2016: The Year of Ups and (Mostly) Downs + What is Kristen Up to Now?

If you were (somehow) following the blog closely in 2016, you'll know that I had posted a few times here and there about what was going on in my life. Eventually, I grew unsatisfied enough to unpublish them and leave the blog blank for the year. A lot of different things contributed to this, but I can mostly say I was distracted and uninspired. School drove me crazy, and my body was plotting against me. But now that it's 2017, I'm ready to jump back into the swing of things. 

2016 was a hectic year. I graduated from high school. I got accepted into all sorts of colleges. I went to the Philippines again. I had spine surgery. And now I'm in the middle of a crazy gap year. My biggest regret of 2016 was not picking up my DSLR as much. I lost interest in photography (along with most other things), and it's been a struggle to snap back to who I used to be and more. 

However, with this break from capturing life through a lens all the time, life became much more candid, stress-free, and natural. I stopped worrying so much about aesthetic and composition, and I soaked up the world around me. When I was in the Philippines in May, I didn't bother to bring my DSLR, and I actually lived for once. I was in the middle of a very hard time, and I feel like I left the country just to get away from my problems for ten days. In our world where every moment of our lives has to be documented to feel some sort of validation, a part of me wishes I had those DSLR moments to share, but what is most important to me is that I was immersed in every moment. This sentiment stuck with me for most of 2016, and it's something I don't regret. 

That being said, I was/am still very active in sharing with my audience what I'm up to, just not in the most formal of platforms. I'd like to think 2016, for me, was the year Snapchat reigned supreme. Especially with the latter half of my year stuck in a physical and emotional rut after my surgery, little snippets of my day were enough to entertain and engage my followers. It would be neat to juxtapose those stories with formal pictures on my blog, so I'll be working on that in the future. However, you can find me @KristenApollo on Snapchat for now. 

I mentioned earlier that I'm currently on a gap year, and it still feels a little weird. I've been up to a lot, but the biggest highlights are a few projects I'm working on with some great companies that have taken an interest in my work. Keep an eye out for those! 

Three weeks into 2017, and I'm feeling very optimistic about life again. 2016 was a battle, but with all the right people in my life, things are picking back up again. With that being said, I hope you will all stick with me to watch it all unfold. 

-Kristen

Happy New Year

(also happy birthday to me!)

I'm 18!

I'm 18!

My birthday is the day before New Year's Eve, so I usually just bunch them together. I'm sorry for not posting often. I haven't had many exciting days in the past few months. Although I was in the hospital for a while last month, but that wasn't very exciting. 

Let's try to catch up the fun stuff though. For Christmas I got a Pixelstick! Now I can do fun long exposures of whatever I'd like. The stick works by taking a picture, translating it into different pixels and firing them strategically so they create the picture within the picture Look at how cool it is!

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My favorite

My favorite

My New Year's resolution is to get healthier...but right after my first meal of the year. It's a family tradition to feast at midnight, and there's no way I'm missing out on that

Gotta have castañas!

Gotta have castañas!

The infamous fruit bowl

The infamous fruit bowl

Mouthwatering

Mouthwatering

My goal for the new year is to just simply be better than last year. (I actually have a lot of goals for the new year, but they're most easily encompassed in the previous sentence.) What are some of your goals for the new year? 

Hopefully the next time I post won't be a while from now! Although I will be getting spine surgery soon, so hopefully that won't affect me too much. 

Hope to see you soon, 

-Kristen

A Summer in Stanford

It's been one hell of a summer. From the stress of the coursework, to the drama in the dorms, and everything in between, it was hectic. However, this doesn't mean that I didn't have a great time. In fact, I can say with utmost confidence that this is the best summer that I have ever had in my entire life. I got to spend it with people that I love and care about, and I would not have had it any other way. 

During my time at Stanford, I was able to snap quite a few pics with my DSLR. I went out one night and wanted to do long exposure shots, so I headed out alone at around 10 PM to shoot some pictures. While they all turned out nice, it was definitely an experience that I would not want to do again. In the span of about two hours, I had quite a few close calls, so I really don't picture doing that again, or at least by myself again. 

One of the most cliche Stanford pictures

One of the most cliche Stanford pictures

Ah, so refreshing.

Ah, so refreshing.

Honestly my most favorite place in all of campus, Memorial Church

Honestly my most favorite place in all of campus, Memorial Church

Even better at night 

Even better at night 

These corridors are just so beautiful

These corridors are just so beautiful

The engineering quad's modern take on the arches

The engineering quad's modern take on the arches

Packard 

Packard 

A major event that occurred whilst I was at Stanford was the legalization of gay marriage by the SCOTUS. Considering I was in an area that is well known for its progressive ideals, and large support of the homosexual community, I knew that I had to attend the Pride Parade. It was going to go down in history, and I wanted to be a part of it. Pride was a very interesting event, but it was (mostly) filled with love and good vibes. I am so incredibly glad I was able to be a part of it, and witness the greatest display of love ever. 

