Vitamin Sea Upgrade


I floated. I lingered. I savored the sun as it hit my face while I made love to the clear waters despite the algal Boracay blooms tickling my legs. I lay supine amidst the waves, the tourists, the Aklanons offering their services, the nearby boat that tours people in the island.

Sand was powder fine and worth digging my toenails into. I sat and with zero sunscreen, allowed myself to be scorched and baked by the morning heat. I felt the ocean embrace me and few things mattered at that very moment, that one moment where abandoning the body to the waves is probably one of the world’s most relaxing thing.

It is there under the sun and floating with eyes closed that I realized something. Vitamin sea can cure the ills of an anxious mind. It has the power of a hundred self-help books and costs almost nothing save for those precious moments that you wish would never end.

Happily, I realized that floating was not a sign of weakness, stupidity, or incompetence. People need to float in order to glide. And once done, I take that experience, etch it in my heart and memory, and use it to catapult me in the direction of my greatest dreams.

And for someone who isn’t really an inherent beach fan, I think my dosage desires for Vitamin Sea has just gotten a happy upgrade.

To floating. To dreams. To the fusion of reality and dreams.


It is much easier to get busy than get to know myself most days. Because when busy, I do have the legitimate reason to delay the inevitable. It’s facing the self, my most formidable opponent.

I am getting in the way of my dreams. And this is a realization of adulthood.

That I tried struggling against the ropes that bind but find that it is still me holding the other end that is keeping me tied.

It’s a hard lesson but I am happy to learn and think about that now. A chief weakness of this illness is self-absorption lack of empathy. Because it’s the trait that requires an enormous amount of compassion reserves. And when sick, it is far much easier for me to be hard on myself than take things in strides.

Sometimes, we are all so fragile and we bruise others just by being our very own selves. We do a thousand good things but get remembered for the one bad thing. This world is starving for empathy. Often, we see things in the distorted lens of our prejudice and experience. Truth is, we cannot pass judgment on another because we don’t really know them no matter how many years you’ve been together. There will always be a mystery, a blind spot, an elusive piece of the puzzle that will keep us from finding out enough to judge anyone.

It is a very good realization. There are people who nurture, and those who don’t nurture inflict pain but still teach a hard lesson. Nurturing or not, it was all necessary for certain things. It was necessary to live, refine the cycle of the lifestyle chosen, and have the courage to live again in spite of what you find in others, and what you find in yourself.

I used to think that life is linear and unmoving. But it’s more of a series of abstract swirls that go different ways. TherE is no pedictability. Your old allies end up being your enemies. Enemies can become friends. Friendship can wither. Support can be withdrawn. Connections that used to be your lifeline can fail. It just happens. Acceptance is necessary to have a tree of empathy growing inside, big enough for the self and for others to happily take shade under. 🙂

WFH Log 001: Square One

Probably I can count myself as one of the most obstinate and hard-headed persons on this planet and it has taken me to many places, good and bad. This month, though, it made a turn for the worse. So I had to rein myself in and go back to square one, to ground zero of everything that I have planned for 2015. Virtually, everything I worked on was wiped out and I needed a fresh drawing board to whip up everything again.

The problem was not that it was wrong or unproductive. It was actually TOO productive and jam-packed. My schedule was lined up in a way that there was no room for Providence or tiny surprises that life hands over on an intermittent basis. This was a time of quickly and objectively refining the flaws of my initial design for my life plans, and that meant taking out certain items that are not in the topmost quadrant of my priority list.

Taking out the items off my list was hard; I had to revisit each commitment one by one and see which had to stay or go given my current circumstances. It was a painful but liberating exercise. I had to make a really defining and life-changing decision. I felt relief because this time around, I was really able to finally voice out my deepest desires about how I want to do work in this world. I really wanted to create, and I needed a lifestyle that gives enough room for creating things. Most of what I had taken in the past involved consuming things as part of the work, part of the bigger plan. I wanted to design things in short but intense bursts, reflective of my personality as  human being. And as time runs out on this life, I realize that I had to make the necessary changes to accommodate this kind of lifestyle. It’s time. For years, I had been trying this setup. I tried it around four or five times previously but I lacked the steam to sustain it. But this time, it’s different and the benefits far outweigh the risks.

So I am logging it here. This is Day 1 of Square One. And I am looking forward to more exciting things. That painful experiences we do not expect are in reality, unforeseen delays, glitches, or obstructions that are meant to steer us closer to what we are meant to become in life. I just trust this season because I have seen firsthand how certain things align together. It was not completely a hopeless scenario; rather, I see something unfolding in the midst of the debris of my self-created chaos.

I think my old desires have ripened and I need not resist them any further. It’s really time to make the change.

And the change begins today.


