A few months ago, I attended a photography workshop inside Intramuros, Manila. I spent four Saturdays learning more about how to maximize my camera and how to see things and moments through different perspectives. It really was quite an experience for me. Interestingly, some of my photographer colleagues invited me to join them for a photo walk earlier this month. I was only expecting a tour around the city where our office is located, but then, they mentioned Intramuros. Suddenly, a flashback of wonderful memories whirled in my mind and I found myself immediately saying “Yes!”.
It was good to be back! Despite our sweat, sunburn, aching muscles, and the intense heat that day, my colleagues and I enjoyed our time together. It was very refreshing to explore the simplicity and beauty of Intramuros, Manila. One of the things that I appreciate most about our photo walk is the little things we witnessed as we strolled around the streets. From seeing heart-shaped leaves on wild vines to observing Korean tourists learn more about our history and culture to being in awe of random patterns in the buildings, trees, walkways, and fences. The next time I visit Intramuros, I would probably try riding the bikes made out of bamboo. Oh, and I think it would be lovely to watch the sunset too.
The photo walk that we had was like a breath of fresh air. It was nice to do something creative outside of the office with my colleagues. It was also a good practice for me because it was an opportunity for me to apply some of the things that I learned in the photography workshop. On our way home that day, I was reminded of how nice it is to be intentional in seeing the good and beauty in things. I realized that it is easy to take things, people, and places for granted, especially when we see them everyday. But, even in the most random moments in life, we can learn to appreciate what God has already blessed us with.
Here’s to more photo walks in the near future! Any suggestions? :)
Yesterday was my last work day for the week! Woohoo! Usually, before a long weekend, I would stay an extra hour in the office to finish a few more tasks that are important but not that urgent. However, last night, I left the office as soon as I could because I didn’t want to be late for our family date night at Sip and Gogh.
I’ve heard about Sip and Gogh from my friends before and it seemed like an interesting activity. But since I wasn’t artistically-inclined and I didn’t know how to paint, trying it out never really crossed my mind. But, thanks to my artsy, eldest sister (Camille), a few days ago, she encouraged our family to bond at Sip and Gogh. After a wonderful time last night, I would have to say that it was definitely one of the funniest and coolest experiences we’ve had as a family. Hahaha. Thanks, ate!
Here are some of the reasons why I enjoyed our family date night at Sip and Gogh:
1. Painting skills weren’t required. The Sip and Gogh artists helped us out in sketching the photo, gave tips on how to stroke the brush, and helped us choose the right colors.
2. There were numerous options of paintings to choose from.
3. In their Open Sessions, you can even bring your own photo and the Sip and Gogh artists will help you paint it.
4. They served refreshing drinks (e.g. wine or juice) and appetizers (e.g. cheese, cold cuts, and grapes) while you’re painting.
5. The ambiance of the place and the music playing in the background were relaxing and perfect for the experience.
6. The Sip and Gogh staff were very friendly, approachable, and encouraging.
7. They captured photos of the participants and their artworks and they immediately posted them on their Facebook page. Bravo! Love it!
8. And of course, we got to bring our babies (finished artworks) home.
When we got home, our family still couldn’t believe that we were able to paint our own artworks! Haha. We shared about the funny and interesting moments we experienced while we were painting. One of the common ones we had was the moment when we trusted the Sip and Gogh artists as they guided and helped us paint.
While I was painting a photo of our Pomeranian (Copper), Jade (our Sip and Gogh instructor) suggested that I dip my paint brush on the orange blob of paint and create strokes on Copper’s fur. At first, I was hesitant because Copper’s fur didn’t have a bright orange color, he had a dark, golden brown one. But, by God’s grace, I trusted her and did my best to create the orange strokes (alone with the white and brown ones) and the result was pretty cool. It looked like Copper! Hooray!! My siblings and parents also shared about their own similar experiences in trusting the Sip and Gogh artists and their paintings were beautifully done as well!
Even though I don’t paint, I had a better appreciation of paintings and arts after our time at Sip and Gogh last night. It was inspiring to see the Sip and Gogh artists have the natural skills and passion for arts! When I first looked at my blank, white canvass, I couldn’t really see or understand the possibility of painting a photo of Copper. I just imagined that there would be a huge, golden brown, abstract figure. But, with just one look, the Sip and Gogh artists confidently sketched our photos and encouraged us along the way.
Even if we didn’t know what we were doing, the artists knew exactly what we needed to do and they knew how to help us finish the artworks well. It reminded me of our relationship with God. Sometimes, we may not always understand how and why things happen in our lives, but when we put our trust in the One who sees the bigger picture, we experience peace because we know that He is able to create good and beautiful things (even) out of our messy strokes.
