In 2011, I complained about a hectic month of March which left me totally exhausted and in need of some rest & recreation. I spoke too soon, for my 2012 was just as busy, where each month was a whirlwind of travels addressing senior citizens concerns, solo parents amendments and LGBT issues. Not since 2006 did I get as much local and international trips. Unfortunately, these also came at the heels of a personal loss and an end of a relationship. My absence caused by all this running around was allegedly the cause of my break-up. But admittedly, just like before, I was probably just using my trips as an escape from my unhappy home.
It began in March with a special invitation from a human rights colleague to join them in Geneva, Switzerland for the first ever United Nations Human Rights Council session tackling Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) issues or Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights. With the landmark report on the status of LGBTs around the world, both the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed full support for promoting and protecting the rights of LGBTs everywhere. Meanwhile, locally, I travelled to Calasiao, Pangasinan for a regional forum and assessment of Republic Act No. 9994 with the Senior Citizens Partylist congressional representative. This was to be followed by a visit to Tuguegarao City, Cagayan Valley in April where I experienced the hottest day in the year in the hottest place in the Philippines.
But May was probably the craziest. I had a Bureau-wide Team-Building activity to start the month, a rushed Ilocos weekend with my Mom as is our wont every summer, before I headed for Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro for another Senior Citizens forum. I came back to Manila for Rainbow Rights Project’s 3-day Paralegal Training and then left again for Puerto Princesa, Palawan where I spent my 42nd birthday lecturing to another set of senior citizens. I never realized then how much of myself I was sacrificing already.
That proved to be a crucial time, for when I came back again, I discovered my four and a half year old relationship was about to end. Although I was surprised, I did not feel too bad about the separation. It already took a long time coming and I considered my newfound freedom as a birthday gift. I promised myself I wouldn’t waste too much time, so I allowed myself to grieve for around a week and promised myself I’d start enjoying myself again. I opened myself up to possibilities, a chance to be happy once more. And it didn’t take long, because by the time I was on my next lecture engagement in Laguna for Region 4A’s seniors, I also had a new lovelife. Life goes on after all.
By the end of June, I was excited to visit General Santos and Koronadal City for the first time. Although it was a week-long, fulltime, secretariat work for the DSWD Mid-year NMDC, I wanted to make the most of the experience. That week’s highlight was a taste of the “Pagana Maranao” ritual feast and trying out the highest zipline in the Philippines. At Lake Sebu, with a backdrop of several fantastic waterfalls, I took flight on one of the scariest ziplines for the sheer drop into one of the deepest gorges in the country. It was a “force of habot” - I always make it a point to make the most of my travels, After doing my official work, I always find time to enjoy myself. Work hard, play hard – that’s my motto.
July entered with me leaving for Chiang Mai, Thailand to speak at an Asian regional women’s rights conference. It gave me a chance to reconnect with our women’s NGO networks and I bonded with some veteran women’s human rights defenders. I saw some Buddhist temples and got an authentic Thai Massage, before I rushed back to Manila so I can sneak in some quality time with my new partner, Toni in Iloilo and Guimaras island. That weekend was short but as sweet as the mangoes of that paradise isaland, Guimaras. I couldn’t bring myself to leave my new girlfriend just yet to give a talk in Albay, so I brought her with me to Legaspi City so she can also see the majestic Mt. Mayon. Difficult to mix one’s work with personal time, but sometimes we get lucky and manage to do so.
While I originally planned for August to be somewhat of a respite, when I could finally move into a new place and adjust to a new homelife, more surprises were to come. Toni’s baby, Irene Venice arrived with her yaya as we settled into our rented house. But with new responsibilities in my personal life, there also came new assignments at work. A new sector was added unto my already full plate, the Solo Parents. But like always, it was a sector too close to home and hence, I felt a personal stake in it as well. I did back-to-back visits to Pampanga in Region 3, and to DSWD-NCR in Manila for Solo Parents Forum-Workshops, before closing the month with a return to Iloilo for another seniors talk AND solo parents forum.
Before I knew it, I was going back to Geneva, Switzerland after getting accepted to a human rights and UN advocacy training programme. I finally got the chance to speak at a special panel-parallel activity on SOGI Those hectic 2 weeks was made worthwhile when I was able to see my nephew, Tudoy and his wife, Hani for a weekend site-seeing adventure. Unlike in March, I was finally able to go around and see Lake Geneva, the Swiss Alps, and do an Old Town Tour of Geneva’s ancient quarter.
And even before I was over my jetlag, I was flying off to Tacloban and then to Bohol as soon as I arrived from Europe. The Solo Parents Forum-Workshops and Senior Citizens Regional Fora were still on-going after all. Ahh, no rest for those who toil. Yet about this time, I was beginning to feel a change in me. I wasn’t really too keen on going away on trips because I was missing Toni and Baby IV all the time. I promised myself I’ll bring them along if I can.
The first week of October was again supposedly a rest period, with minimal participation in the annual Elderly Filipino Week celebrations. But I was “kidnapped” into attending a legislative advocacy workshop in Antipolo. Once again, I felt I was burning both ends of the candle, tiring myself out, when I could have spent the time better.
As in Iloilo, Cagayan De Oro was a two-in-one official visit –with a regional forum for seniors and a forum-workshop on solo parents. It also gave me a chance to visit with old friends whom I promised to visit again come November. I skipped a river rafting adventure and settled for a simple spa massage in between my lectures. My body just couldn’t handle any more stress as it cried out its exhaustion. And while before I was always excited to go on trips, now I couldn’t wait to go home.
I barely enjoyed that long Halloween weekend because I was sick, but I had to go off to Baguio for PDPB’s year-end assessment. In between that, I had to do one last Solo Parents Forum in San Fernando, La Union for Region 1. I managed to tag Toni along where she served as my “assistant”, operating my laptop for my powerpoint presentations. That was closely followed by a quick trip to Cagayan de Oro for a weekend forum on LGBT rights. Because of its proximity, I was able to visit one of my favourite islands – Camiguin. This was such a happy, relaxing time for me since I was with my GF, Toni and my good friends from Ladlad.
As my Solo Parents duties came to a close, I took up my assigned areas for the Social Pension research project. I travelled to San Carlos City, Pangasinan where I went to conduct my first interviews with the social pension beneficiaries. I endured this because Toni came with me again, and she proved quite helpful with the interviews. So for my Loon, Bohol assignment, I dragged her along again. I noticed that by this time she’s already familiar with most of my talks, whether with senior citizens, solo parents or LGBT rights. Going on these trips with me exposed her to the work I do and helped her appreciate my work. By the time we went to Bacolod in December, I noticed the seniors actually prefer her and volunteer to be her interviewees.
As the year slowly came to a close, I put myself on a timeline, and decided no more trips as the Christmas season approached. It was going to be purely family bonding and quality time. I still like going on my trips, but I find I have more fun if Toni tagged along with me. I see old places with new eyes and create memories with someone whose company I really enjoy. If she isn’t with me, I couldn’t wait to return home and be with her and baby. So now, I manage to keep my travels short, and insist that these trips are absolutely necessary before I embark on them. I also realized I have to rest and give my body a chance to recover. I am no spring chicken anymore, so I better slow down too.