20 Firsts of 2020 : A Birthday Special – You’re Invited!

Today is December 31, 2020 and it’s MY BIRTHDAAAAAYY!
HOORAY! *confetti* *fireworks*

Before anything else, I’d like to thank everyone who clicked the tiny follow button on my humble blog. I’ve only ever dreamed of getting a hundred follows by the year ends but I can’t believe that there are now more than 200 of you guys! Thank you so so much! You guys made my birthday extra special!

The one thing that people always assume when they hear that my birthday is on the 31st of December is that I get to have a grand celebration. Well, yes and no, Yeah, I mean it’s grand in a sense that my neighbors, and more or less the whole world, prepare feasts in their homes and put on a spectacular display of fireworks for the new year. It’s fun to see it that way but I also get this sense of everyone wanting to rush things because they can’t wait for the past year to finally expire.

This year was tough for everyone. All of us have been tossed, turned, and bruised by the events of the world. I feel for everyone who has been victims of injustice. I pray that life will be kinder and more gracious to you as we move into 2021. Thank you for persevering to survive despite the weight of the world. I greatly admire you.

2021. A fresh new year, a clean slate, an empty canvas, where you’re free to do anything you’d wish and hope for. A happy new year. I’m with you guys in welcoming 2021 with arms wide open.

But you know, for me, going through 2020 was one of the greatest gifts that I have ever received.

I think one of the best gifts aside from a boatload of cash is extra time with a side of courage.

I am thankful for 2020 because if I didn’t go through it, I wouldn’t have time to do all the things that I didn’t know I can even do before. Many things in my life shifted and I saw them from a different perspective. My dormant skills came alive and used in creative ways. Because of 2020, I experienced several amazing things the first time. 

With the gift of time and a side of courage, you get to experience many firsts.
Now as I turn a year older, I invite you to look back at 2020 with me and remember all the “firsts” that made this year a memorable one.

1) Spiritual direction at the Cenacle

At the gate of the Cenacle house

Coming from a retreat in 2019, I wanted to start 2020 right by meeting with a spiritual director. I met with Sr. Ana from the Congregation of Our Lady of the Retreat in the Cenacle and we talked for a while about discerning my life direction (I’ll share more about this on a different post). What’s amazing is whatever we talked about that time was tested and proven during my time in quarantine. If not for the extra time I had I wouldn’t be able to see where my talents and skills intersect and where they would lead me.

2) Experience ashfall from a volcano eruption

January this year, Taal Volcano erupted in the Philippines spewing toxic ash into the air that continued to linger for many weeks. We had to wear face masks and protective eyewear to avoid inhaling ash. It’s a precursor to the pandemic here in the Philippines. I never imagined that I’d be able to experience this in my lifetime since Taal has been dormant for a long time.

3) 5km Run at Manila Bay & Intramuros

Originally, I planned to join at least one running event per month this year. I wanted to rake in medals! I only got to February, but the way things turned out was better. I started my year with fitness and now I’m still on the same goal. I miss running with my friends.

4) Start growing a blog

I started my blog last February thanks to a strict nudge from a blogger friend of mine. To be honest, I didn’t even know if my content will ever be read by people. I just wrote down my thoughts and honest feelings. Primarily, I want my blog to be a space of connection (My first post: Creating Spaces for Connection) whatever content it may have.

Today, I’m still surprised to reach more than 200 follows and post my 50th blog entry. I’m so thankful of everyone who’s reading this blog. It’s also amazing how I’m able to connect with fellow bloggers. More to come next year!

5) Facebook and Instagram accounts for Kalvin Five

With the drive to reach more people, I created a Facebook Page and Instagram account for Kalvin Five. I’m happy that I still get to reach people who might find what I write relevant or helpful to them.

Facebook: Kalvin Five
Instagram: @kalvinfive.blog

6) Be a contributing writer for a religious community

I’m blessed to be able to be a contributing writer for a religious community on Facebook. Through writing for the community, I’m able to deepen my Catholic faith and at the same time learn something new about it. Unmasked.

