12 Highlights of My 2017

Day 365 of 2017. I still can’t believe it. I am excited, nervous, determined, encouraged, pressured (haha!), and hopeful as I welcome the new year! But, before anything else, I would like to take this time to share the highlights (and hurdles) of my 2017 with you.

 

1. FINISHED TWO 10K RUNS

Last February and July, by God’s grace, I was able to finish two 10K runs near SM Mall of Asia. It was my first time to participate in a run. I shared more about both experiences HERE and HERE.

 

2. GREW PECHAY AND CORN

Compared to last year’s harvest, I was only able to grow two vegetables this year. I was preoccupied with numerous things which hindered me from being intentional in gardening. But, at the latter part of the year, God still allowed me to initiate and experience once again the joys of growing vegetables at home. Oh, the beauty of seeing things grow!

 

3. COMPOSED THREE SONGS

All three songs were spontaneous and were from my heart. By God’s grace, He has been encouraging me to express myself more through music this year and it has been a wonderful instrument to share about who God is and what He has been doing. The last time I composed a song was when I was still in college (around 9 years ago). So, these three songs were a delightful and encouraging highlight for me this year!

 

“Burn Away the Pride”

(I shared it on Facebook, but I haven’t uploaded a video on Youtube yet.)

 

“A Nice Surprise”

 

“Heto na Naman Ako”

 

4. TRAVELLED MORE (2 countries and 7 provinces)

Bulacan, Pampanga, Cebu, Batangas, Bohol, Tagaytay, Baguio, Bangkok, and Hong Kong. All of these were vacation trips. Woohoo! By God’s grace, He gave me the privilege of meeting new people, spending within or less than my budget, getting lost in a different country, and exploring new sights and food. Traveling this year taught me a lot about being selfless, lifting things up in prayer, and knowing God more through His creations. Hopefully, I can travel more this 2018.

 

5. BLESSED WITH DEEPER CHRIST-CENTERED FRIENDSHIPS

I specifically praise God for two pals who became my closest accountability partners and dearest friends this 2017. (H and Z. You know who you are. Hahaha!) They’ve seen me rise and fall countless times this year. They’ve also been cheering me on to persevere for Jesus and to grow in my walk with Him. I really appreciate you, guys! Thank you for being a huge part of my 2017.

 

6. FAMILY BREAKTHROUGHS

From breaking walls within our family at a weekend retreat to sharing God’s faithfulness in our family’s testimony at church. From siblings serving as a panel at a youth leaders’ retreat to meeting almost every Saturday for a devotion or bonding time at home. Only by the grace of God! I am grateful for the many breakthroughs we’ve been experiencing at home and I am excited to see more of God’s work in the coming year. Please pray for us!

 

7. SURVIVED TEETH AND CAR PROBLEMS

This year, I’ve experienced so many problems with my teeth and car in a span of two months. Aside from dealing with the pain and hassles, I had to go through the struggle of trusting God with his provisions for the expenses. It was a very challenging and humbling time for me. But, God was, is, and will continue to be faithful.

 

8. WITNESSED MY DGROUPMATES GETTING MARRIED

It happened so fast! It seemed like it was just last year when our highschool selves would spend Saturday afternoons together at our church’s youth services. Now, two of the ladies in our discipleship group got married this year, by God’s grace. Oh, and one was recently engaged too! Haha. I was deeply blessed to witness the humble and obedient hearts of my friends as they surrendered their marriages to the Lord. They also shared the gospel and love of Christ at their weddings, which was the best part for me.

(Photo taken by Zeus Martinez)

 

9. ENJOYED DEVELOPING SKILLS IN PHOTOGRAPHY

Taking photographs is still part of my top favorite things to do. This 2017, by God’s grace, He has helped me improve in this aspect and has even given me the privilege of winning a simple food photography contest online. But, more than the rewards, it’s being able to document fleeting moments and memorable things and people in my life that I appreciate most. Thank You, Lord, for technology!

