

I visualize my tummy as a tiny compartment, and I optimize the space by determining portions beforehand. That kind of psych preparation actually helps. I do not have to deprive myself totally of sweet things, but I try to keep everything in proper proportion. When “the room is full” in my head, I kind of automatically stop craving for more. 

I did some very menial computation for calories but only enough to inform me that my ideal calorie intake per day is 1,300+. I just make estimates on each food intake based on sizes, number of seasonings (sugary and salty foods are definitely on the high zone), and my body cravings. But you won’t catch me dead updating an app devotedly up to the serving size level. During my menstrual period, I tend to take note that I crave more salt and sugar than usual. And I’d try to take more fluids to stave off the cravings somewhat.

The second thing I do is convert the extra food into some form of workout priority. I try to think of a tiny activity to offset the additional calorie intake. No calculations or fitness apps in place here, mind you. For example, each donut I eat is equivalent to a 6-minute brisk walk with my core muscles engaged. On my way home, instead of taking a pedicab or tricycle, I’d decide to walk the way home for 15 minutes to offset my consumption. I did cheat on junk food for that day, but that does not mean I lost my mind or let myself go in that moment without putting it against the backdrop of my fitness regimen.

But it’s not something I measure so much. I just make offsets depending on the level of bloated or full feeling that I have after eating junk foods or sweets. It’s almost completely intuitive on my end. If I feel like I did not put my tummy tank to overflowing, I just go about my normal routine. 🙂 I can eat a Cadbury bar at whim and not feel guilty because I would be able to estimate how much work it would take me to keep it from nesting permanently as fat on my tummy.

In college, I read this nice fitness book that estimated certain foods to its appropriate workout equivalent. If I remember it correctly, I learned from there that a single Big Mac Value Meal is equivalent to 1.5 hours of non-stop running, a single donut is equivalent to 12-14 minutes of non-stop running, etc. I just kind of embedded these estimates in my head and let myself be guided accordingly for most of my dining experiences. Here is a nice excerpt from the The Diet Detective’s Countdown book to help you get started with your own estimations for fitness’ sake.

It’s really good to have true friends with you from time to time while you do all these. You will be able to get a nudge from them if you are eating too much or eating too little. That will keep you sane and keep you from being myopic about your eating habits. 🙂 And you can still have your fun while sharing the good vibes and the well-allotted calories.





A Friendship Forged by Skyflakes

(This might not instantly sound like a board exam tip, but it is. Just read through.)

Being the youngest engineer in our company, I discovered how I sorely miss having peers to mentally spar thoughts with. I had a lot of these peer-given intellectual stimulation from college days, board exam review, and my other two jobs. During my board exam review, a huge component of the success we (UP graduates) had as a team came from the very solid support that we got from each other.  One of the joys of learning is discovering things at the same time with another person who loves the industry or subject as much as you do.

You might think that I had a lot of support during review. In fact, I spent a great deal of my time crying especially during the last 3 months of it. I had numerous arguments with my mother during review season. She told me that my preparations were overkill whenever I ask her to turn the television off while I am reviewing.

My immediate family suffered a lot from my “extreme” measures of preparing for the license exam. This is one painful truth about aspiring for something. As a person preparing for board exam, you can silently expect to be ostracized by people who are not able to understand the magnitude of your board exam preparations. You will get criticized, you may be called “OA”, and even your own school might not be as supportive with your efforts especially if they think that board exams are just a giant dog and pony show.

There may be some truth in the fact that a board exam does not make an engineer in the truest sense of the word. But it still brings in a lot of advantage in your career advancement. As you advance, you can be opposed heavily even by people you expect to understand you at this phase. But you have to be determined enough to surmount those insults and just keep striving to give it your all. These adversities will prompt you to answer this question: How much do you want this? How far are you willing to let this take you?

My concept for overpreparing during review is that I wanted to trudge through life with no regrets. I don’t want to look at my score in the board exam and have a what if nagging in my head. I don’t want to give less than my best and then ask myself later: What if I studied harder? Would I have gotten a better score if I ditched my other work or lessened my Facebook time? I actually have board exam buddies who had that in their head and well, it’s not really a very peaceful afterthought though you can eventually get over it.

As far as I know, I gave that exam my best shot and I was fortunate to discover that my efforts somehow loved me back. In love or relationships, you can give everything you’ve got and still be unappreciated. But in your studies, work and board exam, you can give it your all and somehow expect a good thing coming back.

The other day, I slept at my fiancé’s house and I experienced the other side of the fence, so to speak. My SO’s sister is preparing for her design defense and juggling it with her board exam review with other fellow students. This translates to numerous overnight sessions with a lot of engineering guys and girls, that are, in a young females’ family’s point of view, very difficult to adjust to. I had those too in college and my mom hated the fact that a new person kept sleeping at our place every other night. It’s really a thing that consumes resources.

