Marine Preservation and Shark Awareness

IN SIGHT OF SHARKS: A Literary and Artistic Collection for Shark Awareness–the book is finally out!

Congratulations to Paolo Tiausas and his team, together with Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines and other established writers.

From their spiel:
“How well do we really know our sharks? The numbers are urgent, but beyond those numbers are something more important: stories. Sharks have stories too, and we need to remember those stories every time we have a chance — after all, their stories resonate with us and we connect with them more than you imagine.”

Got invited to submit a poem/prose/essay/literary piece to accompany one of the artworks. Thanks to Alex Logan for inspiring me with his trivia about sharks.

Support our sharks (and artists alike)! See the payment details here.


My first blog for BOSFilipinos

There are times when I wonder what it would be like if I were lucky enough to stay for good. I wanted to take up my Master’s degree abroad right after finishing  undergrad, and only decided to become an international student because I saw a lot of other people who were taking up further studies outside the Philippines. But what many people don’t tell international students is that studying abroad is not a free ticket to becoming an immigrant. It increases your chances, yes, but they never reveal the nitty-gritty of what you have to go through just to land a job, negotiate your salary, or to get your name entered in the visa lottery, not to mention get petitioned for the green card. They don’t mention the stricter government regulations or that the current administration is not so keen on accepting foreign-born workers anymore. They just tell you life will be different, but they don’t tell you that it won’t be any easier.

From the BOSFilipino blog
Photo of Hult Filipinos (credits to Shara Cabrera)

Read the rest of it here. Really thankful to Trish Fontanilla, owner of BOSFilipinos, for helping me out in polishing the piece. We had a lot of brainstorming and even had a copyediting session (over a slice of homemade cassava cake!) after a team meeting.

I’m excited to say that this blog is the first of many! We have an upcoming series of posts that I’ve finalized with Trish, so I hope it helps the Filipino community, one way or another.

That being said, there’s a Salsa Dancing Night this Friday, February 15, at Havana Club. With all the piling requirements for school and the job search stress, I think this is a great chance for me to take a break and enjoy something I love.

Learning from the best: my SFA internship

I was ready for my last day at the internship when my boss and his lead analyst invited me for a coffee break that afternoon. We would usually go out with the entire team, talk about movies and music over hot pot or sushi. Sometimes we would just grab beer from the office fridge on a Friday afternoon and mention the latest business news. But I figured this would just be some sort of exit interview–short and simple for any last minute feedback and goodbyes.

We had built some sort of camaraderie in the office, at the very least within our team. It’s hard not to notice that especially when you’ve been an intern for almost eight months, extending from the summer until the fall and winter. I worked full-time during the summer, staying at the office from 9 to 5 and casually going out with fellow interns for lunches at the park (we were located right off the Boston Public Garden), kayaking at the Charles River, or pizza and trivia nights. During the fall and winter, I only had to go to the office twice or thrice a week, but nevertheless I met a lot of cool people at work, befriended some analysts and the management, and even heard several interns from other teams talk about their own stories and where they plan to go after finishing school.

The last day during the summer–we went out for hot chocolate at LA Burdick wearing our SFA shirts

I still remember the time I applied for this internship–the fact that it took me almost an entire month to get through two interviews and three exercises just to land an offer meant something to me. It was thanks to a previous intern and a fellow Hult Ambassador of mine who referred me after I reached out to him. He told me everything I needed to know about Search Fund Accelerator and what I should expect in the workload in order to balance it with my summer electives. There were times when I thought I was not worth paying attention to because I didn’t have a fully-fledged out career path back then, but I was lucky that someone gave me a chance and believed that I was worth listening to.

Kayaking with my co-interns

My team at SFA was probably the most influential with regards to my professional growth. I was full of hesitations back then, had a lot of questions on the workload, but I had a lot of support and feedback. “Don’t hide your talents,” my boss told me. “You’re good at doing research and preparing presentations.” He also understood my personality and even though I was usually quiet, I still managed to befriend the other people in his team. He told me that I shouldn’t have a hard time finding a job as long as I can communicate the things that I can do and am willing to do in my career.

