05 March 2015

I'm alive!

How sad is it that the last post I have on here was when Kero-chan passed away? Di naka-move on? I admit it has been painful - twice as painful as losing Chippy. There are days when I miss her so bad, I can't help but cry. I still greet her every time I pass by the little shrub Dad planted on her grave as a marker. But I can't stay sad forever. Cocopie's addition to the family has really helped us get through (not over) the pain of losing our dear Kero-chan.

So what made me come back here? Remember when I finally built up enough courage to apply for graduate school last year? Well, it's been a year and I'm currently on my second trimester (six more to go!) in the MBA program. Balancing work and school is a challenge but I'm getting by. So I figured it's time to take a bigger leap... which I actually did yesterday. It's not a sure thing yet but taking that first step took a lot of courage. I've never been this excited and terrified in my life. Yes to new adventures!

11 June 2014

Good night, Kero-chan :(

People close to our family know who Kero-chan is - our trusty little guard dog with stubby little paws. Only a handful know that her real name is Carebear though (because the markings on her face made her look like a chubby little bear cub when she was still a puppy). As with all our pets, her name evolved into a couple of nicknames: Keroberos (because of Card Captor Sakura), Kero-chan (obviously taken from the latter not because of Jackie Chan), Kero, Kerocchin (because of Slam Dunk's Ryota or Ryocchin), Keroppi, Fluffy, Fluffy Tail, Fatty (for when she eats like a vacuum), etc. And anyone who's ever been to our house know the SOP: you have to find a seat ASAP or suffer the consequences of unlimited barking/scolding from Kero-chan.

But today, our home is unusually quiet as we finally had to say goodbye to our dear Kero-chan. It has been a difficult month for our family, especially for Kero-chan. After Chippy passed away in 2010, we knew we only have limited time left with Kero-chan as dogs live up to an average of 10-12 years. As she reached geriatric age, she developed lumps in her mammary glands (an illness old female dogs are prone to) which could only be removed by surgery. However, her weak heart prevented her from being a candidate so the vet put her on maintenance meds instead and we switched her diet to a healthier one.

She remained her jolly old self until a month ago when her condition suddenly worsened. I immediately got scared as it brought back memories of losing Chippy. She was so weak, she had to be carried all the way to the vet. I left the office to accompany her because I didn't want 2010 to happen all over again. I promised her that I will stay by/on her side - that I would fight for her and do everything to bring her back home alive. And that I did. Even when the vet suggested over and over again that we have the option of putting Kero-chan to sleep to relieve her pain. I refused because I can see in her eyes that she's still fighting. She has always been a fighter - even as a pup. We gave her away like all of Chippy's pups (because we can't raise more than one dog in our humble condo unit) but she refused to be given away. When our neighbor (her new human) went to the bakery with her, she made a run for it and came back to our house. So we decided to keep her. I figured, if she's going to leave us now, I don't want it to be my choice but hers.

Still, the vet advised that we should start preparing because it seemed like Kero-chan would only last a couple days. I cried countless times, praying for a miracle. I was so scared to let Kero-chan go because losing her will be twice as painful. It's like losing Chippy all over again. But God gave me the miracle I was asking for. After a few days, Kero-chan was back on her feet, happily welcoming us home again. I knew it wouldn't last - that God was just giving us time to prepare ourselves to slowly let Kero-chan go. Three weeks passed and she remained in high spirits. She was back to fighting Coco-chan again. But a couple of days ago, her arthritis kicked in and she fell ill once again. We took turns nursing her, feeding her, giving her sponge baths, and spending late nights by her side if only we could relieve some of her pain by being there for her and petting her. We even said our final goodbyes a bit early just in case she doesn't make it through the night. But she did. Dogs (or pets in general) usually go into hiding when they fall ill or are nearing their deaths. Chippy did. All our previous cats did. But Kero-chan refused to leave her favorite spot right outside our bedroom door. She remained the clingy dog that she is until the very end.

No matter how many times I prepared myself for the worst, I still wasn't ready when it happened. I was getting ready for work when she started crying. Really loud. I was panicking because she was panicking but I rushed to her side to pet her, make her drink water, and give her a sponge bath. I was already telling her that it's okay to let go, that everything will be okay. She calmed down from time to time but I knew it was happening soon so I called mom and cried over the phone because I don't know what to do and I just can't make THAT decision for her. But after a few minutes, she stopped crying. We were all relieved to find out that she just pooped. False alarm but still, I've never been more scared in my life. I didn't want to go to work but Ate Elsa made me because Kero-chan already went back to sleep. So I did but not without saying good night to her (like I always do before she falls asleep), and not without reminding them to just keep petting her in case she starts crying again. After an hour, I received the devastating news. I tried to fight back my tears because I need to drive home but I just couldn't. When I came home, Kero-chan looked the same way she did when I left her - sleeping. But this time, she was sleeping for good.

