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Goalseek, Part 2

Late in June I started reading Steve Kamb’s articles and was easily amazed by how much he has “leveled up his life,” not only by achieving his fitness goals, but by embarking on an “epic quest of awesome" that put him in a journey around the world, made him start his own company, and allowed him to live like James Bond in Monaco (among many other legendary achievements). I then said to myself: "Hey, I’ve got goals, too! In fact, I wrote about them here.” Excited, I went back to check my targets, and it dawned on me (painfully, slowly) that the goals were good, but vague; some goals were too shallow to count (“Grow my hair”? Really?); and in the months since I made them, I have made little progress.

The realization: while I may not be reaching for Steve’s awe-inspiring dreams, I have to bring focus back into my goals, make them measurable in some way, and most important, DO SOMETHING ABOUT THEM. So early this week, I put forth a series of actions that allowed me to reach my goals here in Bangkok.

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English and the Thais

Most Thais speak little to no English. It will be difficult to convey your message across in almost every circumstance. This is true for service personnel, whether they’re working in a local restaurant that has no English menus, or working in a high-end, international mall like Siam Paragon. This is also true for white-collar employees, even if they’re hired by a multinational company. Consider yourself lucky if you find someone who can understand you the way you want to be understood. Otherwise, you’ll see either one of the following: (1) annoyed looks with an expression that says “What?”; (2) panicked-stricken stares followed by frantic signalling to someone else in the vicinity; or most likely, (3) a shy smile before attempting to answer you or asking for help.

That said, it’s their country, not yours.

Prepare yourself for this particular cultural barrier, and then deal with it. They have no obligation to speak English. They’ve been around long enough to succeed as a nation, so there is no real imperative to change. Besides, isn’t this kind of language gap wider in Japan? And look where that nation is now.

In other words, don’t be a diva. Don’t scold the waitress just because she got your order wrong, and then act all shocked that she couldn’t speak in English and how dare she. Don’t make a scene while in a public place just so you could embarrass her. We’re actually more embarrassed for you. While most foreigners are pleasant, there are a few I’ve witnessed that made me want to hurl my fork across the room in the hopes that it would hit the offensive person. Entitlement isn’t pretty.

Be patient. If you notice there’s a question mark hovering over the person you’re talking to, rephrase your statement. Speak slowly. Cut your statements in chunks. Use simple words. And most important, smile. Keep them at ease.

Thailand is a beautiful country. Open your mind.



Love isn’t meant to be hidden away and life is too short for shame.
Something Like Summer, Jay Bell




Tumblr finally has instant chat! You won’t believe how cool it is! Add Babblr to your dashboard here: (you must be using Google Chrome)

ahh cuhh! 







Tumblr finally has instant chat! You won’t believe how cool it is! Add Babblr to your dashboard here: (you must be using Google Chrome)

ahh cuhh! 





Overheard, 15 June 2013. "I'm not ready."

:( I'm sorry B :( I answered you before. I'm not ready.
But if you become ready, will you look for me?
I think it's fair for both of us if I say I will know the answer to that when I become ready, B.
:( Okay, A.
I'll be fine. recover lang pag may time. :) See you when I see you. Thanks for everything. :)
I'm still your friend. :) Kailangan ko lang ng time to wrap my head around the fact that I shouldn't expect anything more. :)
OK. I'm sorry, B.

A Story of Triumph

My Fellowship speech, delivered to the members of the Actuarial Society of the Philippines last June 14, 2013:

Good afternoon, everyone.

Last March, my fellow new Fellow Taks mentioned that we’ll be giving our speeches separately because we agreed not to share the limelight. It’s a good deal, I think. He got the limelight… and I got SMX Aura. (Peace, Taks!)

The exams started back when I was still a college senior in the Ateneo. I remember this vividly because it was the first time that I chose not to go home for sem break. As some of you may know, I’m from Davao (good choice for convention location, by the way, nindot kayo sa Dabaw), and it’s a big deal for me then to go back home during breaks because it’s the only time I get to see and be with my family. But for that particular sem break, I chose to stay because I had to study for Course 1 (for the younger ones, that’s what we called Course P then). That was the first sacrifice I had to make.

Little did I know that there would be more. Little did I foresee how much of an impact exam-taking would have on all aspects of my life.

On the other hand (going back to that first time), I remember the excitement I felt during those long hours of studying in McDonald’s and gulping cups and cups of coffee. (Yes, geek.) I remember feeling that I was about to embark on something grand, something awesome, something great. This was the future we’re talking about here, and I knew then that I was going to be in the actuarial field for the long haul.

Eight years and around ten exams later, I’m still here in the actuarial field, perhaps a little less naïve, perhaps a little more jaded, but still full of passion for this process, full of passion for this profession. What I felt the first time I took an exam is the same feeling every time—  a combination of nervousness, of excitement, of sacrifices, of realizing that there’s a purpose to this process, of knowing that there’s progress. I’ve learned a lot since that time. Now, if I had to go back in time eight years ago and give a single advice to that 20-year-old boy who stepped into Ayala FGU Center to take his very first exam, it would be this: Give yourself a break.