7) Poem collaboration with a friend

Liwanag – Light

I wrote a poem in Filipino in collaboration with a dear blogger friend of mine. It was both our first time and it was magical how every piece just fit together and we finished the poem in a few hours. We published it as a spoken poetry video as well on our pages. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for years and it finally comes true in this amazing piece!

Watch the whole poem here: Liwanag

8) Host a wedding reception in Singapore

A few days before our country went on lockdown, I was in Singapore for a wedding. It was my first time staying in a capsule hotel and going around Singapore alone too. Due to the lockdown measures, the original host needed to fly back earlier than expected so I filled in his spot. With little the remaining time I have, I prepared for the hosting gig and everything went great! Who knew that my first ever hosting gig will be in a foreign country?

9) Host live online prayer meetings

Ministry has to adapt to still reach out to people. As we moved our actual gatherings online, I was blessed to serve as a host in some of our live streams. It takes a little getting used to but it’s all fun once you get the hang of it!

10) Participate in an online choir

That’s me in green

It’s a challenging feat but the end result is just amazing! I was able to stitch together a full-voiced choir using software too!

Check out this performance here: Diwa Ng Pasko

11) Read three self-help books in a month

April was hardest month for me this year and reading helped me out a lot. I don’t usually read self-help books that much but these three helped me stay sane and just keep myself moving forward. These books helped me become more grounded and not spiral out of control. Especially, they made helped me figure out the inner workings of myself more.

Resisting Happiness – Matthew Kelly
How To Befriend Your Shadow “Welcoming Your Unloved Side? – John Monbourquette
How To Discover Your Personal Mission “The Search for Meaning – John Monbourquette

12) Do my own laundry on Facebook Live

Me doing laundry while singing on Facebook Live

Since lockdown happened I learned how to do my own laundry. We don’t have a washing machine at home so I hand-washed everything! There was even a time that I broadcasted my laundry session live on Facebook which people found interesting to watch.

13) Purchase my own bed frame and mattress

I’ve always wanted to remodel my room bit by bit. It was such an adulting move to finally purchase my own bed and mattress! I also decluttered my room of trash and unneeded stuff. My nights have never been so full of comfort and rest. Next up for my room is to paint it blue and get a new desk and a chair.

14) Find out I have high alcohol tolerance

I was out with a few friends of mine a few blocks from where I live. I wasn’t counting how much I’ve already taken in but after sharing a bottle each of wine, tequila, and brandy I’m still up and sober. I was amazed that I did not feel the classic symptoms of being intoxicated as it was my first time to drink that much. Fellas I don’t recommend drinking until you drop. Always keep it safe and keep to your limit.

15) Bake bread and desserts

Baking has become one of my stress busters this year. Buying an oven has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made this year. My dad has learned how to bake as well and now we don’t buy bread from the supermarket but bake them whenever we need some. I’ve learned so many things in baking and the science-y stuff always amazes me seeing your creation transform behind the glass oven door.

16) Make roast chicken and lechon belly

Having an oven also made me try out recipes that require roasting. I’m proud to have made my first ever roast chicken and lechon belly (Filipino porchetta) and they tasted amazing! I’m getting more confident in my cooking skills. I basted the lechon belly above with a little too much soy sauce on the skin hence the dark color though it’s borderline on getting burnt! haha!

17) Commit to my fitness journey

I’ve already told you guys about my fitness journey this year. I started at 121 kg last January and today I weigh in at 94 kg. It’s been a long journey and I’m still reaching for my goal weight. I started out by changing my diet and doing home exercises. My weight loss stalled and that’s when I enrolled in a gym last October and my Fitness Friday posts were born. I find it hard to keep my diet on track this Christmas season. I need to burn a lot of fat again for a better and fitter me in 2021.

