What Lasts in Last Night

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I had the perfect mood to think about this review while nakasabit sa jeep, feeling the polluted air against my cheeks, and staring at the moon on my way home #LastNight

Because I had read some reviews before actually watching the film, I have already set questions and expectations for myself. The reviews were mixed, and I understand why there were a couple of not so pleasant ones. It’s not a movie that everybody will like.

In fact, it’s hard to file the Bb. Joyce Bernal film into a certain genre. Is it a romance? A romcom? A dark romcom? A horror film? Nevermind. What’s sure is that it’s nothing like a film you see all the time from Star Cinema, props partly go to the screenplay by Bela Padilla.

Going back to my “questions”, it didn’t take half an hour to find my answer, because there were just too many clues given early in the film. The symbolism were a little too obvious at least for me, or maybe because I had a preset bias early on. Also, the end half gave out so much. It chose to tell rather than show. Somehow the mystery that the film tried to build got lost.

But I digress.

The film tackles suicide. I understand how some movie watchers called it out for “trivializing” and “simplifying” an otherwise very complex condition. My guess is that the story struggled to decide what it wanted, and maybe it settled to showing an unusual ‘love story’, first and foremost.

In that case, the film delivered. Toni and Piolo played roles that fit them. I have to say Toni’s final scenes showcased a different side to her, vulnerable and almost real.

All things in, Last Night was a new experience. More than the flaws, what matters is how it makes you feel leaving the cinema. And I did take away some feelings, which is something because otherwise I’m dead inside. Sabeh?

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Out of a 100: 100 Tula Para Kay Stella

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We walked into a quite packed cinema to watch the LFS; we were 10 minutes early, and had to be seated at the front because there were barely any other nice seats. It was surprising to see a lot of students among the crowd, considering this wasn’t a film featuring a popular love team with an established fan base. And this was not a rom-com either.

So the film opened with JC Santos’ Fidel who has this speech defect (stuttering), a college freshman, 17! I thought it was hard to believe he was 17 but anyways. The opening sequences already right away established a throwback feel – mid2000s and I bet a lot of the young watchers couldn’t get the allusions. I felt old at that point.

You know it’s a Jason Paul Laxamana work when it’s set in Pampanga, but there was little attempt to make it a “local film”. In fact, it could have been set anywhere else. The movie would still work.

Okay so I won’t attempt to make this ‘review’ technical because I know nothing on those aspects anyway. Although I can say the attention to detail to subtly establish the milieu was impressive. In terms of the look, the film didn’t offer something groundbreaking (not that it needs to), but I think it works in a way that you know this was a rather simple, laid-back storytelling to make you feel feels rather that a self-proclaimed cinematic masterpiece to set technical standards. Hanash.

Anyways, JC Santos and Bela Padilla were charming, effective, and affecting. Perfect casting. JC is so awkward as Fidel. Bela, although she does not really fit the mold as a wannabe rockstar, has infused her usual charisma into Stella’s character. Ana Abad Santos delivered, as expected, as a mentor to JC’s Fidel. (However, her character’s backstory felt out of place IMHO even when it was supposed to make sense in the end). Dennis Padilla was surprisingly pleasant to watch as a doting father to Fidel. All the other support characters didn’t really leave so much to me. Oh Prince Stefan was there to, as himself basically.

You can expect many singing moments that I was almost convinced it was a musical. There are a lot of allusions to the music scene of the 2000s and to a point, the film has used this as a punchline (AKA cringe-worthy cowboys). And quintessential artist JC sings in here, too. So he’s smart, a poet, and can sing. And a great person. So why Stella?

Now the story. I won’t spoil so no worries. Very generally speaking, 100 Tula Para Kay Stella is about chances missed, choices made, and consequences faced. It’s ultimately about love kept, given, unrequited – in the words of Fidel, too much love can make your world crumble to pieces. And yuck it’s corny.

Well, I don’t feel worthy to pass criticism but I wish the film didn’t have to expose the story that much, or left more unanswered questions so we could talk it out later.

