“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
One of the best presents I’ve received this year, I didn’t find under the Christmas tree. I found them on London instagram hub meets and impromptu photowalks throughout this year.
I am thankful to Alan for introducing me, properly, to photography and for encouraging me to learn how to take photographs. Because of all this photography business, we’ve gone on to meet so many amazingly cool and super talented creative individuals! But even more than all the new acquaintances, I am thankful for the friendships these experiences have cultivated.
Y’all know who you are. Your friendships are the best gifts Alan and I have received this year! We are blessed by you!
I’ve always thought I was an extrovert. I always thought I was very social. But these days, I am finding that I like my own company (even with Alan constantly around, I do find that I cherish the moments when I am alone with just me, myself and I). I always say to people that I am a chatterbox (I always say that I know that Alan and I are so well-suited because he doesn’t talk as much and I pretty much talk enough for the both of us) and I find that I do like to have the occasional natter. I can be loud but I find that I can’t be loud for very long. I think Alan has rubbed off on me a lot. I find that I appreciate quiet as well. Companionable silence is also a good thing (and Alan and I have that a lot, which in itself is a comfort – I’ve read in an article that couples who appreciate their companionable silences and understand the wisdom of it are stronger…but that’s another blog entry probably).
Almost a month ago now, I went on my second Instagram meet with Alan. It was for the London Disclosure hub (@londondisclosure) and there was a walk around London photo spots planned. I was terribly excited about the meet because, as I wrote in my last blog entry I had arranged to meet the Filipinos that I followed on Instagram.
I was quite subdued when I wrote about our mini meet up. But it was quite momentous for me. I was slightly fangirling because I thought these people were very talented and I loved the photos they posted on Instagram. They all have considerably large followings on Instagram and I was just starting out on my photography journey. I was worried that reality wouldn’t be quite as nice as the online interaction. I kept telling myself to not build it up in my head and to try not to expect too much. The online world can be very different from real life interaction. I was also worried that Alan would feel very left out as he usually does when I meet with my family because the language of discussion is always mostly Filipino and he feels like the odd one out(which is probably why he doesn’t look forward to going out with my cousins – because everyone slips into Filipino).
With trepidation (and a heck of a lot of nervousness on my part) we walked into Somerset House so that we could meet the Filipinos before the actual meet up started. We’d all seen each other’s profile photos on Instagram so I felt that I would recognise them when they walked in. They also said they’d all be in black (I didn’t follow the uniform – but I did have a black cross-body bag and black sneakers!).
I saw them before they saw me (at least I think so), so I whispered to Alan that I’d seen them. Cheryl (who goes by the Instagram handle @chic.wanders.in), I think spotted me first because I saw her smile and wave. I waved back excitedly and then in a few minutes, we were inundated with a friendly wave of Filipino smiles. There was a flurry of introductions and they surprised me with a loot bag filled with Filipino sweets and snacks (it had Chocnut, a peanut-chocolate sweet, Yan-Yan, pretzel sticks that you dip in the accompanying chocolate spread, tamarind candy and Kopik0, which is a coffee flavoured candy) and a lovely Jose Rizal bust-shaped tag that Ellapot (my nickname for @barefootnomad who is a little firecracker of a creative person) made especially to mark the first ever Instagram meet for what would be what we all now call the #pinoylondongrammers group.
I had my mind blown about how small the world was when Jools (@jetaime.07) and I started talking about what our lives and jobs were in the Philippines. She worked with one of my friends from PSALM and before they worked together in a energy-related firm, we discovered that we had something in common because we both worked in the Philippine power sector. So I had my little six-degrees-of-separation moment, and it always makes me smile when I think that we weren’t actually separated by 6 degrees!
I hadn’t met Karla (@clickers.click) and Hazel (@hazel.parreno) before (and to be fair, I wasn’t following them on Instagram before we met) but it was really good to meet other Filipinos who shared my keen interest in photography. I had a cheeky look at Instagram after the meet and made sure I followed them (especially Karla because I think we all agreed to get her to a 100 followers and that if she did reach that number, she’d treat us all to a lechon – a whole roasted suckling pig! Yum!) immediately! I also missed meeting Vanessa (@lil_kim426) because she couldn’t stay for the LD meet but met the rest of the group at the lunch (we have yet to meet!).
I was quite starstruck when I met Teddy (who goes by @mutyyyaaa on Instagram and who I call Teddymeister) because I did love his photos on Instagram and he already had quite the following on Instagram already. I would always see his photos on the top lists of the London hubs that I followed.