18) Get a proper massage in a massage parlor

On my first full week at the gym I was really sore all around my body which is totally normal if it’s you’re getting back to lifting after a long time or if it’s your first time. I’m really shy about my body so I don’t go to massage parlors but this time I didn’t care about what the therapist might think. I just wanted the aches to go away. Under the hands of a therapist with 20 years of experience under his belt, he soothed my pains away and sent me home relaxed. Go get the massage that your body deserves!

19) Squat with 90 kilos 

I can now lift an average built human!

Coach Joel is just an amazing encourager! I never imagined myself being able to do the things I can do at the gym now if he didn’t push me to do it. I mean wow! 90 kilos! What’s next? 200 kilos? Everything is possible if you remove your own limits 🙂 Thank you to everyone at Fitness and Health Gym you guys rock!

20) Get a facial treatment

This is prickly business! I just did this one last Monday. All this mask wearing and sweating made me breakout with acne around the area. I wanted to have my acne treated before it gets worse. For the first time, I had an online consultation with a dermatologist and she prescribed me with facial treatments and medicine. The dermatologist recommended getting a Glycolic Micropeel treatment to hasten the healing of my acne.

By the gods! The technician pricked my pimples and I shed a few tears! Three days since the treatment, I feel it working! Now I just need to follow through with the skin care regimen.

In a few hours 2020 will be officially over. Today, as I look back I will remember it as a year filled with challenges that helped me come closer to the version of myself that I want to become. I’m another year older now and I feel like there’s more out there for me to experience and enjoy. This year was surely not a joy ride but it’s roughness smoothed out my rough edges. Thank you so much 2020!

I want to end with three birthday wishes.

For myself:
I wish for 2021 to be a year where I reinvent myself to fully become who I envision myself to be – a person who truly loved and fully lived.

For the person who reads this:
I wish that you get to finally do the things you’ve been wanting to do your whole life and share it with the world.

For the world:
I wish that the world will have more safe spaces for connection where people can be loved and accepted without fear.

Oh! And I really really wish that we can already go out of our homes feeling safe without the threat of the pandemic. May our world leaders be guided. Hope to meet you guys outside!

I love you guys!
May you have a happy and meaningful new year!

-Kalvin Cinco


7 Things Baking Can Teach You About Life

I am a novice baker. With the arrival of my oven five weeks ago, I’ve embarked on a wonderful baking journey. 

Baking brings me joy. I think it’s the whole process, from preparing the ingredients and trays, mixing the ingredients, putting them in the oven, and then tasting and sharing what I’ve baked that gives me happiness. Baking can be a bit tedious but I find it relaxing to do. It’s been one of the ways I de-stress these days. 

As someone who’s new to baking, I never expected that I would be learning so much. I get excited with all the science involved in making bread, cookies, and cakes. All the measurements need to be precise or you won’t get the picture-perfect outcome. On the other hand, baking also taught me many things about my self and about life. 

1. Eat your mistakes, learn from them

Failed chocolate fudge cookie pancake

I attempted a seemingly easy recipe for fudge cookies that I saw on YouTube. They looked immaculate! I tried it out and mine looked like dry pancakes. Despite preparing everything to a tee my cookies didn’t turn out as beautiful. 

I still ate my cookie pancakes even if they weren’t perfect. Later on, I learned that I should have weighed everything in grams instead of relying on cups. The way I baked cookies after that have only gotten better. Don’t give up on your mistakes they make us better as long as we learn from them.

2. Put your body in it

Spanish Bread (bread roll filed with a butter and sugar mixture)

For me, the hardest part of making bread is kneading it. My first batch of pandesal was under kneaded. Good thing there’s a lot of tutorials on how to knead bread on the internet. The trick was to put your body in it and respond to what the dough tells you. Just the right amount of force. 

As you put the hard work in you’ll end up with a smooth, springy dough. Go all in and you’ll get good results.