Mom and Nee-chan came home from work too. We all gathered to say our final goodbyes for Kero-chan and buried her near our house because that's what she would've wanted. My heart is still aching but I'm glad we never gave up on her. As weird as it is for me to say this, love is indeed watching someone die. It was painful to see her in pain but we were there for her as she has always been for us. She left us two days shy from my birthday. And despite all the tears, I know she gave me the best birthday gift she can - the peace of mind that she's now in a much better place, free from any kind of pain. A place where she can sleep all she wants, and eat all the Dentastix she wants. A place where she can be together with her mum, Chippy, once again.

Thirteen years (or 77 in doggy years) might seem too short but for a sweet puppy like Kero-chan, that's more than enough time for her to bring happiness and cheer to our home. As they say, dogs are not meant to live for as long as we do. They come into our lives when we need them, and leave us when we need to start a new chapter. So good night, Kero-chan! See you in the resurrection morning. :)

23 April 2014

Japan 2014: Counting Stars

Today's the day! Right after checking-in at City Hotel Lonestar, the front desk staff handed me the coveted package I've been waiting for since February - my Stars on Ice Japan tickets! It wasn't easy for a non-Japanese speaker like me to get them and I have this post to prove it. But nothing's impossible for a determined fangirl. Haha So yay, I will finally get to see my Romeo on Ice in a few hours!! Cue: “'Cause I~I'm seeing youuuuu ohhhhh~” to the tune of Des'ree's Kissing You (R+J 1.0) lol #kalandiansajapan
Dream come true!
After a quick lunch at Mos Burger, Nee-chan and I walked all the way to Yoyogi First Gymnasium. Sure, the venue was pretty close but the entrance was all the way across from where we were. Still, it was quite easy to spot since there were a lot of people making their way over there. As in exodus levels! The gym's capacity is 13k+ and it looked like a sold out show. Before anything else, I searched for the souvenir program booth. All signs were in Japanese except for one which had BACK NUMBER (yes, in caps!) written on it. Nee-chan and I wondered what it was but the Yuzu fangirl in me thought, “Uy that's the band Yuzu was listening to before his FS program in Sochi. Are they selling albums here?” only to find out that BACK NUMBER = back issues. Haha Assumera kasi!
My Stars on Ice goodies
After getting a copy of the souvenir program (¥2,000!!!), we went along with the crowd to the entrance. There were no clear queues so I just let the people around me guide me through the doors which was surprisingly chaotic and organized at the same time. Chaotic because there were just too many people around you and yet organized in a way because there was absolutely no pushing. Everyone had their personal spaces all to themselves. Weird, I know, but it works. As we entered the doors, they handed us glow sticks which we were instructed to use during the finale of the first act. The amount of people got even more overwhelming once we were inside the gymnasium - it felt like standing in the middle of Shibuya Crossing during rush hour. Despite that, we were able to spot a Free WiFi sign on a vendo machine so we decided to queue up as well to get the code or something. But as I looked around the venue, I saw the familiar Ice Rink Sendai sign so I left Nee-chan in the queue and went to buy some merch. The key rings and skating gloves were already sold out (BOOOO!!) so I bought an Irene mobile accessory and some Yuzu* candies instead. The merch don't come cheap but it's for a good cause so that makes it worth it. #excuses Also, proud moment for me because I did it all by myself (and all in Japanese!) without my ever reliable translator. Hihi After returning to the vendo machine and getting our drinks, we found out that the wifi is indeed free (kulit ng lahi e haha) and there's no need to buy anything. Hahaha Badtrep!! Madami lang pala talagang nauuhaw. =))))