I am grateful that he invited me to extend my internship, and that he has confided in me a lot of his plans once he finally gets a company. Sometimes we would take turns venting out how hard it is to find a company to acquire for him and one to work in for me. “It takes a little bit of trust into selling your business to someone you don’t know,” he said.

My lead analyst was just as supportive. He would entrust me the training of another intern, asking me to help out whenever they have questions on how to evaluate companies. He told me that I would do well in being a leader because I could do things efficiently.

The best takeaway perhaps were the lessons. There was this one time when my boss gave me confidential information about a company and asked me to present my investment thesis on it. I did my research, crunched the numbers, designed the presentation, but I ended up hesitating on whether or not we should buy the company. “I’d rather you take a stand on certain things, ” he told me. “You’re young and you’re eager to make mistakes to do better in the future.”


Jeremy Silverman, co-founder of Search Fund Accelerator, gave 10 tips for the interns last summer:

  1. The opposite of networking is not working.
  2. Don’t wait for all the stoplights to turn green.
  3. Most successful careers were not planned.
  4. People just took opportunities and a leap of faith.
  5. Have a good plan, execute violently, do today.
  6. People might not remember what you said or did, but they will remember how you made them feel.
  7. Listen, execute, learn.
  8. Don’t complain, don’t explain.
  9. Ask questions.
  10. Be knowledgeable and competent; at the same time, be aware of what you don’t know.

My lead analyst gave me a hug before I headed out of the office. He wished me good luck in my new internship in a consulting firm and asked me to keep in touch in the future. I do hope my boss ends up loving his company, regardless of whatever industry it will be in. I’m glad I had this opportunity to work with their team and I wish them success. Whether it will be in another office, in a random mall, or in another country, I’m confident enough that we will cross paths again someday–the learning never stops.

Onwards, somehow.

Received about five messages on LinkedIn from students asking about my SFA internship. Seems like the career advising department directed them all to me since almost everyone is looking for a summer internship.

That being said, Search Fund Accelerator is now accepting applications for their Summer Internship! Details can be found here. 

What I learned so far this 2019

My boyfriend believes that New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t be a thing. “If you want to change yourself, you don’t have to wait for New Year to do so. Just change when you need to.”

Somehow, he’s right. Many of the things that I wanted to change in me for the better were sparked by certain events all throughout 2018. But like many people, New Year has become the impetus for me to actually reflect on these changes and to actually keep them in mind.

The first month of 2019 has already been tough and I know there are still a lot of challenges that will be coming my way. Here are some things that came upon my reflection; I hope I can get by until the end.

1. Push yourself once in a while. Being away from family back home made me realize that I’m stronger than what I’ve expected. Aside from learning how to do my own laundry (I know, #shelteredgirl) and making new recipes, I found out that I could also acquire new technical skills if I really wanted to. I managed to learn Tableau and mailmerge during my internship, among others–all thanks to free online tutorials.

2. Remove the toxic things and people from your life. It’s okay to be selective with people to be friends with. I’ve tried forcing myself to be included in cliques and circles before, only to realize that I really lost the sense of who I really am. They’re not bad people per se–I’m sure other people can see the goodness in them–but there are other people worth learning from and spending time with.

3. That being said, engage in things that you love. It’s okay to be quirky, shy, and awkward. I completely accept that those things make a part of who I am. But with people who care for me, I found out that I can also be comfortable interacting with others. I can’t say I’m already a networking pro, but salsa and bachata dancing has actually helped me in being able to socialize once in a while.

4. Learn to speak out when needed. I was very hesitant during my internship when it came to making decisions for potential investments. But my boss told me to be more confident and to not be afraid of making mistakes because they would always provide constructive feedback in order to improve.

5. Be compassionate. I suffered from the winter blues when I first came to Boston. It wasn’t just me when I told a few other trusted friends what I was feeling during those times and they went on with telling me that they also felt the same thing. Now and then we would give each other support and advice on how to fight the sadness during the cold.