3. Good things take time to rise

My Pandesal (Filipino bread roll) army

Baking has a lot of waiting. For bread, some recipes would require you to wait an hour for the first rise so you can shape it, and then an hour more before putting it in the oven – where you wait again for it to bake. When we rush this process, we won’t get the best bread even if we put all our efforts in.

Waiting will reward you with delicious bread filling your house with its glorious aroma. Be patient, good things take time!

4. Don’t shy away from heat

Banana Loaf

Heat is necessary when baking, without it, all your hard work in preparing, and mixing won’t pay off. Heat wakes up the ingredients so that the needed chemical reactions will take place. A beautiful transformation takes place to your baked goods when they get in and then out of the oven. 

When it gets hot and crazy, expect that you’re going to emerge much stronger and more beautiful once everything cools down again.

5. Always finish what you’ve started

Carrot Zucchini Muffins with Walnuts

Once you start on a recipe, you have to follow it through to completion. You can’t just leave things half-prepared and half-baked (unless the recipe calls for it). There will be times that you need to do a lot of waiting. There will also be times that you have to be quick in action. 

Regardless of how long the in-betweens are you need to finish it. Once you start, commit to finishing no matter what. 

6. Appreciate your own efforts

Baked Zitti

It’s become a habit that I take pictures of what I baked as they come out of the oven. One of the most amazing things about baking is that you never really get the same exact result per batch. Each baked piece will have their own shape and characteristics. Each piece has experienced the hard work you’ve put into making them, even if they don’t come out picture-perfect.

Celebrate your own hard work especially if you’ve put your all in it. You deserve your own appreciation.

7. Share your joy with others

Blueberry Cheesecake for my mom’s birthday

The first cheesecake I baked was for my mom’s birthday. It may not be the best-looking or best-tasting cheesecake but it’s still the best one for my mom. Anything that brings joy when shared is joy multiplied. 

Sharing my baked goods with friends and family brings me joy especially if they also liked it. Don’t be afraid to spread your joy with others who appreciate it. Everything you give will eventually find its way back to you.

Pesto Bacon and Chicken Sausage Pizza

Baking can teach us many things. We not only learn about sciency-chemistry stuff but also learn many things about life in general. Maybe what we all need right now is to add sugar, butter, flour, spices, and everything sweet, comforting and savory into our lives to make it better. Bake your own life into whatever you want to be with the finest ingredients you can find.

Always Keep Safe and Happy Baking!

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A Happy Pandesal! My First Hand At Baking

Majority of Filipino households, including ours, doesn’t have an oven. When my oven arrived two days ago, I can now proudly say that I am now an oven owner and a future good baker. Clicking that checkout button was one of the best things I’ve done this past week during the online sale.

From watching videos about baking I can now bake my own goods! The possibilities are endless!

I went out to get baking supplies yesterday with my best friend from high school. She runs a mini baking business with her sisters and knows where to get what I needed to get started. She gave me some baking tips as well. When I finally got home, I spent the rest of the day researching about baking a basic Filipino breakfast staple – the Pandesal.

Pandesal or pan de sal is Spanish for “salt bread” but the bread’s actually a bit sweet. It’s a Filipino version of bread rolls that’s usually eaten in the morning dipped in hot coffee or stuffed with corned beef. No breakfast table in the Philippines is complete without it.

Homemade Pandesal

As I was researching, I remembered that one of my friends in church has a published video for basic pandesal. I can recall how good and soft it was when he brought some in one of our church services. Motivated, I decided to go with his recipe. 

Those are my friend’s hands!

4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup powdered skim milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1-1/2 cup water 
1 cup of bread crumbs

For the full recipe and instructions visit:
How to Make Homemade Filipino Pandesal

Baking Pandesal

The first thing I did today was do all the prep work needed for baking. I cleaned all the bowls I’m going to use and measured out all the ingredients. It’s quite tedious but all good effort is never wasted.

Make sure everything’s well-prepared and measured!