But then again, Fidel needed some closure so he could move forward, and so did we.

What I Saw in Kita Kita

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This will be my very first attempt at film review in a blog. And I am sorry if this will be nothing like one, but let me proceed.

As a moviegoer, I look for three things in a film: Story; Visuals; Insight. Kita Kita, directed by Sigrid Andrea Bernardo and starring the unlikely pair #AlEmpoy, that is, Alessandra de Rossi and Empoy Marquez, delivered in these three aspects.

Story. This was a rom-com but not quite. Or maybe because we are so used to the formula we get to be served almost every month that offerings like Kita Kita which break the mold become a breath of fresh air.

Without having to reveal so much (besides my keyboard would not sufficiently do so), the film opens with Lea, a tourist guide based in Japan whose two-year relationship with a Japanese guy named Nobu begins to crash. An incident leading to the temporary loss of her eyesight (as the title suggests) leads her to meeting Tonyo, who makes her see things differently (pun intended).

Quite typical for a storyline? Right, but it is the smallish albeit essential details that really deliver the package, and maybe triggers the tears. It was an experience – bicycling up a hill, reaching the apex, and then finally slipping downhill.

Visuals. Shot entirely in Japan, particularly in Sapporo, the film capitalizes on its setting to create not only stunning frames but (should also) evoke moods for the scenes – whimsical, fresh, and panoramic that you’re almost there. There is a certain feel of lightness and simplicity in the photography.

And did I mention Empoy and Alessandra looked surprisingly pleasant together?

Insight. It doesn’t always end up happy in life, but what we leave behind in people matters and lasts. That would probably be the most non-romantic takeaway one could get leaving the cinema.

Aside from the fact that you’d probably not look at paper cranes, banana mascots, and cabbages the same way again.

#LostInIlocos | Old City

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”- Martin Buber

(Part 3 of 3) Day 3. Vigan City Where the Old meets the New

We woke up already feeling consumed by the heat and weary of the last two days, but this was our most awaited part of the tour so no one’s complaining! And it started really full of spice as we dropped by a souvenir buying area where the best of Ilocos spices are sold – locally produced suka, basi, onions, and garlic, among others.

We met our new tour guide (the one we had during the first two days was a newbie so you probably know what I mean) who gave us supplemental info on the places we visited. And it changed so much about how we appreciated the places. Where were you “Manang” when we needed you? Also, she shared a few Ilocano phrases and words, and even tips on how to get tawad when we buy souvenirs.

And then we head to Ilocos Sur! Two hours from Laoag, we reached Baluarte, which I already had an idea about following the Miss Universe Pageant held in the Philippines early this year. This mini zoo was one of the spots visited by the candidates during their tour, and it’s not surprising because the zoo is owned by no less than Former Ilocos Sur governor and businessman Chavit Singson who also was a major sponsor of the pageant hosting. Talk about a rich man.

The free-admission zoo (applause) features some wild birds and land animals although the main attraction is Chavit’s golden mansion! But besides that, there is a safari museum where preserved animals are on display; but not just any wild animals but those that the main man has hunted himself, and he got proof!

And then we explored the rest of Vigan City! St Paul’s Cathedral is huge! And the details of the interior are gorgeous. There are gold trimmings in the ceiling and the altar’s baroque scrolls and curves. There is opulence in almost everything.

And then a few meters away, there’s Calle Crisologo! This was truly the highlight and most-awaited part of the trip. And did I mention it was also my birthday that day? The City of Vigan was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for preserving its Spanish Period architecture, while seamlessly integrating commercial and modern spaces. And this is pretty evident in Calle Crisologo no less. I mean, the photos speak for themselves.

Vigan is also a one-stop shop for all sorts of souvenirs you can think of – food, shirts, bags, wallets, antique items, and thousands of key chains to choose from and more! Don’t forget to try the sorbetes and the mangga with alamang!