Doing Journalism with Data

Astounding is an understatement for describing the wealth of information available in the internet. All that’s necessary is to make time and prevent yourself from getting information overload. I personally derive immense satisfaction in discovering new things, and online courses through platforms like Coursera and Canvas help me learn just about anything I need personally and professionally. I made certain sacrifices to my social life and that involves cutting down on my social media consumption to maximize my online learning. But it has proven to be quite worth it; all these resources, if I try to enroll on them offline from where I am physically, cost quite a fortune. There’s this traditional academic option to specialize with graduate studies and it’s a good thing to have. But if I, for example, would like a crash course on a topic outside of my industry of choice, an online course is the best way to go.

These days, not having money for tuition fee is not an excuse. In fact, education has been made more accessible. And each course has its own set of online tools, at least at the technical end of the spectrum. For example, here is my most recent discovery: Open Refine for cleaning data. This was discussed in detail from the European Journalism Center’s limited free course offering of Data Journalism at Canvas:

Google Refine open source tool for Data Journalism

Google Refine open source tool for Data Journalism


Some of the certificate-issuing courses like EJC’s data journalism offering are limited. Sadly, I only learned of the course last week and I basically had less than a week to skim through an online material designed to be studied by an online learner for 5-6 weeks.

Sample Data Journalism Module Video Lecture

Sample Data Journalism Module Video Lecture

Coming from an engineering background, I found the math side of the online course to be a bit too basic. But it’s a useful refresher for old engineers who are interested in taking a data-related slant for their careers or personal projects. The course was really designed for journalists with limited mathematical background, and it’s a perfect primer which teaches just enough math to make evidence-intensive data-driven journalistic pieces. It’s not as programming or math-heavy as the online data science course at Coursera. The data searching side, on the other hand, is quite new to me.

Some of the things discussed like regular expression in Google searches, web scraping, and data cleaning are familiar to me from my online pursuits. But there are others like new and amazing tools that make it easy to create data-driven stories. It’s a shame that they are only offering it for free for a limited amount of time. As of this writing, they will be closing it within two days and the material will only be available to me until April 2015.

There is one downside to enrolling in so many online courses: it makes it more difficult to tie everything together. I was told by one of my coding mentors that the best way to sift through the streams of information from the internet is by choosing a pet project, one at a time, and then just researching the ones relevant or necessary to accomplishing that pet project. I guess that’s my current life hack recently– to create a series of pet projects that will allow me to make use of all these tools and techniques that I harnessed from the internet and turn it into something usable and reproducible. And whatever good I find out of these pet projects, I will certainly share my learnings here at Helena blog.



Silver Linings

Believe. Imagination is the eye of the soul.

Believe. Imagination is the eye of the soul. (Photo taken at Papemelroti Sta. Mesa Branch)

It’s been, though bumpy, a good year for learning and maturing and appreciating what I have. I spent the weekend with some of my loved ones and had a movie marathon with my siblings. They are still sleeping in the bedroom next door, as I write this quick note to remind myself. My husband cooked my favorite spaghetti last night and I am up for a treat until the end of the day because my dad is also cooking something downstairs for us kids. After 12 long months of agonizing on getting myself out of the rut of my writing style, I managed to find ways to work around the situation. Everything that I needed was right in front of me and I was just complicating it.

I write about this day because I often write about the bad days and I think I need to begin logging the really good happenings to remind me that life’s a wheel and it always goes up no matter how much it sinks. There were things that this sudden detour and redirection opened up to me in a major way. I was heavily crushed at first but now I am just OVERFLOWING with GRATITUDE.

Some of the things that happened are too personal to write down on a public digital space. Suffice it to say, it was life-changing, positive, and completely affirming. And this year, more than ever, I am quite sure of my footing as a person and I am more daring in taking risks. There is no other age to take those risks than now. Later I’ll be old and grey and unable to fend for my basic necessities. Or I’ll be dead. Either way, I need to really ride the YOLO bandwagon with some calculated sense of risk and responsibility.

I have truly begun to live, this time around. Thank you, Lord. 🙂



Day 74: #100HappyDays
Father’s Day

Gifts for Dads

Gifts for Dads


I rarely blog about my parents and when I do, I prefer that they remain faceless and nameless in the midst of my online shenanigans. I celebrated Father’s Day with tiny tokens. I am currently constrained by my spartan budget but this day is too special to be forgotten.

I have three dads, and it’s a very unconventional thing to have. I used to have two, but now that I am entering a new phase of life, I have a third dad as well.It’s nice to have that much love from a very extended family.

I am posting in photos of the gifts for public consumption but it’s those pictures hidden and tucked away in my heart and in my memory that mean so much more to me.

Love you, dads. Happy Father’s Day.

Day 53: #100HappyDays
Something for Dad



After 28 years of not being able do something for my father to signify my intention to take good care of him, I finally found something to do for him. 🙂

I’ve been usually tending to my mom’s needs first, so this is a unique and happy occasion for me, to give back something to my father.

I really think fathers are generally underappreciated. But I totally love my dads.