Laban lang, kapit lang.

It’s been another long while since I last updated this blog/website. Honestly, I really thought I’d be able to keep updating regularly this year, but after the 9th of May, everything just seemed so bleak for me and I barely had the energy to do anything. (And I know I’m not the only one, nor am I being dramatic.)

It’s the 21st of August now as I write this. Any Filipino who has lived as long as I have will know that on this day in 1983, former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino was assassinated as soon as he landed at the Manila International Airport (now called Ninoy Aquino International Airport, but I don’t know for how long). Any Filipino who has been in the workforce here in the Philippines would also be aware of this, because it’s been declared a special non-working holiday since 2004. Again, I’m not sure how long this will be in effect, considering the intentions of the current administration.

I guess it’s not a coincidence that I felt like posting something here today, or that I remembered what day it is. (Honestly, the days blur into each other so unceremoniously nowadays, it’s difficult to keep track.) Recalling the things Ninoy Aquino stood for in our history made me look back at the things I’ve done in the past few months, and if I’ve even done enough. The answer, clearly, is no. And no, I’m not just talking about marching down the streets and demanding good governance and justice. I’m talking about having the strength every day to work toward a goal and pushing through with it despite the odds.

Now, I’m not trying to preach here. And I’m not saying I already have that kind of strength. Because honestly? It’s kind of crippling just watching things unfold. But I’m also beginning to get tired of this feeling of dread and helplessness, and I know that if I don’t do anything about it, I will be stuck in this dark, depressing state for a long time. So here’s what I’m going to try to do:

I’m going to be grateful every day for the small things. Like the perfect cup of coffee, the shiny little object I bought from Shopee, or that feeling of kilig from that one KDrama I’m watching.

I’m going to start reading again. And writing again. And getting my ass out of the couch to exercise again.

I’m going to cherish the things that make me happy and let go of the things that don’t.

I’m going to revisit my goals for the year and start working my way toward them.

And finally…

I’m going to remain kind to myself if I don’t meet my goals in the amount of time I usually do.

Seem easy? I can only wish. I’ll try my best, so wish me luck! And if you’re working your way through a list like mine, I’m wishing you the best of luck too. We can do this, okay? The people and things we love are worth fighting for, so let’s do this. Laban lang. Kapit lang.

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#KiligCafe Chats: Book & Coffee Talk with Brij, Chi, and Jay

Last Saturday, Brij, Chi, Jay, and I did a livestream together on the #romanceclass channel. If you’ve been following our activities since the pandemic started, you’d know that we started doing livestreams like this to be able to still get together as a community despite being in community quarantine. We did that for two years, and it was just a refreshing, chaotic experience to be in the room with three other people during this stream!

Our theme for the night was brewing coffee is pretty much like brewing book ideas, and we had a lot of fun chatting about our experiences doing research for the books we wrote, how we handle manuscripts when the ideas are “underextracted” or “overextracted,” and of course, making and tasting coffee!

Watch the stream below:

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When coffee is life

I think I was in junior year in high school when I started drinking coffee—the instant, powdered ones (Nescafe + Coffeemate + brown sugar…you know it), not the fancy, overpriced ones (yet). That was the year when I juggled academics, rehearsing for a dance competition, and writing a play for the drama club, and 24 hours didn’t seem like they were enough.

Coffee has been part of my daily life since then that something feels off with my universe if I spend an entire day without it. There’s been a time I wasn’t allowed to touch coffee for a month because of GERD, but that’s another story. Fast forward to x years later, and this coffee lover is trying to learn the basics.

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Strong female leads? That’s my thing.

Do you know what I like about my favorite #romanceclass books? Apart from the fact that they have the swooniest (is that even a word) love interests, they also celebrate intelligent, beautiful, empowered women. From college students fighting for The Only Grant to musicians trying to find their voice to mothers juggling career, parenthood, and romance—we’ve seen it all, and not just in fiction! For every amazing fictional main character, there’s an amazing real-life woman living their best life, and I salute all of them today (Happy International Women’s Day!) and every day. You are all awesome.

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When food and kilig go hand-in-hand

*points up* I was one of the guests for #RomanceClass Podcast S5’s 1st episode featuring food and kilig! We had a lot of fun talking about the food we incorporated in our NomCom: Tropetastic Kindness Bundle 2 stories, and also managed to make ourselves (and the audience) hungry in the process, LOL.

If you have been reading a lot of #RomanceClass books, you’ll have noticed how much we love including food in our books. From the popular champorado in Summer Crush and Second Wave Summer to the scandalous biko in Alta: A High Society Romance Anthology, to the scrumptious mangoes in Mango Summer and the many, delicious meals the Aguas family had in If the Dress Fits, food is an inevitable part of our stories. I personally think it makes the characters and places more relatable, more vivid. It also adds an extra layer of interest for me, because I tend to want to try the dishes mentioned in the books (especially if I haven’t had them in a long time, or ever).

What’s a dish you’ve wanted to try or have tried because you’ve read about it in a book?

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Just add one year…

Let me start this post by saying: It’s my birthday on Monday, just in case you need a reason to have cake. I’ve finally reached the (physical) age where I have to watch my sugar intake, so I can’t really have any right now. It would be nice if you could think of me when you have cake, though. So, yeah. ^_^;

Celebrations have been weird since 2020. I’m not the type to hold or attend parties a lot, but I do miss celebrating milestones with friends and family without having to worry if someone could get sick because we’re all in one room together, talking and laughing and singing. Last year, I celebrated my birthday with a livestream where me and some #romanceclass friends played pictionary and had party food. It was a whole lot of chaos and fun.

This year, I didn’t have the motivation to plan anything. >_<;; It’s a little sad, but true. I am very grateful I’m still here, though, but maybe I’ll just add one year to my age on that day and proceed as usual. (I’m sure I’ll have something special for lunch with my family, but apart from that it’ll be just like any other day.)

I am, however, giving something away, because I’d like to spread a little cheer and kilig. And hope.

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It’s trucking tropetastic!

When Taal Volcano erupted in January of 2020, Ansela Corsino and Mina V. Esguerra called on us #romanceclass authors to contribute to a book bundle for charity. The result was a 19-book collection we called the #RomanceClass Taal Relief Bundle, from which we earned over $2,000 in sales. We donated all proceeds to RockEd Philippines, a volunteer group which helped bring food, clothing, and other supplies to the Taal victims.

Because the project was a success, we decided to do it again. A bunch of #romanceclass authors met up through Zoom and discussed putting together an anthology of new stories. We decided on a setting (a residential condominium named St. Tropez) and assigned tropes to authors via roulette, and The Tropetastic Kindness Bundle was born. Proceeds from that bundle were donated to three charities: Project Propel, Gantala Press, and RockEd Philippines.

This year, the Tropetastic Kindness Bundle is back with new short stories and a new milieu! Presenting NOMCOM: a fictional food park and the main setting of the 14 delicious short stories in this collection!

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Hey, classmates! Wanna read along?

In this edition of Things We’re Doing To Make Do During the Pandemic, I bring you #RomanceClass Readalong—where a bunch of us in the community get together to read #romanceclass books and have conversations about the books we’re reading during a livestream. (You know, just like in the Before Times when we can all sit around at a cafe and enjoy a book + each others’ company.) It’s not a new idea; we actually got it from other bookish people on YouTube, but this is the first time we’ve ever tried doing it, and we had a lot of fun!

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