I mean this in two senses: Give your mind a break, and give your heart a break.

Give your mind a break. What do I mean? This can be as simple as taking 30 minutes off from your study schedule to eat, people watch, roam around the mall, play a single level of Candy Crush (maybe the dreaded Level 65 J)—just to prevent yourself from burning out. Or this could be as long as taking a day off or a few days off to travel abroad, extend your stay in Davao during the convention to explore the city’s beauty and splendor, attend a friend’s wedding or wedding reception, or maybe even attend your own wedding.

Exams are important, yes, but life need not be put on hold. Like what other Fellows have said before me, balance is everything. You can take exams several times, but your loved ones turn a certain age only once; your friend says “I do” hopefully also only once; and you’re really just young once. So work hard, study hard, but really—party party din pag may time.

Give your heart a break. 5, I believe, is the saddest number. Every time I see a 5 in my grade report, I feel a sharp pain in my heart, because a 5 means that you actually put in the effort in studying, but for some reason or another, just came a little short of the mark. And that sucks. In fact, I don’t think I passed an ASP exam without failing it first. But failures are part of exam-taking, it’s part of the learning process. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

But the more important point is this: Exams are important, yes, but it does not and should not define you as an actuary. If for some reason you keep on missing that mark, if for some reason you’re not able to take exams despite your best efforts, do not feel like your value is being diminished. Your value should be defined by how you rise above such failures, by the integrity and commitment you put into your work, by how much you uphold the ideals and goals of the profession, and by how much professionalism and positive energy you exude when dealing with your peers in the industry.

So basically what I’m saying with Give yourself a break” are two things: study-life balance, and a holistic appreciation of what it means to be an actuary.

This milestone in my actuarial career is as much the result of my determination to finish it as it is the combined support of my mentors in the Society, my family, and my friends. (Not to mention the study leaves they approved during those crucial times, and my colleagues’ efforts in manning the helm while I was away.) As such, it would be remiss of me not to thank these people who have allowed me to be where I am now.

First, I’d like to thank Sir Gerry, my professor in college, for fanning that initial spark of interest I had in the actuarial field. (Sir, I know this is 8 years late, but sorry for being an hour late in your class even though I just lived in the dorm. Inside the campus.) I’d also like to thank Ms Candy, for teaching me that you can be firm but flexible, fun but fierce, professional yet parental—all at the same time. Ms Jess, thank you for keeping an eye out on me while I had my short stint in PELAC. Charline, perhaps one of the youngest to attain ASP Fellowship in recent years, for showing me what academic mastery is all about. I’d also like to thank Ms Avic and Sir Rey for being stalwarts of stability during my formative years in Philam. Sir Don San Jose, thank you for teaching me to rise above dire circumstances and never feeling like a victim, and for making me realize that the best answer to a Yes-or-No question is, more often than not, a simple “Yes” or a simple “No”. And of course, I’d like to thank Jasper Cheng for the support he’s provided me for the past 3 years. He made me believe that, unlike the popular adage, good guys DO finish first and not last.

I’d also like to thank the two “kids” who I had the opportunity to work with, James and Joseph, for making me realize that there’s still a lot to be learned in becoming an effective manager.

I’d also like to thank my friends for celebrating with me in my ups and grieving with me in my downs—my college blockmates, especially Sam and Joey, who accompanied me in this actuarial journey for as long as they could; the original Philam “younglings” Chris, Joanne, Adam, Jose, and Paul; the wunderkids I worked with in AXA, Juvel, Rachelle, and Jericho; and the guys of the new generation I became close with in Manulife, Bea and Jodi. These people are not only close friends, but also examples of professionals I wish to emulate—they possess the work ethics, the initiative, the drive, the commitment, and the ability to get along with people they work with.

Finally, I’d like to thank my Philamlife family, my AXA family, and my Manulife families both here and in Bangkok for nurturing me. I have met several good people along the way, and looking forward to meet several more.

The exams may be over (at least for now), but as long as this profession is my passion, and my passion is my profession, there’s always something exciting to look forward to—something grand, something awesome, something great.

Thank you, and good afternoon.



I bought a Playstation 3 in the summer of 2011 because during that time, my roommate went to Macau and I was feeling sad and lonely and jealous. And one of the first games I bought was Uncharted 2, which, according to IGN, is one of the best PS3 games there is. Like ever. I was a bit doubtful at first because they also called Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion a masterpiece, and that game pretty much annoyed me. Like a lot. 

I started playing Uncharted 2. I was blown away.

I have bought several games since then, including, but not limited to the following: Red Dead Redemption, Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Little Big Planet, Skyrim, God of War, Mass Effect 2 and 3, and Dragon Age. But among all the games I bought, I only finished 2: Dragon Age was one, Uncharted 2 was the other.

Uncharted 3 came along, and then there were three.

So when I heard that Naughty Dog was coming up with a brand new game, I knew I was going to buy it no matter what. Unfortunately, The Last of Us’s release was moved farther and farther away, until it receded in my memory. 

Last night, I checked Flipboard, and lo and behold, The Last of Us reviews. June 14, 2013: release date. This is simply awesome. I’ll be back in the Philippines then, and damn the gods if I’m not bringing this gem back with me to Bangkok. 