6. Write. I let go of my writing because I didn’t have time in grad school. But a friend told me that one can always have time for the things she loves. Writing is a muscle, a marathon–if you try to keep the pace, the more you do it, the more you get better at it. I believe that my writing can take me through the winter, and I hope I’m right.

Watching Stars from Afar

My mother has just turned 50, but she tells me she’s feeling 35. That’s not the way it works, I tell her, but she doesn’t listen. On some nights we go on video call simultaneously, but at different times–me at 8pm, she at 9am the next day. We are 13 hours apart. I watch her cook meals, check my brother’s homework, file the paperwork for our business, other things that only require her to not even look, just listen. Just listen, Ma–I tell her about my life in Boston, how it’s getting colder and colder–Do you remember? I ask her, you used to love snow–and how life is somehow catching small pieces of happiness that I’d love her to see as well.

My mother’s first time in the U.S.
My mother and me

I’m 23 now, but sometimes she treats me like a little kid. My Ann-Ann, she croons to me, You’re always looking for a mother’s love. She tells me she’s planning to adopt, but I tell her to consider otherwise, tell her she doesn’t have time to take care of another child, but she thinks it’s for the better, nevertheless. Maybe that’s what mothers feel when their children are getting older and older one by one, or when their eldest goes away. Maybe it’s a Filipina mom thing, or maybe it’s just my mom turning 50. Either way, she seems very alive, seems very full of hope that I wish I could also have.

What seemed to be happiness: my visit to the Philippines and some nice spots

Since the holidays started, a lot of my grad school friends from other nationalities had been messaging me for suggestions on places to see in my home country.

Having visited the Philippines for three weeks last September (and having even toured a friend from Moldova who came to do some sightseeing in Manila as well), I decided to just list down the nice spots that I would highly recommend should anyone want to see the capital, plus the surrounding areas of Metro Manila.

The first batch focuses more on the local spots which I would recommend touring on foot and/or with a friend who knows how to get around with the public transportation–it’s tough for anyone for the first time, as you would have to learn the routes and stops, not to mention what to say to the driver (the magic words are “Para po!”). I personally would love to tour people myself; I’ve been a tour guide for exchange students as a side gig back in college, but since I’m now based in the States, hit me up if you really need a local guide–I know a couple of friends and contacts who do tours as well for a small fee.

Anyway, let’s start with the very heart of the Manila capital:

  1. Recto: this is the last station of the Light Rail Transit Line-2 (LRT-2) coming from the Santolan Station. Not far from Divisoria, the local marketplace for bulk merchandise, Recto has a lot of cheap gadget stores along Hidalgo Street and Raon. I remember passing by and seeing a lot of jukeboxes, military gear, uniforms, textbooks, DVDs and CDs for sale.
  2. Escolta: Plaza Miranda of Quiapo Church leads directly to Quiapo Street if you cross the Rizal Avenue (Or Avenida, as locals know it). I love, love Escolta since this is the entrance to Carriedo Street, the downtown district during the old days, and if you walk along even further, you’ll find Binondo Chinatown–the first ever Chinatown in the entire world. If you need a list of must-try food stops, message me; I’d be happy to give you my top 5 (or I might even write another blog post for some other time hehe)
  3. Manila Bay: where the best sunset is, hands down. Opt for sunny/cloudy weather to see the harbor. Since it’s pretty long for a good 15-20 minute walk, you’ll find lots of horse-drawn carriages, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, our Central Bank, and a couple of museums along the way such as the Museum Pambata (Children’s Museum), the National Museums (there are three separate buildings), Planetarium, and the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.
  4. Cultural Center of the Philippines: right beside Star City and in front of the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) is the CCP. If you walk along the Manila Bay and follow the path that leads to that giant star tower, you would find the facade of the CCP complex. It’s free admission to the galleries inside it but it’s also nice to catch a performance when there’s one–there are ballet shows, operas, films, and plays featured every now and then. There are also good food spots beside the building with a variety of cuisines–my Filipino life hack: Mang Inasal has unlimited rice for a plate of chicken thigh!