 

10. INVESTED IN LIFE INSURANCE & STOCKS

After years of delaying and praying, I finally stepped up and invested in these two financial milestones in my life. Whew. Here’s to being more intentional in wisely managing the finances and savings that God graciously gives me because it is His.

 

 

11. BOUGHT MY 30TH JOURNAL

30th since 2007. This is a reminder for me to continuously walk with the Lord as I spend time in prayer and in my personal Bible studies. Having a journal has been very helpful for me, especially since I am able to express myself more through writing than speaking in public.

 

12. LEARNED THAT CHRIST IS ENOUGH

I ended my post last year about my 2016’s highlights with “Entertaining the idea of courtship in my life”. At the start of 2017, God allowed me to experience it. But, as the months passed by, He led me to a different direction. At first, it was heartbreaking. However, God has been faithful in reminding me since then, that He was, is, and will always be more than enough for me. As I’ve mentioned in a recent post, believing that God is enough has been a struggle for me this year, in different aspects. But, by God’s grace, I found comfort in His sovereignty and love for us. I sealed this with an actual ring to serve as a constant reminder for me.

I’ve made so many mistakes and believed in so many lies that hindered my growth this year. But, there is so much to be grateful for. Tomorrow is a new day and God’s mercies are new each morning. So, I am encouraged to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus as I surrender my past victories and failures, present condition, and future dreams and plans to the King of my heart.

Thank You, Lord, for 2017! What a year it has been!

“Because of the Lord ʼs great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” -Lamentations‬ ‭3:22-23‬

 

My First OPM Song

Exactly a week ago, on my birthday, I shared my very first OPM (Original Pilipino Music) song to the public.

Originally, I wrote a verse and chorus in English. But after struggling to finish the rest of the song, I was inspired to translate it to Tagalog instead. In less than 10 minutes, by God’s grace, He helped me finish the song.

It’s entitled “Heto na Naman Ako”.

 

You know how it is very burdensome to go through a struggle day after day, year after year, where you just feel defeated and hopeless each time? I felt that when I struggled with insecurities about being single recently (which I wrote about HERE.)  But, God encouraged me through John 16:33. Because of this, I was inspired to share what is in my heart through this song.

To anyone who is struggling with something that doesn’t seem to end,
To anyone who feels that God doesn’t care,
To anyone who sincerely wants to draw near to God but feels weak…

May this song encourage your heart to remember that we can trust in Jesus — who is always with us; who knows exactly what is going on in our hearts; and who has already won the victory.

It’s Time to Go and Grow

There is something amusing about growing sweet corn in the city, or at least, attempting to. Haha! It feels weird, challenging, and fulfilling at the same time. Since the summer of 2015, I have tried to grow corn in our container bed three times. The first time produced the best results, the second time became a bit of a struggle because of the stormy weather, and the most recent one was, well… a product of grace.

 

I say this because I was not intentional in giving the seedlings organic fertilizer during its first month. So, when I finally gave the plants fertilizer, they grew fast! They grew so fast that the pollens were produced before the ear of the corn. In a normal cycle, the ear of corn and its hair must appear first, so that when the pollens appear, the hair can be pollinated.

It was very unusual of me because most of the time, I give my best efforts whenever I grow my plants. Just a few days ago, honestly, I was expecting only 10 kernels on each ear of corn, but by God’s grace, He allowed them to grow more. Whew! Although, the ears did not fully develop as you will notice in the photos below. This is obviously a consequence of my earlier actions.

 

Thankfully, in the Philippines, it is still a good time to start new corn seedlings since the next few months would not be as rainy as the previous ones. With this, I’ll be planting five more seeds this December and hopefully, by March 2018, plump ears of corn will be ready for harvest. Just so I can be accountable to you, this time, I will not be lazy or forget to fertilize during its early stages. I just purchased a sack of chicken manure for my plants. So, really, I have no excuses. But, if you remember, please remind me in the coming weeks? Haha!