Something tells me that my Playstation 3 is going to be played raw for the next few months.



Six Months In

Exactly one year ago, we received this work email from our boss: “Is there anyone in the Region who would be interested in a short-term, say 6-12 months, assignment to Thailand?”

Without any hesitation whatsoever, I replied in the affirmative. You only live once, right? (Finally used YOLO, yes!) And you never know when an opportunity like this will come up again. Six months later, I’d find myself seated in the pre-departure lounge, excitedly and anxiously waiting for a flight that would take me to this brand new phase in my life.

Time passes so quickly. Two days from now, I will have spent exactly six months in Bangkok. During that time I’ve paid homage to the Reclining Buddha and climbed the Temple of the Dawn, got crushed by the mob during the New Year countdown in CentralWorld, attacked by strangers wielding water guns during Songkran, scraped what little Thai I know to speak to a taxi driver in the hopes that he’d charge me the meter and not a fixed fare (it worked), hopped on one foot to cross the street in Saphan Taksin because my sandal straps collapsed into pieces, lost 8 lbs and began a quest to have a fitter body, ate (and continues to eat) a thousand pounds of lek yum and mami yum noodles for lunch but just for 1,000 baht a month, watched around 10 movies, entertained around 5 visitors, and successfully poached one egg.

Six months gone, six months left to go. But something tells me the adventure isn’t quite over yet. :)



13 Letters

So I haven’t done this for a few years now, but I figured this is a good time as any to do it again. Rules are the same:

  • Certain people may appear once, twice, or even thrice under different code names. Possibly.
  • You cannot ask me if you’re in the list. I won’t tell you. Probably.
  • I dug down deep to assess my feelings about these people, so this is as honest about things as I can become. Presumably.

[1] Dear Coqi,

While there may be days when I kinda feel you don’t care enough, you go on and do something or say something that reminds me how lucky I am that I have you in my life. You’re irreplaceable.

[2] Dear Nach,

I think we started on the wrong foot. I have always pegged you as someone I can be serious with, but perhaps urges got in the way first. There are still times when I glimpse you on Facebook and wonder how life would have been if I were with you.

[3] Dear Jade,

The new kid on the block. I’ve never been with someone who does the things you do. I wonder what difference your “activities” are going to make. :P

[4] Dear Gabi,

I’ve hidden your posts in Facebook because you really sometimes just annoy me. Half of the time, that is. The other half, I’m just annoyed at myself for being a jerk to you. I really, really shouldn’t have done the things I did. (Maybe it’s not half-half. There are times when I’m annoyed because you just look so goddam cute.)

[5] Dear Riku,

I’m disappointed. I have always had this underlying fear that what I’m envisioning to be a great relationship is just a figment of my imagination, a part of me hoping for that ideal. I think I must accept that what we have isn’t all that.

[6] Dear Sick,

You seem to have lost your spark or mojo or whatever it was that I found attractive about you. What happened? I have three theories: (1) the foreign country you’re staying in dulled your edge; or (2) you’re committed right now and cannot be bothered; or (3) you just don’t like me anymore.

[7] Dear Zann,

It’s wrong for me to think this about you, but I find you really cute and have quite the potential to become really hot. Like soon. But I’ll stop thinking about it now.

[8] Dear Kaus,

I don’t have feelings for you anymore, but I sure would still like to sleep with you. I think our situation is the opposite of what I had with [2] Nac. This shouldn’t have gone as far as it did, emotions-wise.

[9] Dear Xedo,

"We had the right love at the wrong time." I don’t know if that’s the most appropriate song for us. At this point, though, I don’t see myself getting back together with you. And it seems like the feeling’s mutual, given all the things you’ve done to disconnect yourself from me. I wish you all the best. No ill feelings at this side of the table.

[10] Dear Kuzi,

I like you. I really, really do. And this is the reason why I’m so affected by what you do. I hope you see this, too.

[11] Dear Line,

You look like someone who’s only in for the quick romp, and that’s how I treated you. Can’t say if that was the right decision to make, but anyway, the romp was good, if not the best. Visit me here! :P

[12] Dear Mete,

You are a slut! A kindhearted, intelligent, good-looking, financially stable slut.

 [13] Dear Jodh,

For your age, you’re really quite mature, and I’m happy that we’ve move past that flirting stage into something that I can consider true friendship. I don’t know if it’s just me, of course, this could be entirely one-sided, but I like talking to you and sharing with you stuff because you actually listen. And your advice is always appreciated.

Whew. Don’t think I can do this again, not this year. I’ve exhausted all my brutal honesty points. :P

The more I listen to this, the more I’m in love with it. I’m not one of them lambs, but I’m not a hater, either, so I can listen to this and appreciate it for the wonderful and catchy song that it is. Where did this Miguel guy come from? Awesome. Plus the guitar riffs are amazing. Reminds me of the time I listened to Britney’s “I’m a Slave 4 U” and got mesmerized by that hypnotic beat.

"I’m a Slave 4 U" is probably my most favorite Britney Spears song to date (and I’m a big Britney fan), so comparing that to this song is a big deal. :)

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