Euro Trip 2018 Highlights: Greece (and Turkey)

My dream to visit my “dream” continent, Europe, was planted in my heart I think a decade ago. Since then, I’ve been there three times — in three consecutive years nonetheless! God, indeed, is faithful!!! 🙂

In 2016, I traveled to my ultimate dream destination, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (with a bonus trip to the Republic of Ireland).

In 2017, I was privileged to visit Central/parts of Eastern Europe (Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Austria), and I knew then that I wanted to see more of the EU!!

This year, 2018, I went on a Greco-Roman adventure — fulfilling my dream to visit the heart of my Catholic faith: The Vatican ❤

It has been a little over a month (time flies fast!) since I came back from this memorable experience. I have a feeling that my next Euro trip won’t be as soon as the previous ones (priorities are changing! *ehem, ehem*), but I’ll definitely be back! Europe is such a great continent, and one of the things I love about it is that each region offers a different experience!

And since I know it’ll take some time before I get to explore another European region (Nordic countries, anyone? Haha!), allow me to relive and savor my latest adventure through this photo blog.

For this Greco-Roman adventure, I went to Greece, a side trip to Turkey, then on to Italy and the Vatican.

So, where exactly did I go in the “Greco” part of this adventure? 😉

GREECE

Athens

-where I saw remnants of Classical Greece and then some

Parthenon

Theater of Dionysus

original modern Olympic stadium

Delphi

-where I was transported back to the time of Greece’s ancient civilization

en route the Oracle of Delphi

it was raining, but that definitely didn’t stop us from exploring this historical place!

Meteora

-where God allowed me to once again be amazed by His natural creations

at a monastery on a hill

Mykonos

-my favorite part of Greece! I want to go back here with the love of my life, hehehe 😉

with the famous windmills at the back

at the famous Little Venice

Patmos

-where I saw the cave where St. John wrote the book of Revelation (no photo, though, because it wasn’t allowed! More info here)

Crete

-where I learned about the ancient Minoans (even the Parthenon was built at least after a century since the Minoan civilization!)

Santorini

-another dream come true — totally felt like a part of the cast of “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” haha 😛

one of the blue domes of the Greek Orthodox churches

“Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 3,” anyone? Haha! (Shout-out to my friends Nicole, Tanya, and Bec!)

TURKEY

Kusadasi

-where I think Aladdin got his magic carpet! CHAAAR haha

handmade carpets being sold by Mr. George Clooney look alike!

Ephesus

-where I walked on the same grounds as St. Paul when he was preaching to — you guessed it — the Ephesians!

ruins of the library of Celsus

AND THAT’S A WRAP!!!

Next stop on this photo blog series: ITALY! Ciao!

“I Love You” Means…

Has it been more than three months since my last post?! Haha! Well, I’ve been meaning to update my blog and I think it’s just fitting to finally publish this today, the first day of a new month. 🙂

Sooo.

One of my favorite Catholic lay preachers, Bro. Bo Sanchez, once said that if someone said “I love you” to you, you might as well reply with this question: “Are you willing to die for me?”

And I actually agree! As of this writing, I’ve been single for a year and a half already, and if there’s one thing God taught me in this current season I’m in, it’s what true love really means — it’s not a feeling, it’s not just a decision, but it’s about dying to one’s self for the good of the other. Did you get that? Authentic loving means dying — selfless, not selfish. What does this mean?

For this one, it’s best to turn to the Greeks’ definition of love (the English one is just so vague! haha). The Greeks have these different terms for love:

  • Eros – more on feelings and/or romance (also the most fleeting!); this is the one that makes us say, “I fell in love”
  • Philia – more on friendship (the best foundation); this is the one we can offer to everyone, even non-romantic prospects
  • Agape – more on dying to one’s self for the good of the other — the ultimate form of love! This is the one modeled by Jesus on the cross; for couples, this is the kind of love you ought to show to your partner when the honeymoon phase has already faded away; for the rest of humanity, this is the kind of love we’re all called for in order to have happy, healthy, loving, and peaceful relationships

So how exactly can we apply agape (the highest form of love) in our lives? As a follower of Christ, my best guide is the Bible. Saint John Paul the Great‘s Theology of the Body is also a good place to start! (And thanks to catholic-link.org, I was enlightened more through this infographic!)

