“The only way out of the mess is love, love, love.” – Sylvia Mayuga

On the first of January, 2020, I found myself behind the wheel of my dad’s car, driving my parents and myself to Manila from Baguio. The reason for this spur of the moment trip sounds like a hackneyed movie title—two wakes and a funeral. I had already intended to be in Manila on January 4, for the inurnment ceremony for my cousin’s husband, who had passed away in late November. On New Year’s Eve morning, my other cousin’s mother-in-law passed away after a long fight with cancer and a stroke. That same morning, writer and activist Sylvia Mayuga crossed the veil at the age of 76.

As I baked a pie for friends dropping by for dinner that last afternoon of 2019, my heart heavy with accumulated grief not just for Tita Sylvia, but for all the friends and family we lost in the last quarter of 2019 (not to mention the dear souls we’ve lost in the last few years), I decided to hitch a ride with my parents on New Year’s Day. As much as I wished to stay with my own family on the first day of the year, I felt I had to make the trip, the obvious reason being to give emotional support to friends and family. But I also felt the need to travel physically, for my outer body to cover the miles that my mind and spirit wished to traverse on the inner. The last few weeks of 2019 had collected my energies into a messy bundle, and I felt that I had to unravel them, somehow, like a tangled ball of yarn.

As I took a cursory glance at my Facebook feed on New Year’s Day, I spotted a writing prompt on Vianna Stibal’s Theta Healing page: “As the calendar turns to 2020, view this as a special chance to contemplate where you’ve been over the past 10 years and where you want to be 10 years from now. This is a special chance to write a beautiful story for yourself. Be grateful for the lessons of the past. However, know that the time is now. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, it will not dictate where you are going. Embrace the future with determination and trust in the Creator, remembering you are always connected.”

In 2009, I was 36 years old. I still had a 25-inch waistline, and my skin was as smooth as a baby’s bum. I had just published my first book, Dreaming of My Grandfather, the biography of my maternal grandfather Dr. Paulino J. Garcia. I was in the process of writing a second biography, and earning a living as a voice over artist and scriptwriter for documentaries. I had finally gotten the nerve to risk my parents’ disapproval (yet again, being the black sheep of the family), and moved in with Kidlat in a sweet little cottage (which we fondly called the hobbit house) in Teacher’s Village, and we were on the verge of deciding to take the plunge into marriage.

It is crazy to think about the last ten years, because it simultaneously feels like a blur of so many moments, and at the same time, it feels like it just happened yesterday. Kidlat and I tied the knot at Hill Station restaurant in Casa Vallejo on January 9, 2011 (happy 9th anniversary to us!). We moved to Baguio on October 15 that same year. A little over a year later, I was pregnant with Kalinaw, and beginning the research on my third book project, on the life of Virginia Oteyza De Guia, Kidlat’s grandmother and the only woman mayor Baguio has ever known. 2013-2014 was a struggle, for dealing with the attendant joys and anxieties of first-time parenthood were made more challenging by postpartum depression that lasted well over a year. Acupuncture treatment finally got rid of the depression and made me instantly pregnant with our second child, Amihan.

As I carried, birthed and nursed my babies over the years, Lula Gene’s biography went through a first draft, a second draft, a final draft, and a rewrite. Sometime in between the first and second drafts, Lula Gene passed away at the ripe old age of 98 on February 9, 2015. Now, the book is being laid out and hopefully will be in print by her death anniversary this year.

As I found my footing as a mother, I also struggled to birth a part of myself that had long clamored for existence but kept fearfully hidden. In 2013, four months after giving birth to my firstborn, I attended three Theta Healing foundational courses, beginning my foray into energy healing. I mostly healed just myself and immediate family because I was afraid of hurting others or doing the wrong thing. In 2018, I followed an inner nudge and attended a pranic healing course under Tina Lebron, and she gave me the tools and the confidence to grow in my energy healing work. In 2019, I hosted and took four Theta Healing courses under my best friend Mari Brias, immediately followed by a ten-day course in Neurolinguistic Programming with master NLP New Code trainer and longtime friend Carelle Mangaliag Herrera.

Since October 2019, I have become part of the wellness team at Pranalaya Wellness Hub, the four-year-old passion project of Gelie dela Peña that is an oasis of peace and healing in Baguio.

Growing in my knowledge and confidence in healing work, and being able to truly help people appreciate themselves and change their lives for the better, has given me so much joy and a surprising clarity. Surprising, because clarity does not feel like 20/20 vision. For me, clarity is the feeling that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing what I am doing. I am in the flow of the Universe, and I allow Universe to move through me. Rather than making an effort to make things happen, I move in what seems to be a much slower and relaxed pace, yet so much is accomplished in a more creative way than I could ever have imagined. Life indeed can be magical.

Yet, the last six years have also deposited its debris on Kidlat and I as a couple: fatigue from child-caring and running the household, mental and emotional stress, worrying about whether we could pay off debts and keep our family afloat, the needless, endless bickering of two panganays who insist on having the last word.These challenges had built a crust of resentment between us, and on the first day of the year, things came to a head. We were both unhappy. What to do?

And so on New Year’s Day 2020, I found myself in a car driving the last 80 kilometers of highway to Manila. The following morning, I sat alone in my room and looked into myself, to see the role I had played in creating this mess. And as I contemplated, I saw—beyond the fights of who is right or wrong, of the demands on my time and energy that sometimes left me clawing to defend what little energy I had left for myself, the rejections and the accusations, the disappointments and unmet expectations—the solution, the response that would melt it all away. The answer that came from deep within myself, was Love.

My entire life, I never understood that phrase, “Love is a decision, not a feeling.” I always felt the opposite. Of course, love is a feeling! How can you love when you don’t feel it? But as my spiritual eyes bore through that crust of anger, hurt and  resentment, I suddenly understood that I had a choice. On the one hand, I could choose to distance myself…yet as I turned that choice over in my mind, it felt like a cop-out response, inauthentic to the person I have become.

The other choice was to look at my Beloved with the eyes of love, and that resonated deep within me. It is an empowered choice that honors my inner knowing that Kidlat and I have a spiritual partnership.  Love is no longer just the purview of hormones and falling supine in thrall of the other (although remembering those years of falling certainly help strengthen the connection). To choose to love is knowing that how I see the other changes the other. In physics, this is known as the Observer Effect—the theory that the mere observation of a phenomenon inevitably changes that phenomenon.

On Babeth Lolarga’s Facebook page, she wrote that Sylvia Mayuga once said, “The only way out of the mess is love, love, love.” I remember how I first met Tita Sylvia, while I was on my first date with Kidlat, on the CCP parking lot after watching a Spanish dance performance. I remember how magical she felt at that first meeting, her eyes twinkling, her vibe mystical yet groovy. Now, I feel her smiling down at me, and I say to her and my beloved, “Yes, I choose to love.”