It was a great meet up. Because everyone was as lovely as they seemed to be on Instagram. What I appreciated the most was that they tried to speak in English so that Alan would be included (they did say he was now an honorary Filipino). Of course we’d lapse into Filipino (hey, it’s instinctive!) but we’d all try to go back to English or I’d remember to translate so that Alan would understand what was going on. I am also glad that Alan liked them enough to verbalise that he thought they were a nice bunch of people. I put a lot of stock in Alan’s opinion because his opinion of the people I hang out with matters a lot.
My WhatsApp has never been more active and I’ve never had so many laugh out loud moments whilst reading my WhatsApp messages or my Instagram comments and chats. I actually feel like I’ve made friends. Friends who share my passion for photography and my love of London. Friends who I’d like to keep in touch with – not just acquaintances. It’s nice to know Filipinos who love being Filipino and are proud to be Filipino. I am so happy I’ve met a group of people who do not ascribe to the typical Filipino crab mentality that you see in a lot of groups of Filipinos who live overseas. I’m so happy that I’ve met a group of individuals who actually support each other and lift each other up. For the first time, in a very long time, I’ve actually met a group of people who I think I’d be willing to move for because I’d love to live closer to them so we can hang out properly. It doesn’t hurt that Alan enjoys my stories and takes interest in what we talk about in our WhatsApp group. He has now taken to asking me “what’s happening now?” He doesn’t ask me because he’s irritated about the amount of time I spend chatting to this lovely little group, he’s asking because (I think and hope!) that he is genuinely interested in what we’re all talking about.
I’m really happy we went on that London Disclosure meet. I know we would have probably met eventually. But that meet allowed me to meet kindred souls sooner rather than later. And because of that, I feel blessed.
Che, one of my oldest and dearest friends, posted a photo of the four of us on Facebook. Apparently, the photo was taken 10 years ago. But before that photo was taken, we had been firm friends for ages.
I am so proud of the four of us, Che, Joanne, Maries and me. We hadn’t all grown up together. Che and Joanne went to the United Methodist church my mom transplanted us to (I stuck it out at the church I grew up in for a few weeks and then finally moved too). Maries and her family moved to Fairview and looked for a Methodist church and found ours. We weren’t all immediately friends. Che and Joanne and I were friendly, but I don’t think we became close until we all went to summer camp together. I am however, very thankful for the time when we became “real” friends. I don’t think I would’ve made it through my formative years if it hadn’t been for them.
Our friendship isn’t perfect, it’s got cracks. We’ve had arguments, some unspoken and I’m sure there are heartaches we haven’t expressed. But I think we overcame them because we grew up together in faith. I don’t know how you define religious, but my faith is important to me. I know their faiths are important to Che, Joanne and Maries too. I believe that what makes our friendships strong is because the foundations of our friendships is our faith. Our first, proper steps in our journey of faith were taken together. I firmly believe that our friendships are stronger because we grew in the Lord together.
We’re all a lot older now…and on other sides of the globe! I’m in England, Maries is in solicitor training in Australia, Joanne is mum to two darling babies in the Philippines and Che, well, Che is our resident jetsetter (I think she’s in Taiwan…at the moment!). I haven’t seen Che in years (8 to be specific) because when I went home (2 years ago!) she was away. I miss living so close to Maries (we lived on the same street in our little subdivision on Quezon City) and I miss Joanne being a text message and a quick 10 minute drive away (Che and Joanne are sisters by the way).
I wish my friends were with me. Because they would find it significant that we were living in the UK, where the Methodist faith started. I wish I were with my friends, because I miss THEM. It’s easy enough to make friends, but you miss the friends who KNOW you. I miss our Starbucks coffee dates (yes, there are other coffee chains available). Our gossiping at each others’ houses. I miss going out to movies with them. I just miss being with them. I do find myself wishing that there wasn’t such a huge time difference between us. Because there are times when I just want to share with them what I’ve seen, or something I saw on TV that I think they’d find funny too!
I suppose that is what happens when you follow your dreams. This what happens when we all grown up. You’ll need to expand your territory and you’ll have to leave the people that keep you grounded. It’s not the best of situations. In a perfect world, you grow up and live exactly where you were born, with the people you love and love you back. But it’s not a perfect world, is it? Not really. So we all go away and find ourselves and stretch our wings.
What is comforting to me though, is the fact that when we are together, it’s like we all never left Quezon City, or Fairview Park United Methodist Church, it’s like our friendships were never paused or there aren’t several thousand miles between us. Till we meet again girls!