If this was not enough, we also enjoyed a caleza ride strolling around Vigan for an hour, with drop-offs at certain important landmarks. One of which is the Bantay Watch Tower, which you can climb up to the very top. The tower, just like the other churches we have reached so far in Ilocos, is detached from the main church (St Augustine of Hippo Parish Church). Another peculiarity of this belfry is that you need to ascent a brick stairway to reach the top, or maybe just stay at the stairs and strut your best stuff like a supermodel would.

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Celebrating my 26th in the heritage city of Vigan has been an item I can now tick off the bucket list and then it’s more than that! The entire three-day Ilocandia tour, for a fact, has been a phenomenal experience thanks to the loads of fun, food, fanfare, and friendship shared with lovely people. Sunburn aside, we have so much takeaway from this quick trip – quirky souvenirs, tons of photos, funny anecdotes that we’d rather keep to ourselves for the meantime, and best of all, the picture of a thousand warmest smiles the people of Ilocos have shown that made us feel most welcome rather than #LostInIlocos.

 

#LostInIlocos | Wind, Warmth, Water

“Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.”- Francis Bacon

(Part 2 of 3) DAY 2. Pagudpud Strolling

Mornings at Ilocos are always warm. Considering how the previous day went, it was already expected that another grueling second day will be up for us under the blazing sun. And we can’t complain.

First item on the itinerary is Cape Bojeador Lighthouse which is also known as Burgos Lighthouse named after the town where it is located. Built during the Spanish era, the structure may be reached through a quick tricycle ride for 50 pesos (max of three people) upwards and another ride down to the highway. Be prepared to take beautiful snaps of the scenic surroundings – the lake and greenery from the tower base. And to this date, the lighthouse still functions.

The Kapurpurawan Rock Formation in Bangui is difficult to reach. You would need a 100-peso horse ride to the site itself, although you can use a trail for walking. Well, we sadly did not risk reaching the rock formation as it was severely scorching, so we just bought some souvenirs at the shops by the seaside nearby and took photos of the Bangui Windmills at the same location.

We had lunch at Pagudpud, where one of the eateries served, wait for it, BAGNET! Okay, to be honest, bagnet is simply our lechon kawali but according to locals, the secret to their famed dish is in the way it is cooked. Apparently, they deep-fry the large pork parts three times to achieve the best balance of tender and crunch. Well, it did not disappoint. Perfect paired with the Ilocano Pinakbet which does not have kalabasa.

After our quick lunch, we also had time to take photos of and with the Windmills in Pagudpud. Ilocos Norte must really be bent on harnessing green energy through their initiatives because aside from their windmills in Burgos, Bangui, and Pagudpud, they also started a solar power plant to help supply and sustain their energy needs. Go green!

The Patapat Viaduct is interesting as it connects Ilocos Norte to the Cagayan Valley Region. More than the scenic view of the Pacific, tourists also enjoy taking risky photos literally ‘on the edge’ although not advised.

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Finally, to wrap up Day 2 we visited the Blue Lagoon where the prominent Hannah’s Resort and Convention Center is located. The beach was literally peppered with tourists when we came, coincidentally since it was both Holy Week and Summer Vacation season. Aside from swimming, other activities that could be tried are zipline (which they say one of the longest there is in the world) and aquatic rides offered by Hannah’s.

I was hoping I could get me some vitamin sea but the beach was overpopulated and I don’t think it was the time of the year when the ocean was prettiest. But then, some real nice strawberry ice scramble (slurpee meets shake) and the view of the ocean was enough to cap off Day 2.

 

#LostInIlocos | City of Sunshine

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” -Marcel Proust

(Part 1 of 3) DAY 1. Laoag City. The City of Sunshine.

The first thing we feasted on in Ilocos was their famed empanada – a stuffed bread commonly sold on the sidewalks. What makes the Ilocano empanada special is the use of unripe grated papaya instead of the usual potatoes; they also fill the flour bun with bean sprouts, a whole egg, and of course, the Ilocano longganisa. Best of all, it can be cooked while you wait which means you’ll enjoy it crisp and warm.