The spots for my second batch have locations in northern Metro Manila, which is Marikina, Antipolo, and Quezon City (including Cubao, Diliman, and Katipunan).

  1. Arete: The Ateneo de Manila University has a newly-built art complex called Arete which has its own art gallery. Not far are the UP Town Center and the University of the Philippines with their own set of food stops and exhibits. The Katipunan Strip–or Katip, as we call it–also has good food spots but if you need to satisfy your art cravings, you can also visit the Vargas Museum in UP Diliman and walk around the university complex itself.
  2. Cubao Expo: I collect old vinyl records (mostly for my ballroom dancing tastes and my parents’ trip down the memory lane). Cubao Expo has a lot of vintage thrift shops that sells all sorts of collectibles. It’s within walking distance from AliMall, Gateway Araneta Center, and Farmer’s Plaza. Pro-tip: the night life is also something to see with all the indie music and bands.
  3. Maginhawa Street in UP Teacher’s Village: My all-time favorite place to hang out with friends back in college. They have a lot of board game cafes, dessert stores, small fashion boutiques, food trucks, and a lot more. The spots just come and go most of the time and probably a lot more has popped up since the last time I visited, but there is always something about Maginhawa that draws me back to it.

The last batch has spots that are located 2-3 hours away from Manila. You can board a bus from the Cubao Terminal Station (near Aurora Boulevard) that goes to Tagaytay, Subic, Batangas, and Cavite, all of which are outside of Metro Manila. I myself grew up in Cavite for eight years before continuing my studies in the capital. My family usually visits Ilog Maria Honeybee Farms to see the honeybees and buy their products in Silang,Cavite. Not far from that are the following:

1. Tagaytay: You’ll probably need to hire a van for this if you are with a group but if you are alone, you can book a tour to certain destinations such as the People’s Palace in the Sky, Puzzle Mansion and Museum, Bag of Beans, Sky Ranch, and Picnic Grove. And if you need an Airbnb for this, let me know and I can refer you to the owner of The Snug!

2. Subic Bay: My family loves driving from Manila to Subic for a nice joyride near the coast. I like the encounter with the tigers of Zoobic Safari, the dolphin shows at Ocean Adventure, and the rows of shops at Harbor Point. I would recommend staying there for at least three days since there’s so much to see around the area. 

3. Batangas: Nasugbu and Anilao have really fascinating beaches with white sand and clear waters. We booked our room at Amara Residences (it’s a private residential area) which has its own pool and access to the sea but we were also allowed by the guards to drive to Punta Fuego which has the Infinity Pools. Punta Fuego has a nice buffet and lounge which is perfect for the summer weather.

Here are previous blogs I wrote to help you:

  1. My MapaLakad (trans. Walking Map) project back in college: this was an art project that motivated me to become a tour guide for students back then. I posted more actual photos of the places on the other blogs so you’d have some sort of landmarks should you actually decide to visit.
  2. The real guidebook I made. Since it was an art project, my focus was on abandoned historical spots and buildings around downtown Manila. I placed them on the guidebook strategically that allows you to give an entire feel of the city.

  3. A rough draft of the maps I’ve collated that will help you trace your path. Since I wrote the final guidebook in pure Tagalog and had my friend do the layout, I figured you’d want something more accessible. I hope this helps you in some way.

I didn’t focus much on Makati, Ortigas, and Taguig even though I know there are a lot of cool and hip places around there too. But I chose the ones that I frequent with friends and family and since writing about these places do help me relive the good times with them, here’s to me hoping that you guys will also enjoy visiting these spots.

Anyway, I’ll probably be in the Philippines in December 2019 for my cousin’s wedding (assuming I would be able to secure a job for OPT beforehand). So if you do happen to visit, let me know and we can probably figure something out. Cheers to more travels!