Board exam season is not the right time to deal with heavily emotional issues. Avoid all distractions if humanely possible. If people criticize you for your methods of preparing for your exam, please don’t take it personally. Remember this: only those who are able to experience the actual pressure of reviewing and getting the license with some ambition to aim a good slot or rank will be able to commiserate, understand your situation, and make allowances for you. The true test is that even when you have all these hassles and lack of support from your loved ones, you should still want to become a licensed engineer.

Having said that, it might be good to buddy up with the right people for the much-needed support. During review class, don’t sit with people who do nothing but chitchat about other things and who do not know what they want out of the exam. I mean, it’s good to have a break once in a while and I am a fairly talkative person with people that I like. But when it comes to the actual business of absorbing as much information as possible for the board exam, it is best to sit with like-minded people with the same goals as you have. You can be charitable enough to teach others what you know after you made your preparations solidly. But you cannot let toxic people eat your time and discourage you from your goals for the exam.

To balance, I have to say that it is not just about you at this phase. You also need to consider your family or loved ones who are suffering from your new schedule. In my case, I decided to move out of my house so that I can study in a quiet place and that my family can resume watching noontime shows or whatever they feel like doing at home. I also decided not to eat too much (it makes me really sleepy when I do that!) and settled on veggies, soya, and Skyflakes to avoid ulcers. I do this so that my minimal allowance from my father monthly will not be wasted. I try to preserve the monthly allowance as much as I can because I decided not to work during review and money does not come from trees.

Speaking of Skyflakes… I had a good friend during board exam that turned out to be one of my closest friends beyond board exam. His name is Homer. It was a friendship forged by Skyflakes because we can only afford to eat Skyflakes and a regular-sized container of french fries during our overnight sessions at Mcdo Morayta.

We talk almost everyday during board exam review. Until now, we find ourselves talking with each other regularly about life, about work, and about how we got here from where we were before. I cannot imagine life without one of my good friends.

Certainly, there have been many changes. We used to be wide-eyed engineer wannabes who like playing with the Crystal Eye webcam of our classmate:


He graduated cum laude and he had the pressure to live up to during the exam. People were somehow relying on him to top the exam. I had the pressure to make the most of the exam because I had a challenging schedule as a working student in college. Somewhere, our goals intersected and we used that to sharpen each other’s saw intellectually.

We are now both licensed engineers. We got what we want and more. He is now happily employed in the banking sector. I guess we are not filthy rich like most people, but we can somehow afford a good meal, like an occasional Friday night dinner:




We had buffalo wings, tempura, fried rice, and that weird froyo dessert Teriyaki Boy had been promoting in their menu listing. The dessert was not as good as we expected, but the buffalo wings are spicy and extremely rich in flavor.


Strangely, I already mentioned our top 1 engineer (Machele), my model bestfriend Jhona (top 8), and my little brother Joseph (top 9) in this blog, but I have not yet made a post about Homer, who succeeded in garnering third place in that same board exam. So I am making this board exam tip post today as a form of thanks to my good friend Homer for being with me during board exam and beyond.


As we watched the Cubao night scene from where we were seated, we talked about how things have turned out for us professionally including the numerous adversities we encountered as students and aspiring engineers.


Another unspoken but true lesson learned from preparing for the board exam is that you will know who your true friends are under the times of severe stress. If you are open and fortunate, you can also find the best people you can spend your life with as you hit those books and crunch those numbers in your PRC-approved calculator. Another engineer I know met her partner in life during review classes. The possibilities are endless, really. It’s not always about getting the best grade there is, although you can wear yourself out trying to achieve things.

So to those who are having a hard time during review and are experiencing the frictions that only the pressure of the board exam can provide, here’s one tried and tested advice:  toughen up with the insults, get working with laser-beam focus on your study plan, make friends with the good bunch for support, kill distractions immediately, and do your best.

In truth, there are no physical costs equivalent to a real friendship but they’re absolutely priceless. The relationship may or may not be perpetually sustained by expensive night outs of wine or a night out at a nice place like Teriyaki Boy. Sometimes, the best moments involve munching on Skyflakes mindlessly while juggling index cards that need memorizing with a down-to-earth person that you can be comfortably yourself with.

Homer and I may be eating and sharing more than Skyflakes at this phase of life, but I will always remember him fondly as the review buddy who linked an armpit mnemonic (private joke ito!) to presidential decrees with me as we juggled our numerous thoughts on life and on our goals. Thank you so much, Homer, and see you tomorrow. 🙂