Before I plunge full throttle into 2016, let me stop to look back at the past year. 2015 was a milestone year for me. I turned 40! As writer, I managed to interview many of the world’s best chefs: Daniel Humm, Andoni Luis Aduriz, Virgilio Martinez, Hajime Yoneda, Elena and Juan Mari Arzak, Vladimir Mukhin, Tetsuya… These are just a few of the talented chefs who kindly spent time to tell me their culinary stories. I also thoroughly enjoyed writing articles exploring food issues, feeding the researcher in me eager to find answers. Oh, the exhilaration of learning new things! But my spirit is happiest traveling.
Turning forty in Kyoto with my best friend was definitely a highlight. We both turned forty this year. But the trip was also a celebration of our 32-year friendship. She is a busy mom of two boys, on top of managing her family’s real estate business. I am a single woman and a free spirit, who you can’t really pin down in one city too long. While we have been lucky to find ourselves in a few cities together, we haven’t really traveled abroad together. We thought we already had such a tight bond, after seeing each other through the ups and downs of over three decades. But travel binds a friendship even deeper, especially after temple runs in sweltering Kyoto heat and baring it all in an Onsen.
I have always dreamt of traveling to Spain, to learn from a señora in her kitchen. This year I spent 28 glorious days traveling solo in Spain, from Madrid to San Sebastian, to Bilbao, to Barcelona, to Seville, to Granada and back to Madrid. There was no learning from a Señora in her kitchen. But Andoni Luis Aduriz kindly let me observe and learn from his kitchen at Mugaritz, ranked the 6th World’s Best Restaurant for the past 10 years. I stood like a fan girl at Gastronomika, learning from Spain’s culinary greats: Joan Roca, Juan Mari Arzak, Elena Arzak, Andoni Luis Aduriz, Albert Adria and even the best chefs from Hong Kong and Singapore. I was in awe of the Guggenheim, the Sagrada Familia, the Alhambra, the Seville Cathedral, the Barcelona cathedral, the artistry of Picasso, … I can go on and on about Spain, the food, the art, the churches and so much more. It was definitely a trip of a lifetime. And it was a journey I had to take on my own. But I was never lonely. I enjoyed my own company and the strangers I met a long the way. It didn’t matter how flawed my Spanish language skills were. I still made friends in trains, in buses, in museums, in palaces, in churches, in streets, in Tapas bars and restaurants. I explored Granada with a lovely Argentinean couple I met at 9 am, walking, drinking wine, eating, talking and taking photos until we parted at 5pm. It didn’t matter that I didn’t speak Spanish well or that they barely spoke English. We somehow managed to communicate, connect, and enjoy each other’s company. How can I forget the Michelin starred meals I had in San Sebastian at Mugaritz and in Arzak. The best part was returning home enriched, refreshed, and excited about life. My friends told me I looked younger and fresh when I returned from Spain. Oh, here’s an added bonus: I indulged in paella, bread, tapas, and churros and only gained one pound!
While these great big moments left me in awe, my heart is full of gratitude for simpler subtle moments: the kindness of a top creative director and former colleague to volunteer to make me a lovely logo, a memorable night with two old friends in Singapore laughing our heads silly at Burnt Ends, a long catch up with an old friend over coffee, how sweating and giggling with a dear friend at Zumba classes never gets old, ensaymada dates with a friend to binge eat carbs and release whatever stresses us out, sharing a new restaurant with my parents, helping a community of fisherfolk with school supplies with the help of my Facebook friends, having a friend come feed you dinner and make sure you are ok after your wallet is stolen in the mall, friends helping you get over the trauma of a pickpocket, friends in Hong Kong sharing all their favorite restaurants when you come visit, friends who share their spare bed when you visit, a 2-minute reunion in the airport with a friend who has become a sister of sorts, a road trip with friends, the satisfaction of my editor emailing “Good Job” minutes after I submit an article I worked hard on, enjoying exercising and working out, the clarity of knowing where I want to take my life next, savoring the beauty of a Manila sunset with my parents and my sister, a friend who not only says “I love you no matter what” but also means it with her actions, living with less things, coming to the realization that ‘I like me’, losing weight, feeling great in my body, and liking the reflection on the mirror looking back at me.
2015 was not at all perfect. But reflecting on the past year got me thinking. “Do you seek grander experiences, more majestic architecture, more Michelin starred restaurants to taste, more amazing chefs to interview, more places to travel to?” Not necessarily! I’ve come to realize that life gives you what you need at the perfect moment you need it. Life strategically maneuvers encounters with friends you ache for, it provides opportunities to places you long for, and it gifts you with decadent meals you can only dream of. The only thing life asks is that you become OPEN to experience it. In 2015, I started to live out my mantra, “To collect more experiences, not things.” Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote framed in my living room reminds me this every single day: “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” So here we go, 2016, I am ready for you, open to what you may bring.
Abundantly bless me once more with more beautiful memories, with more love, and with courage and more openness to the adventure every day brings. Thank you dear friends for the wonderful memories we created in 2015. I’m wishing you all a blessed 2016 and with hearts wide open to give and receive. Hugs!
Watch a quick 15 second video of my 2015 highlights, Click here:
4 Jan 2016: 6:35pm