Isaiah 26:3-4 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.”
Thank you, Sip and Gogh, for the inspiring experience. Thank you, family, for our date night and my sister, for your initiative and generosity. And as always, thank You, Lord, for encouraging moments with You.
Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)
SIP AND GOGH
Address: 1 Capitol Hills Drive, Capitol GreenStreet, Old Balara, Quezon city
Studio Operating Hours:
Tuesday to Friday, 4pm – 11pm
Saturday to Sunday, 10am – 11pm
Boyce Avenue will always have a special place in my heart. Ever since I heard their covers and songs online, I knew that I would be listening to their music for a very, very, very, very long time. Five years and a hundred of YouTube videos later, I still find myself enjoying the chill, acoustic vibe of the Manzano brothers. Indeed, it is amazing to see them consistently use their talents to make and share beautiful music to the world.
Last 2013, my younger brother and I had the privilege of going to their concert at Resorts World Manila and meeting them after the show. I shared more about the experience HERE . It was definitely an unforgettable moment because seeing and hearing them sing and play live in the Philippines rarely happens. I enjoyed their show so much that I told myself I would go to their next concert in Manila, regardless of the price ticket and the date. Because they just had their concert in Manila last 2013, I didn’t expect them to be back soon. But to my surprise, two months ago, Ovation Productions proudly announced that Boyce Avenue was returning to Manila on Valentine’s day this 2015! It was going to be their biggest concert ever!
WHAT?! I couldn’t believe it. As soon as I heard about it, I immediately checked websites for possible ticket giveaways and I set aside money for the ticket, just in case. I also tried to ask some of our family friends if they had discounted tickets or free tickets that they can give away. However, by the end of January 2015, I still didn’t have a ticket. I prayed about it and thought of finally buying a ticket for the best seat possible since they were running out of good seats. On the 27th of January, I finally bought a ticket for me. Yup! Just one ticket. I was going to attend the concert of Boyce Avenue alone… on Valentine’s day! Also, by faith, I prayed for an opportunity to meet the band again. They didn’t sell meet and greet passes, so meeting them would really be a miracle.
After that night, the days quickly passed by and all I could think of during my spare time was how funny and exciting this new experience would be for me! I was so excited to see my favorite band again that I consistently dreamt about them days before the concert. But, at the same time, I was getting nervous because there was no assurance for me to meet them in person. On the eve of Valentine’s day, I prayed about meeting them again and I started daydreaming about giving them gifts when I meet them. Talk about dreaming big! Haha. I ended up sleeping that night and dreaming about their concert one last time. In my dream, I saw Alejandro Manzano walking towards me while he was singing at their concert. Just when we were about to take a photo in my dream, I woke up. Aaaah!!! You could just imagine the suspense I felt. It was crazy.
Finally, it was already the 14th of February. While I was browsing through Facebook that morning, I noticed a lot of similar photos shared by my friends online. It was an acronym of VALENTINE inside the Bible verse: John 3:16. Somehow, while I was looking at it, God spoke to me and I heard Him say: “I know the best gift you could give to Boyce Avenue! The best gift is Me. IF I allow you to meet and greet the band later, I want you to share Me to them. I want you to tell them that I love them.”
When I heard that, I felt a bit uneasy yet peaceful at the same time. Sharing God’s love to the band on Valentine’s day was a great idea! But, at the same time, I was puzzled because I didn’t know if I would meet them and I didn’t know how I would share His love to them. Nonetheless, later that evening, when I arrived at the basement parking of Smart Araneta Coliseum, I remembered what God said and I wrote personalized letters to Alejandro, Fabian, and Daniel Manzano. I wrote the VALENTINE acronym and John 3:16 on the sheets of paper and kept them in my bag. It was finally happening. I felt my heart beat fast as I left the parking lot and walked inside the coliseum by myself. I was excited to enjoy my date night with God at the Boyce Avenue concert.
Since I was just by myself, I spent time observing the people around me, the setup, the stage, the production crew, and I had the privilege of sharing to God what I was feeling at the moment. It was also during this time that I tried to ask one of our family friends again if there was still a way to meet the band after the show. However, after a few minutes, our family friend replied and said that the band was leaving immediately after the show and that there wouldn’t be a meet and greet. When I read her message, I honestly got heartbroken because I had been praying for this request since two months before the concert. The smile on my face instantly disappeared and I felt so discouraged. I sent a text message to my mom and shared to her that our friend confirmed that there wouldn’t be a meet and greet.