And that was the warm welcome we received before officially starting our three-day tour of Ilocandia. Our first destination was Paoay Church (or the St. Augustine Church) in Ilocos Norte famous for its expansive courtyard and delicate baroque architecture, which earned it a UNESCO World Heritage Site accolade. Interestingly, the bell tower is separate from the main church.

According to our second tour guide (who we’ll meet on the third day), there are a number of reasons why the bell towers are separate from the main church. First, the towers were built way before the church. Second, detaching the bell tower is also a form of protection against earthquake damage. Thirdly, the bell towers were originally used not as bell towers per se, but as observational posts of the revolutionaries against the Spaniards. History baby!

St. William’s Cathedral is located right at the heart of Laoag City. Similar to Paoay Church, its bell tower, famously known as the Sinking Bell Tower, is quite far from the main church, this time by around 100 meters. According to folks, the tower sinks because its main foundation is soft sand.

Upon entrance to the Ferdinand Marcos Presidential Center also in Laoag City, you are greeted by a video presentation on Marcos’ reign and a display of some of his portraits, among other important memorabilia. The two-storey center also features some of Imelda Marcos’ custom ternos on display. Trivia: Marcos courted Imelda for only 11 days, according to one of the exhibits!

The Malacañang of the North boasts a scenic view of the Paoay Lake. According to belief, the lake was once a thriving village whose inhabitants were extremely materialistic. A curse came to drown the area in water after the people denied a mystic stranger something to drink or feed on. The lake is supposedly shaped like a palm with five fingers.

Back to the Malacañang building, it is home to old furniture used by the Presidential family during Marcos’ reign. The two-story house has been preserved to showcase the best local architecture and cutlery Ilocos has to offer. It’s an understatement to say antique lovers and collectors would surely have a time of their life going around Ilocos.

Sta. Monica Church in Sarrat is known to be the largest church in Ilocos Norte. Its long aisle makes it ideal for weddings, reason why it has also been a choice location for movies and TV shows. Another attraction is the ruins (Casa del Palacio Real) to the right of the church. The red brick façade and interior make the spot perfect for prenup shoots and even themed wedding receptions.

La Paz Sand Dunes, now called Laoag Sand Dunes was our last destination for the first day of tour. Under the dessert-like heat, there are activities one could try such as the 4×4 ride or sand surfing. But the heat is unbearable even when just taking photos or strolling. The struggle is real.

NIGHT STROLL AT LAOAG CITY. This was not part of the tour but since we headed to our accommodation early, we decided to explore the city by ourselves during the night. And it was still scorching even when the sun was down. There is no scarcity in lights and fountains – that was my first impression. And as someone who loves me some art, the umbrella street art installation which copied the one in Portugal was a sight to behold. Truly Instagram-worthy! We also got to go nearer to the Sinking Bell Tower before grabbing some fries at McDonalds because why not?

 

26 Reasons Why

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After turning 26 two weeks ago, I sighed with relief as I ‘officially’ bade goodbye to what they call the quarter life crisis – although I know it does not work that way. But well, turning a leaf marks the beginning not only of another year but a new phase in the so-called adulthood stage. Being at this point now is like sailing a boat amid the wideness of the ocean with almost zero nautical knowledge. It would help if a powerful demigod would come to help and rescue a whole village. (Sorry I love Moana to death).

But I digress.

This post, as the title connotes, is inspired by the popular novel-turned-TV series 13 Reasons Why, which (spoiler alert) tells the story of a teenage girl who explains the ’13 reasons why’ she killed herself through a set or recorded tapes sent to the people that caused them. But I haven’t watched the series yet.

Fret not. I’m not suicidal. In fact, I am writing this post with the exact opposite idea – list the 26 reasons why life is awesome.