Here’s what it says and my understanding of each:

Agape means answering without arguing (Proverbs 17:1). For example, if you’re a Christian from a different denomination and I’m Catholic, let’s focus on sharing our common love for Jesus. Arguing about doctrine/dogma just isn’t Christ-like. The same goes to discriminating other religions. Let’s just not.

Agape means speaking without accusing (James 1:19). We all have the right to voice out our concerns. But we have to remember that sometimes it’s not about what we have to say, but how we say it.

Agape means promising without forgetting (Proverbs 13:12). I’m sometimes guilty of this! Haha! But yes, we gotta learn to be accountable of our own words — whether it’s as minor as doing a favor for another, or as major as staying faithful to your partner. That’s agape looove!

Agape means listening without interrupting (Proverbs 18). As a very talkative person (wordy pa!), this was a very hard lesson to learn. But gradually, I’m happy to say that I’m now able to apply this to the point that sometimes I’m already mistaken for being an introvert (sooo not me! wahahahaha)! But yes, I’m still a work in progress in this aspect, and I can only thank God for His grace.

Agape means working without complaining (Philippians 2:14). You know that feeling when you’re willing to do anything for someone you love? Well, that also applies to someone or something you don’t necessarily like or love but is required of you. For example, if there’s a major reorganization at your workplace and you don’t necessarily like it but you still do it nonetheless for the greater good of the entire organization, then that, in itself, is already showing agape love to your workplace, boss/es, and colleagues! Besides, thank God that you still have a job and you still have the capacity and means to work!

Agape means trusting without wavering (1 Corinthians 13:7). For most singles, trusting God in the waiting season is probably one of the hardest things to do! But we gotta keep on trusting lest we end up settling for not His best — and that’s just sad. So trust God fully, and use this time to love and seek Him all the more!!!

Agape means forgiving without punishing (Colossians 3:13). More than forgiving others, this is about forgiving yourself too. After all, forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. And when you don’t forgive, you’re the only one who’s punishing yourself. Don’t do that. Show yourself some agape love. And just like hurt people, hurt people, people who have sufficient self-love are also the ones who are able to give love to others more!

Agape means praying without ceasing (Colossians 1:9). It’s easy to pray when things are going well. But when they don’t? I say that agape love is when the going gets tough, the tough get to praying more! This includes praying for your enemies. It’s not easy, but God will be very proud of you!

Agape means giving without sparing (Proverbs 21 and 26). For example, if you’re going to donate pre-loved items to a charity, make sure that those items can really still be used. Don’t just give for the sake of giving. Give with a purpose and it’ll be more meaningful. Also, agape love means loving freely without expecting anything in return. Easier said than done, but through God’s grace, anything’s possible!

Agape means giving without regret (2 Corinthians 9:7). When my ex and I broke up, there was a point that I considered him as the biggest mistake of my life! Haha! But no, that was just the high emotions talking. When I realized that I’ve already moved on, I have nothing but thanksgiving to my ex and our past four-year relationship because that experience brought out the best version of myself — and I wouldn’t have it any other way! BUT we need to draw the line. When it comes to sin, though, we must learn to repent, recover, then restore. So yes, regret the sin/s, but not the love.

I’m sure there are still other examples apt for each of the aforementioned points, so you’re free to reflect on your own. Ain’t it fun? So many ways to show authentic love! 😀

Basta ako, sabi nga sa isang commercial, wala man akong “love life” ngayon, hindi naman nawala ang love sa buhay ko — not just love from my family, my friends, and myself, but most importantly from God, who is Love Himself.

So now, before I utter those “three words, eight letters” to anyone, I reflect first if I really mean it. Am I really willing to die to myself for the good of that person for me to say that I love him or her? ‘Cause if not, then I might as well just keep my mouth shut. This way, when I finally utter the words “I love you,” God, me, and that person will know that I really, really do.

I guess it’s also timing that I’m going to Greece very, very soon. I bet there’s a thing or two I could learn more from the Greeks.

Less eros, more agape, and then some. 😉

Happy agape loving,
Mika

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have a faith that can move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.”

-1 Corinthians 13:2

When was the last time you exemplified agape love to others?
Share your thoughts!

What are Your Core Values?