I then kneaded everything together as said in the instructions until it formed a beautiful ball. I couldn’t be more proud of myself. It’s fun to press your finger against the dough and watch as the dent formed springs back up. I covered the dough in plastic and left it for an hour to proof and double in size.

Smiling Sal happily proofing

Seeing the dough rise was magical! All the yeast working together to make delicious bread is wonderful to witness.

After proofing I then divided it in two and made batons and cut them into pandesal pieces. At this point, I felt like I made a mistake before the first proofing. I was not sure if I over hydrated it, or under kneaded the dough, or both. Nevertheless, I still continued with the rest of the steps since the dough was workable.

Still believing that the pandesal will turn out good, I let the dough rise for another hour while preheating the oven for 350 F.

My baby Sals getting ready for another rise

I sent a picture of my progress to my friend and he confirmed that I did under knead my dough just a bit but he reassured me that they will still turn out fine once baked.

Once the proofing was done, It’s now time to put my baby “sals” in the oven. I watched over them like a worried mother for 15 – 18 minutes. I saw them rise more in the heat and turn golden brown. They’re all grown up and ready to eat!


My Sals all golden brown and grown up!

It’s really true that bread tastes better when baked fresh. Even though I made a mistake they still turned out great! My parents put their seal of approval on it. The rolls were light and soft, had a good amount of sweetness and buttery flavor. 

Happy Pandesal

I can now understand why many people say that they find joy in baking. My first ever baking experience made me feel happy. For me, the process of putting many things together to make something new that is cherished by people is what made me feel warm inside. 

If I may say, this first time is not bad at all! My takeaway on this is to never let your mistakes dishearten you. Learn from them, accept them, and do better next time. This first batch is amazing and I will never forget how they turned out. Next time, my pandesals will sing perfection! 

Are you a baker? Share some of your first time baking stories below and maybe throw in a recipe or two 🙂

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Samgyeopsal: Why Filipinos Love Them So Much

Hey guys! We’re going to tune in to a different voice today. I invited one of my friends who also happens to be a blogger, to write an article here in my space. I asked him to write about something that lights him up and this is what he came up with. Let’s give it up for Lester Nubla!

Three-layered flesh

When I hear Samgyeopsal, I immediately imagine the entire thing—the restaurant, the side dishes, the various meats, and the grill. But Samgyeopsal literally means “three layer flesh” as seen in the pork belly when cut (I just googled it). Here in the Philippines, the word is automatically understood as “unlimited meat grilling” eaten in restaurants.

This dish from Korea has been loved by Filipinos for years and at first, I did not understand why. I just began to understand the addiction of many Filipinos to the dish when I tried it. Here are some reasons why I think Samgyeopsal is very popular among Filipinos:

1. The word “unlimited” is enticing. But come to think of it, is it really worth it? The average price of an unlimited meat package is PHP 499 (roughly $10). You are given raw meat which you still need to cook. The side dishes do not seem to be expensive too. Maybe for some people who can eat a lot, it’s really worth it, but I believe that most of the population cannot make the most out of it. That’s why Samgyeopsal businesses are booming.

2. The side dishes are superb. When we cook at home, we usually just cook one or two dishes because it takes time to prepare. The side dishes offered by these restaurants are really enticing because it’s unusual for us Filipinos to have so many flavors in one table. It’s like “fiesta” for us to have that much food in one dining!

3. The price is just enough. This is only my opinion, but the price is just enough for a good Korean dining experience. You don’t have to worry about the bill because it’s an unlimited package. You just focus on cooking, eating, and bonding with your friends!

 4. The joy of the experience. I’ve seen non-cooks turn into professional grill masters at Samgyeopsal restaurants. There’s something about grilling meat at a table with your friends that touches the Filipino spirit. It gives a sense of family and togetherness. We enjoy shared experiences like this especially if it’s new.

Lunch out!