  1. How better can you start than your morning coffee? It’s literally the first thing you look forward to every waking day. It awakens your body and soul, keeps you calm and invigorated. When there’s coffee, what can go wrong?
  2. And then you wake up to your weird, loud, disorganized family. Need there be more said?
  3. Every day, you face the world with a game face on. And you need to dress up like you need to slay the red carpet, or stride the catwalk, or simply walk the streets. Mama Tyra said, ‘Every hallway is a runway’.
  4. Put on your earphones, turn up the volume, and nod your head to the rhythm. You gotta be friends with Lady Gaga.
  5. Cats!
  6. And then when there’s time, draw. Find inspiration in things – the weirdest, smallest, and unlikeliest. There is inspiration everywhere, if only you open your eyes well enough…
  7. …like strolling on Instagram where the prettiest things are! It’s a virtual world of wonder and art and inspiration – an escape pretty much. Can be unreal and surreal. But who doesn’t want some fantasy?
  8. Things aren’t always rosy, but flowers can always make your day. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The earth laughs in flowers.” They sure do; I can hear them.
  9. When anything goes wrong, Seafood! Oh stop.
  10. And some good old pasta, rice noodles, spaghetti, lasagna, carbs! I mean who doesn’t drool over pasta? Come one, pasta is love!
  11. As much as you love the colors of the trees.
  12. Peace.
  13. The sun is blazing in April, and you are #Kayumanggiproud
  14. And then you can always unleash your inner Thalassophile. When in doubt, go to the beach and get your much needed vitamin sea. Sometimes all you need is a salt, sun, sand, serenity.
  15. Travel as much as you can. Collect memories, not things.
  16. Who doesn’t love just staring at the stars and the Milky Way?
  17. And who doesn’t love to camp out, beside a bonfire on a summer night?
  18. And who doesn’t want the smell of earth after the rain? When all is fresh, when the thirst of everything is quenched.
  19. Nature knows how to amaze you, cleanse you, feed and nourish your soul.
  20. Poetry does the same, pretty much. It also immortalizes memories, feelings, thoughts, dreams.
  21. Naps. Sleep. Heaven is for real.
  22. The feel of the clean air when you’re on your way home, looking outside the bus window.
  23. And then your friends who you love to share your lamest stories with, just laugh until it’s the wee hours, hug and kiss.
  24. Share love to the world. Every stranger’s smile is a gift, receive it and say thanks through your own smile. Pass it forward.
  25. Faith.
  26. Oh, sunsets remind us that even endings can be beautiful.

And the list goes on. You can never run out of reasons why life is worth living. – it is!

I used to ponder profoundly on the essence of my existence, but now I just live each day as it passes. I no longer desire to unearth the nebulous purpose of life because as it unfolds, there grows a multitude of reasons why every breath you take is, in itself, precious.

 

 

*Photo: Google

 

Sa’Yo/With You

May kung ano sa nangungusap mong mga mata

Na nag-aaya sa akin para tumingin, tumitig.

Pinagmasdan kita –

Kagaya ng tumitingala ako sa langit para habulin ng paningin ang mga bituin.

Sino’ng hindi mabibighani, iibig

Sa kanila?

 

Sa’yo?

 

Ngunit hanggang tingala, tanaw

Lamang ang nagagawa ng mga matang ito,

Pakgat sa katapusan ng gabi, unti-unting lalamunin ng liwanag

Ang munti mong kislap

At ako ay gigising sa katotohanang hindi na maaninang

Ang liwanag na nagdala sa’kin patungo

 

Sa’yo.

 

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The spark in your eyes

Have led me to stare frozen

For long

Like I look up as the stars seem to dance.

Who wouldn’t be caught in awe, or fall in love

With their sheer beauty?

 

With you?

 

But that’s all my eyes could do –

Look at you from afar

For when this deep night ends, the dawn will consume

Such little radiance out of you

Until these eyes could no longer see the light

That I have I shared

 

With you.

A Weekend Amidst Dos Montes

It IS almost summer again and just like that, 2017 has already spent two months of itself repeating cycles. And it can get exhausting! Temperature is rising and so is the extreme pressure to get out there and experience life, nature, and what not. Go hiking, sleep under the stars, party by the beach! Alright. Too much daydreaming.

While those options above would have been great, they can still wait until summer officially kicks in, right? For now, we can do the next best thing – a quick weekend getaway!

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So, this will be a photo blog of #BestTeamEver’s recent Team Building (TB) activity at Dos Montes Hillside Spring Resort in Malilipot, Albay. Here is their website, to know more about our destination.