December Travels, winter, the Perfect Girl, and more

Winter break has become the epitome of continuous travels for me. Ever since my last final exams, I’ve traveled to Orlando, Florida for a week to meet some friends and friends of family, and then had Christmas Eve in Rockland, Massachusetts (35 mins south of Boston) to celebrate Noche Buena before heading to Bedford, New Hampshire, a town near the border of the two states, to celebrate three Christmases and a wedding anniversary dinner. Needless to say, I’ve had a good time so far.

More and more I’ve tried to read up new essays and brush up on old ones. I ordered a couple of books from Barnes and Noble (which includes Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential), plus a battered copy of Durga Chew-Bose’s Too Much and Not the Mood. The irony is this: less and less I’ve satisfied my restlessness I cannot seem to articulate precisely because I am not trying hard enough to do so.

I cannot reason why despite having partially accomplished some sort of list of to-do’s: I was able to get–not one, but two–internships for the spring, was able to get in touch with a couple of hiring managers and recruiters, was able to attend some gatherings and parties from invitations (knowing me, you would need a lot of convincing just to have me RSVP, let alone actually attend one), was able to pay bills and buy gifts on time. In short, I was able to function properly in the midst of winter.

Perhaps it is really just a matter of pinpointing what kind of pain/fear/restlessness that I’m entering right now, rather than articulating how this pain/fear/restlessness is manifesting in me nowadays. I should probably boil it down to literary hunger, a pang for writing, that recurring ache of not being able to recall how I managed to write those literary essays, or even start a good sentence or paragraph in praise of prose. This is not a mere case of winter blues or homesickness. In the words of Joan Didion, sans context: “There was nothing that made sense.” Once I retreat to my room, what would usually happen is this: I would force myself to shut down my laptop, grab a pen and my good old journal, write a narrative of my day in short, painful declaratives like the following:

“A– fetched me at the Park and Ride on the last good day. It was warm; weather was about 70F. We went to the beach after having breakfast at Panera Bread. We shared a salad with lime and vinaigrette. For lunch he took me to Petey’s and spent $150 on both of us. ‘We make poor life decisions, A–,’ I told him. A– didn’t care. We hung out at nearby boulders near the shore, overlooking the light blue sea and the pinkish skies. The sunset was beautiful at that moment.”

My friends have been sending me their manuscripts for feedback; we had a habit of sharing unpublished works to each other to show that writers actually have enough trust, maybe just not to themselves. I have not returned a single one. And this is the only reason I can think of: I do not see myself anymore as a literary figure with the authority to actually critique works of others. Call this humility or cowardliness–whichever it is, I have somehow retreated into this world of “unliterary.” Maybe deep inside me, I’m still trying to clamber back into that world of attempts, of figuring-outs, of wonderings and wanderings. I want to relive it once this winter is over but I’m not sure how.

Here are my December reads:

Haruki Murakami’s short story, On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One April Morning (I know, the title’s a mouthful): I’ve read this back as an undergrad in one sitting and then completely buried it in my memory. Murakami was mentioned in a conversation with a friend and then I found myself trying to recall the title of this piece, and now we’re here.

If You are What You Eat, then What am I? by Geetha Kothari: Traditional Indian cuisine and the fusion of Western/American food in the eyes of an immigrant. Somehow I can relate to this, being a Filipina who terribly misses her home cuisine, having to acquire the Western taste (which is not a bad thing at all; just something unsettling at first).

The Santa Ana, an essay by Joan Didion. My OG and kween of the essay. I remember passing by the very places that Didion happened to mentioned in her books–Haight-Ashbury, The Golden Gate Bridge, Downtown Sacramento and Davis, California, and of course, Las Vegas. I remember being mesmerized by that particular moment of matching the literary with the real, the actual. That sudden spark in me that words can actually do so much in making a reader believe that these are not just the writer’s imagination but are, in fact, the very premise that made the writer ruminate about her experiences during that period of time. It was like some sort of pilgrimage, having arrived at those spots, both a literal, space-and-time-occupied concept, and somehow a heartwarming one.