What to be careful about

My wife loves Samgyeopsal so one time I talked to her about it. Eating it frequently is NOT healthy. Yes, there’s lettuce and other vegetables but the main dish, which is grilled meat, is never healthy.  Charring meat causes the formation of heterocyclic aromatic amine (HAA) that could cause cancer. Furthermore, when fat is exposed to heat, it becomes oxidized that creates free radicals. Here’s an excerpt from the US National Library of Medicine’s website:

If free radicals overwhelm the body’s ability to regulate them, a condition known as oxidative stress ensues. Free radicals thus adversely alter lipids, proteins, and DNA and trigger a number of human diseases.

That’s why I worry that if Filipinos will not have discipline in eating the dish, many of us will get sick. So, the actual intention of this article is to spread awareness. We should be wary of joining the bandwagon of eating the dish regularly as if it’s already part of our diet. Maybe eating out once a month is enough. Especially now that we are battling against COVID-19, we should strengthen our immune system by eating fruits and vegetables and staying away from unhealthy food.

Keep safe and be guided always!

Let us know! What do you think about Samgyeopsal? Do you have a version of it in your part of the world?

Did you crave and at the same time checked on your health? I did! If you want to read more of his musings and articles just go over his blog! You’ll find many interesting practical tidbits there.

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Remembering Good Things

One of the most amazing abilities that we have is the capacity to remember. Remembering allows us to reconnect with experiences that have already happened, and relive them again. To engage with past sights, sounds, smells, and feelings again are empowering. It enables us to see things in a new light and may remind us of the goodness of life if you know where to look.

I have been missing so many things lately. So right now, journey with me as I take you through some experiences I’m grateful for, that made my life worth living.

Steak! Excuse my camera skills!

Good Food

It was a special day. After sending pictures of food and searching for restaurant recommendations I and my friends ended up having lunch in a nearby steakhouse. Eating something luxurious always brightens up days where stress consumes you. A kind server came to our table with a polite “What can I get you?” We would always order the cheapest item on the menu but this time, we decided on getting our choice prime cuts. “Medium rare please! With a side of rice.”

Our eyes lit up as the steak arrives at our table on a hot platter. You should’ve seen it! It was so glorious, deserving of applause. We took pictures of it – immortalizing the mouth-watering beauty in social media. The steak was cooked to perfection. We squeezed lemon on it, sliced it, revealing an immaculate gradient of pink, and excitedly took it close to our mouths with a fork. A rush of joy went over us as we had our first perfect bite.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Amazing Coffee

I always enjoyed breathing in the air every time I enter my go-to cafe. The smell of freshly roasted coffee invades me with so much positive energy. “How’s it going?” greets my friend at the bar before taking my order. I would always get myself a hot strong blend and sit at my favorite nook, slowly sipping away at my cup. 

Drinking coffee is not complete without my friends. Time quickly passes by as we hang out and have conversations that won’t seem to end, pausing only to fuel it more with coffee. With every sip, a slightly different taste unfolds as the coffee reveals its characteristic blend. We get to the bottom of our cups, but the conversation goes on. “Should we get another cup?”

Adventure under the sun 🙂

Genuine Warmth

The sky was the perfect shade of blue and the sun radiated a friendly warmth as my friend and I walked through a grassy field. Our laughter would sometimes mingle with the gentle breeze of air. There were deep sighs of gratitude as we took in the views of the distant mountains and cornfields. We walked on dirt roads having cows and chickens as our companions.

It was almost high noon and the sun was already scorching, so we took shelter under a tree, and ate the bread we took from the breakfast table. As we sat there we couldn’t help but be thankful. It’s not every day that we get to experience something like this where you can just be. Life is good and everything is enough. 

Reliving Good Memories

Our memories are treasures. Make your heart remember the good things it has experienced. When times get rough and when the road ahead gets dark, open up your treasure, and remind yourself that everything will be better soon. 

What is your favorite uplifting memory that you’ll dive into today?

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