Dos Montes, which literally means two mountains, is located around 30 to 45 minutes away from Legazpi City. You have an option to board (via commute) a van, jeepney, or a bus (our preferred ride) to take you to the location, and the fare is around 20 to 50 pesos each depending on your choice of vehicle. Once you reach a landmark welcome arch that says “This Way to Dos Montes Resort” at the left side of the highway, you can ride or hire a padyak or a tricycle into the resort itself for another five minutes or so. Or, if you are game for it like us, you could just walk leisurely which would take a little longer but would be good to give yourself some nice views of green fields and mountains.
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It is actually already my second time at this resort; the first was during a friend’s birthday party in September last year. But this recent check-in is of course with a different group, hence a different experience, plus we also stayed overnight this time so I knew I would get to know the place better.

The resort has three swimming pools (but I guess one was under maintenance), a choice of cottages of different sizes, function halls, and rooms. In our case, we pre-booked a dorm-type AC room for 20 pax, which cost around 5,000PHP and a cottage for 300PHP. For cooking and grilling, there is an area where you could prepare your own food, which is a requirement since there is no party without some good old smoked meat, right? Additionally, they have a convenience store right inside the resort for basic necessities, just in case you forgot something from your list.

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Aside from swimming and unlimited photos, we also got to bond over a few drinks, laugh really hard, have dinner together, and just be silly the whole night. We did everything aside from work, basically. We even held a mini pageant! So you could say we’re crazy. But of course, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, indefinitely.

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The morning after, it felt like the spring water flowing unto the pool was even colder. What I appreciate about spring resorts is that the water feels healthier and more fluid, in a sense. Or maybe that’s because it literally falls down from the mountains. Trivia: The resort is only a few minutes away from Busay Falls but we couldn’t drop by since we were pressed for time. That could happen next time.

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Overall, our stay was fine and comfortable. The shower areas and comfort rooms, which I always check and scrutinize in resorts I go to, were all functioning well. The attendants and caretakers were also generally responsive to queries and requests.

Although we enjoyed the walking to and from the resort itself, it can be tiring especially under the sun. So it would be advisable to arrange a service vehicle beforehand since the tricycles may not always be available to fetch you in and out.

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Obviously, it was yet another epic weekend with these guys who I have been with literally for seven days the whole week. Beat that! Although, it would have been more fun-filled had more of our workmates been able to attend, this was supposed to be a “team building” effort after all.

Nevertheless, Dos Montes was a wonderful weekend home, especially when you bring your family with you.

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To you who’s writing this.

I understand you now, believe me. I think you crave attention more than anything. I think we all do. But maybe you just lust for it more than some. It feeds you. It feeds your very soul.

You thirst for it; you thirst for the little compliments; you thirst for the appreciation.

But it does not mean you need attention to validate yourself. It does not mean you aren’t self-sufficient. It does not mean you are weak.

In fact, you know yourself so well. You know your truths. You accept your peculiarities. You have mastered the art of loving yourself above and more than anything.

You don’t need nobody.

Well you are mistaken. I am sorry to burst your bubble but you cannot possibly make it without everyone. Deep inside you, you want that warmth from other people, people that matter. You want to hear them say your name in ways only they can do. You want them to honor you, praise you, worship you.

You are just a freaking attention whore!

And nothing is wrong with that. Don’t you dare feel bad about wanting to be recognised in a crowd, called by your precious name, remembered for your awesomeness. Because you are.

Don’t feel guilty about wanting to be loved.

But you still think you’re better off alone and untouched. Although that’s lonely. And you masquerade your loneliness with what might appear to others as strength of character. You cannot fool yourself, it’s just a facade.

Inside you’re just another human with feelings.

Unfortunately people are intimated. What they see is a house, locked, gated, guarded. They don’t see a home.

And so you remain alone in that house, waiting for borrowed moments when those that were handed out keys could pay a visit. Only moments.

You are whole.
You are enough.
You are happy, aren’t you?