Look at all those pretty lights! And pretty boys? Haha
Photo credit: Maia Shibutani
The show started on time and as the lights dimmed, the crowd quieted down as we waited with anticipation. As the first skater stepped onto the ice, the sound of the blades touching the ice sent chills down my spine. I still can't believe how lucky I am to be here. The show opened with the cast skating to "What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World?" Watching the skaters perform live is a whole different experience from watching them on Youtube. They just draw you in and it's a magical feeling. My eyes can't help but search for that one person though. Hihi Spoiler alert: He wasn't part of the opening number. Haha #kalandiansajapan
Being among the Japanese fans is another experience in itself. I've never seen such a responsive crowd. No, they're not rowdy nor hysterical. They don't even sing along. But you can hear the ooh's, ahh's and gasps all throughout the show. They just stay seated while ceaselessly clapping along to the music. My hands were actually aching by trying to keep up with them. By the end of a performance, the applause becomes deafening. You'll even see some fans giving a standing ovation but they'll sit right back once the lights dim in preparation for the next skater. Throwing of flowers and gifts may be prohibited but the sound of applause totally makes up for it.
I can't remember the exact order of performances so here's the official list from TV Tokyo:
And here are the highlights for me:
  • Nobu was the first solo skater and it was my first time to see him skate. He was so serious! Totally different from his personality off-ice.
  • Seeing Akko on the ice made me teary-eyed. How lucky am I to see her skate after her retirement from competitive skating? I will surely miss her elegance on ice.
  • I love Javi but I was kind of disappointed that he didn't skate to "Aerobics Class" which is my favorite program of his. :( His SP was fantastic though and he looks really good in person.
  • The Shib Sibs' "Michael Jackson medley" was so fun to watch. I love their vlogs but I also love the way they skate.
  • Kana!!! I love how she skates super fast which is unusual for a girl. She fell during one of her jumps but her performance was nonetheless entertaining.
  • Tatsuki!!! I was surprised that he was the next skater because his silhouette was so slim. His jumps were beautiful and I held my breath as he took off for each one. Amazing skater.
  • Seeing Shizuka skate made me realize why Yuzu looked up to her so much. Her Ina Bauer is flawless! The best one I've seen so far. Yes, even better than Yuzu's. *goosies*
  • The all-boys "The Walker" number is hands down my favorite from the first act where we get to use our glow sticks as the words “みなさんもご参加下さい” (Everyone, please participate) flashed on the big screen. Define organized fangirling! The entire gymnasium was lit up like it was filled with fireflies. So pretty! Oh and the prod number included lifts and guess who was the lucky liftee?? JAVI!!! Haha It was too funny!
  • There was a 25-minute break which I initially thought was pretty long but it turns out, it was just right as the queue for the restroom was also excruciatingly long. MRT levels!! So we spent the entire break queuing up then running like mad to make it in time for the second act.
  • The second act opened with Shizuka introducing Team Japan. She gave a little speech about how we all have problems that we are going through and how we can conquer them all as long as we stand together as one. 
  • Then Team Japan came out to skate to Fukuyama Masaharu's latest single "Kazoku ni Naroyo" (Let's Become a Family). If it's not obvious enough, I love Team Japan! Their rapport truly shines through which made the performance really moving. I especially love how Yuzu stood in front of our section most of the time. Hihi Meant to be! 
  • Jeffrey's rendition of OneRepublic's "Counting Stars" was really fun and I couldn't help but sing along. His energy on the ice is really something. I can totally picture him skating to "Parisienne Walkways" which he choreographed for Yuzu.
  • I'm not used to hearing "Romeo and Juliet"** without seeing Yuzu on the ice. But since it was being performed by Qing Pang and Jian Tong (Sochi Pair Bronze Medalists) it only made sense for a pair to use it for skate music. I've liked them ever since I saw them skate to "I Dreamed a Dream" in the Sochi Gala. I found myself standing by the end of their performance. So amazing!
  • Surprisingly, I really liked PChan's program. The way he utilizes his entire body when he skates is truly exceptional. No wonder he's a favorite even among his fellow skaters. I also felt that his choice of music was on point with what he's currently going through as a skater.
  • MAO-CHAN!!! It was amazing to see her skate in person. Without any pressure to win, her confidence was at an all-time high and you can really tell how much she enjoys skating which resulted to a flawless performance.
  • HANYU YUZURU-SENSHU!!! Aaa the moment I've been waiting for is finally here! Tatsuki introduced him as the gold medalist who loves Pooh-san and who is, of course, a genius skater. Yuzu skated to "Hana ni Nare" and surprisingly, I didn't cry…a lot! Haha As usual, Yuzu sang along (I did too) and maybe he got caught in the moment (yet again) because he failed to land his opening quad. :( Seeing him fall in person was even more heartbreaking but knowing Yuzu, he recovered quickly and skated the rest of his program flawlessly. Ah his axel is just perfect~! And the Ina Bauer? Dramatic as ever. A dream come true indeed! The only thing missing is Sashida Fumiya himself.
The cast skated to "Don't Stop Believin'" to close the show and it was wonderful. During the encore, I witnessed a Yuzu x Javi moment as Javi brushed Yuzu's head when he came up to his side. I nearly died from too much kilig. 

Lastly, the cast skated around the rink to greet fans and on the last lap, Yuzu stayed behind to show off/try and land his quad loop…which he failed to do so. Hahaha The crowd gasped as he struggled to tuck his feet in which resulted to him just jumping in the air with his legs spread out. Haha The crowd laughed along with him as he realized his mistake which was just too cute!!! *u* Not to be discouraged though, he skated one more lap in preparation for another attempt. This time, he was able to take off with his legs tucked in but failed to land it. Seeing him fall on the ice again (and closer this time) was even more heartbreaking than the first time. </3 I hope he masters his quads soon in time for the next season.

The cast bowed once more as they thanked the crowd and left everyone wanting more. We left the stadium with exclamations of “Subarashi~!” (How wonderful~!) all around us. And indeed, it was a wonderful experience. I promised myself that I would do everything I can to be able to watch Worlds 2015 in Beijing. I just can't wait to see Yuzu skate again! <3

*Yuzu = lemon
**And now I can't stop listening to Josh Groban's Un Giorno Per Noi. Sooooooo good!!! :(((((

Traveling party: Daddy, Karly, Nee-chan (organizer), and Sera
Travel date: April 13, 2013 [Day 5]