But, despite that update, I told my mom that somehow, God was still giving me hope and telling me not to let go of that dream. So, I took that opportunity to talk to God and I asked him to strengthen my heart and help me find hope in Him. He then gave me the desire to be grateful for the fact that He provided for my ticket, that I was sitting near the stage, that I safely got to the venue, and that I was watching the concert of Boyce Avenue that night. Suddenly, I felt lighter and I shared to God that I knew that He was still God no matter what and I knew that He could let me meet the band in a heartbeat if He wants me to. So, by faith, I asked Him one more time to provide an opportunity for me to see the band after the show.
HEARTBROKEN TO HOPEFUL
Just ten minutes before the band was scheduled to go on stage, I saw one of Dad’s friends from church who was working with the production team. Then, I heard a whisper from God and He told me to go to the guy and ask him. I started walking towards Dad’s friend, introduced myself, and asked if meeting the band after the show was possible. He warmly listened to my request and said that he wasn’t sure, but he could try to do something. He instructed me to meet him at the side of the stage after the show, just in case.
I thanked him and went back to my seat as I held on to the hope that God was giving to me. I didn’t know if it was possible, but God changed my anxious heart and He gave me peace which lasted for the rest of the night. Finally, the Manzano brothers went on stage, strummed their guitars, and flawlessly sang their beautiful songs! IT. WAS. AMAZING!!! Everyone brought out their cameras and phones and the whole crowd recorded the band’s every move as we happily listened to their music. I didn’t even notice that I was alone because we all just enjoyed the moments with the band. (I’ll be sharing more about the details of the concert in another post.) It was definitely the best concert I’ve been to. Of course, they’re my favorite band!
After the concert, I rushed to the side of the stage where I was supposed to meet Dad’s friend. However, he wasn’t there. I waited for ten minutes, but I still didn’t see any sign of him. I decided to go to the other side of the stage and surprisingly, I saw a familiar face. I saw one of the bouncers that my sisters and I met while we watched the musical “Beauty and the Beast” which was also produced by Ovation Productions. I said hi to him and asked if he saw my dad’s friend. But, he said that he didn’t see him. Ten more minutes passed by and I was starting to lose hope because I knew that the band would be leaving the place immediately. Then, my bouncer friend and I saw the mother (who also knew Dad) of my dad’s friend and he suggested that I ask her instead.
DREAM COME TRUE… AGAIN.
I then walked towards her, introduced myself, and shared to her that I spoke with her son earlier that night. Just like her son, she warmly said hello and told me that she would try to check if she could help me and some of her friends (who were also near the area) to go inside the backstage. A few minutes later, she came out from the backstage and signaled us to go in with her. The next moments after that felt like a dream. We went inside a VIP lounge behind the stage and were instructed to wait for the band there. I was shaking the whole time because I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. We sat in a fancy bar area and were served with fresh, cold iced tea. It was crazy, amazing.
I was sitting on one of the sofa chairs when I heard low murmurs. When I looked at the entrance of the VIP lounge, I saw the Manzano brothers walking towards us, along with their body guards. I thought I was going to faint, but by God’s grace, he kept me sane. Haha. We spent the next minutes casually talking to the band, taking photos of them and with them, getting their autographs, and just enjoying a relaxing time with the group. I kept thanking Tita C for the privilege and for graciously allowing me to spend a few minutes with the band after the show. Before leaving the lounge, I remembered the personalized letters I made for them before going to the concert. So, I approached them again and gave my simple Valentine’s gift to them. They were so nice. They got the letters, hugged me, and said that it was these little things from their fans that they really appreciate. I thanked them again and left the place with a joyful and grateful heart.
By God’s grace, He allowed me to meet the band AGAIN and share His love to them after the show. Indeed, God is able to do more than what we can ever imagine or think of. He is able to do the impossible. He is able to inspire, break, change, and bless our hearts for the best. I learned so many lessons throughout my Valentine weekend this year. But, one of the highlights that my heart will forever remember is learning to put my faith in God no matter what situation I am in, to trust that He is able to bring me through it, and to obey Him when He tells me to honor Him even through the simplest ways. I may not always understand why or know how and if He will allow things to happen, but I am encouraged to trust His heart and believe that He has His best in store for me always.
Once again, I thank You, Lord, for showing your amazing, AMAZING GRACE to me through this Boyce Avenue experience. As I’ve mentioned before, You leave me speechless. I only asked for a chance to meet the band, but You gave me more. You even allowed me to share You to them! Thank You for Ovation Productions, for tita C and her gracious family. May You bless them even more this year. Thank You for Boyce Avenue’s love for music. May You continue to use their talents to inspire people around the world. What a Valentine’s treat from You, Jesus. From the bottom of my heart, I thank You. :)
To my favorite band, by faith, I will meet you again soon! Until then, I will see you online. Keep making beautiful music! :)
Matthew 21:22 “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”