 

In a way, it was a humbling experience for me to grow corn for the third time. I know that this is just one of my hobbies, but it does teach me to become more responsible and proactive with my actions. Gardening, through the years, has helped me appreciate the importance of patience and hope because it does take time and faith to wait and believe that the plants will grow and bear fruit. However, I am reminded that producing the results that I hope for would not happen if I sit and wait for things to unfold. I still need to be intentional in doing my part and in learning from my shortcomings.

Okay, Nic. You can do this! It’s time to go… and grow!

 

8 Things to Do in Tsim Sha Tsui Hong Kong

 

1. Ride a Star Ferry

We rode one at Central and made our way towards Tsim Sha Tsui (TST). For HKD 2.7, it was a very convenient and relaxing trip! Some of the locals also use this as another alternative transportation for their commute. We traveled while the sun was setting, so we had a nice view of the blue sky turning into a golden one. Also, the water did not smell bad which made the experience more pleasant.

 

2. Relax while watching the sunset

If you’re not on a Star Ferry, you’ll still get to see the sunset at the port in TST. You’ll be able to get a good angle from the area near the strip of restaurants or from the mall (Star House) beside the harbour.

 

3. Listen to buskers near the harbour

When we got off the boat and walked towards the city, we saw two men setting up their equipment for busking. It was about 6 pm at that time. Imagine watching the sunset while listening to musicians fill the air with delightful music.  Although I didn’t understand most of their songs since they were sang in Chinese, I still enjoyed knowing their culture more! Whenever I travel, I make sure to stop and listen to buskers on the street. For those who sing and play at TST, they usually stay for more than three hours in the area. So, drop by if you can!

 

4. Visit 1881 Heritage Park

This was recommended to me by a friend. The building is well-lit at night, but it’s also beautiful in the daylight. It houses a few luxurious brands and has a gorgeous architectural style! You can bring a drink or snack with you as you stroll around the area. Fun fact: This place used to be the Marine Police’ headquarters in the area.


5. Appreciate Architecture

Within a few meters away from the harbour, you’ll get to see numerous buildings and areas with very nice architecture and designs! I still remember feeling the cool breeze as we walked around the area, looked up towards the tall structures, and enjoyed the view with ice cream cones in our hands. What a treat! Plus, sightseeing around this cultural center is free!

 

6. Watch The Symphony of Lights

At night, TST allows the locals and tourists to view the light show from the harbour. For a few minutes, the buildings around it light up as music is being played. It’s not as extravagant as the light shows we see in Singapore, but if you’re in the area, it’s a nice way to relax. You’ll get to watch traditional Chinese boats cruise along the sea too.

7. Book a 45-minute trip with Aqua Luna

Aqua Luna provides a tour (roughly around HKD 200 / PHP 1,300) around the harbour which allows the passengers to witness the sights and sounds of Hong Kong and its cityline. The passengers get one drink (e.g. wine, juice, or water) and sit on lounge chairs on the boat. It is expensive for me, but, I gave it a try because the boats used are some of the last few traditional Chinese boats in the country. I figured that it would also be a relaxing way to end our first night in Hong Kong. There are other cruise options that include dinner or have different time slots (e.g. daylight, sunset, late evening). So, it will depend on your preferred choice. Will I ride it again? Honestly? I probably won’t because it is pricey for me. Haha! But, it was interesting to try at least once.

 

8. Try Food Establishments in TST

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the appetite to have a food trip in TST mostly because of the tiring day that we had. But, we did go around the buildings near the harbour and saw various restaurants (both reasonably priced and expensive ones) in the area. We also visited the stores inside Star House mall. They have a variety of shops inside. From fastfood restaurants to coffee shops and stores which sell souvenirs and gadgets. A friend suggested the restaurant, “Jade Garden” inside this mall. If you have time, feel free to try it out and let me know how it is!


We only stayed for a few hours in TST, but it was nice to finally see it in person. The next time I visit TST, I’ll make sure to come with a hungry tummy! I’ll probably do it on the second day too, so that I wouldn’t be tired from the early flight and plane ride.