Even though a little late, since this is my first post for 2018, I think it’s just apt that I write about something that can guide you in knowing yourself more this year. Whatever that means! Haha! 😛 After all, in life, there are things we value and then those we don’t. But even the things we do value also have different levels of “importance” or “significance,” depending on our background, character, personality, etc. As we go through life, we continuously change — and through this, hopefully we grow and mature. As I transitioned last year in a new “season” in my life, I realized that it gave me a lot of lessons, including being firm and fighting for the things I value overall. And of course, in order to understand other values, I had to put importance first to the one I ought to highly value:

MYSELF. ❤

It’s also helpful that I’ve been reading some books that help me understand myself and others more. I’ll make some time to share with you the books that helped me in my journey, but for now, I’ll share with you these two:

This book speaks more about my professional life. I was able to read this because my (dream) workplace supplied it to me and my colleagues. We were given a copy each (yay!), and we were required to read it and take the exam in the end to assess what our strengths are. Basically, the book teaches people to focus on our strengths instead of wasting a lot of time trying to make a strength out of our weaknesses. Simply put, it’s like me focusing on my passion for the written word more because that’s something I know I’m great at, rather than getting frustated at endless numbers for something when I know I can just hire someone to do the job for me (I hate math, and the feeling’s mutual for math! Haha!).

My top five strengths (based on the exam) are 1) Connectedness (relational), 2) Input (strategic), 3) Context (strategic), 4) Belief (executing / executive), and 5) Positivity (relational). So I’m like half relational, half strategic, with a sprinkle of executing / executive. When I understood what each strength meant, I wasn’t surprised. It’s sooo me! Then again, if you want to know what these strengths really are, I highly suggest you also get a copy of the book and take your own exam. 😉

This book speaks more about my personal life. I’ve heard about the “five love languages” since time immemorial, but it was only in 2015 when I first took the quiz. I took it again after more than a year, and if there’s one thing consistent about my results, my primary love language has always been 1) Quality Time. Next are 2) Acts of Service, 3) Words of Affirmation (this used to be my second, which just means that people change! haha), 4) Gifts, and 5) Touch (I really am not a touchy person! Wahahahaha!).

my love language/s

The book was originally written for married couples, so I’m glad that the author, Gary Chapman, wrote a version for singles like me. Aside from being helpful in romantic relationships, understanding the five love languages also helps all kinds of relationships — family, friends, and even God (there’s another version of the book that’s about God and the love languages!). Interestingly enough, the author also has other books and quizzes about one’s apology and anger languages! I also read and took them, and I can say that they’re really, really helpful!! So thanks, Mr. Chapman!!! 🙂

After reading and even taking assessments, the hardest will always be the application IRL. Having knowledge is one thing; acquiring wisdom is another (I’m a firm believer in the saying, “Intelligence without wisdom is destructive.”). When I reflected about what my core values are as a person overall (as in not just me as a professional or lover, but more of me as a daughter, sister, aunt, friend, etc.), I came up with my Top 10! Hahaha! Sure, I came up with that list on my own, without any company-certified tests, but I believe that aside from the One from up above, the only one who knows me best is yes… ME. 😀

But of course I won’t share with you my entire Top 10 for brevity’s sake! If you’re close to me, I can just share it with you in person some other time! (To my best friend and tesh, Nour, are you ready?! Mwahahahahaha!)

Anyway, I’ll be sharing only my Top 3 Core Values. They are:

1) Love – Love in all forms, not just “romance.” This includes love for my family, my friends, and yes, myself. Most especially, this core value of mine speaks about the kind of love that’s like Jesus‘ — the most difficult one to follow, yet the most fulfilling one at the same time as well!

2) Faith – I’m a devout and practicing Roman Catholic Christian. I was born one, and I’d die one. But no, I don’t claim to be perfect — in fact, I’m far from being one! That’s why I need Jesus. That’s why my faith is truly, madly, and deeply important to me. This also includes my advocacy on chastity / purity — which I already wrote here.

3) Hope – My description of this core value can be summed up in four words: positive. outlook. in. life! Those people who really know me can testify that I have a very positive outlook in life despite all the setbacks/trials that come my way. Even my strengths showed “positivity” in it! Need I say more?

Love. Faith. Hope. Sounds familiar? Well, yes. Just read the book of 1 Corinthians in the Bible, and you’ll come across those words in a different order. Those are my Top 3! I can only hope and pray that I’ll be given the strength to always execute these in my life properly, and if not, be humble enough to never stop learning from my mistakes and shortcomings. 🙂

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
-1 Corinthians 13:13

How about you? Do you know what your core values are?
And are you willing to be firm and fight for them?