#LoveWins

#LoveWins

All in all, I had an amazing summer. I ate good food, made friends, enjoyed life, learned a lot about psychology, math, and physics, and also a lot about myself and the world around me. I feel as if I grew up a lot more this summer than ever before, and it is truly invigorating. If you have any questions about my summer, leave me a comment, and I would love to get back to it. I must get going since my flight back to Wisconsin is about to board. 

I've had one hell of an adventure this summer, and I would not have wanted it any other way. 

See you soon, 

-Kristen

My California Adventure

Here we go again. Not even a month later, and I'm already embarking on my next journey. For two months this summer, I will be studying at Stanford. It's going to be stressful, I already know it. But I know that I will find a way to somehow make it through and enjoy myself along the way. 

I'm writing this post in my hotel room overlooking Half Moon Bay. A few days ago, we left from Chicago (barely) to San Francisco. We made our way to the Ritz Carlton at Half Moon Bay, and we ate to our heart's desires. (My family loves to eat, what can I say?) When we weren't eating, we spent our time exploring the beach, and getting together with extended family. I'm especially excited for this summer because I will have family nearby and it would a great bonding experience for all of us. 

Tomorrow, I will be moving into my dorm, and doing all the fun stuff that newbies do at the beginning of their time in a new place. Hopefully I'll make lots of new friends, and even reconnect with friends I've known before. 

The sad part of this adventure is that I will most likely be too busy to update my blog, so I will most likely have a another blog post at the end of my summer, detailing what happened. Hopefully all of you can wait that long. :) 

Mmm, brunch

Mmm, brunch

Nothing like a god old cuppa

Nothing like a god old cuppa

Half Moon Bay has stolen my heart

Half Moon Bay has stolen my heart

These two mini-explorers, I tell you

These two mini-explorers, I tell you

Sunbathing?

Sunbathing?

Just a great day to be outside

Just a great day to be outside

Second time I've seen it in person, and I'm still in awe.

Second time I've seen it in person, and I'm still in awe.

Meet Eugene

Meet Eugene

See you soon, 

-Kristen

The Last Day + Reflections

Sorry for not posting the past couple of days. Nothing too out of the ordinary happened, and I was extremely tired. However, if there was one thing that stood out the most the past couple days is that we had a Cebu lechon, roast pig from the province of Cebu, and it was quite honestly the best thing I have ever had the pleasure to eat. (With all the times that I've mentioned food throughout this trip, you'd think I'm a food pilgrim of some sort.) 

Right now, I am writing about my last day as I await to leave my hotel and go back home to the United States. We will be making another stop in Japan, and then back to Minneapolis we go. It's crazy to think how fast this trip went. I was able to reconnect with family I had not seen in years, and, most of all, I was able to reconnect with my cultural heritage. Living in Neillsville has been a rollercoaster of an experience, but sometimes I just want to feel like I'm a part of somewhere, and this is it. In addition, I must add, yes, it was nice to live in luxury in the Philippines, but once you step out of your bubble, you are reminded that you're in the Philippines after all. Would I want to go back again someday? Of course, is that even a question that needs to be asked? Overall, I had the adventure of a lifetime in the past couple of weeks, and I will treasure this experience for the rest of my life. I would also like to take this time to thank my parents for providing this amazing opportunity to not only myself, but for the entire family. It's a shame my brother MIchael couldn't make it, but we'll make it up to him sometime. 

Today, we visited the institution that has educated members of every generation of my family, ranging from my grandparents to my siblings — University of Santo Tomas. UST is an extremely old institution, with it being the oldest in Asia. However, it's still not as old as Harvard. It was an especially hot day, and it was a miracle that my camera managed to stay on. 

Quick dim sum break

Quick dim sum break

Oh, jeepney, you silly goose

Oh, jeepney, you silly goose

Roar

Roar

Jose Rizal, I believe

Jose Rizal, I believe

Only walk under the arch after you graduate. My dad learned the hard way.

Only walk under the arch after you graduate. My dad learned the hard way.

Nursing building, I believe

Nursing building, I believe

After visiting UST, we returned to our hotel to freshen up before we went on our way to SM Aura in Fort Bonifacio. I will admit that it might be one of the nicest malls I've ever been in. I find it quite surprising that some of the best malls that I've ever experienced have been in the Philippines. At the mall, we at my brother's favorite restaurant, Todd English. I must say it was the perfect meal to end the night, and to end the trip. Good food and good people are all you need for a good time. 

Rooftop terrace

Rooftop terrace

Ohohoho, yes please.

Ohohoho, yes please.

A macaron ferris wheel?! Dreams do come true!

A macaron ferris wheel?! Dreams do come true!

Note the spectacular architecture

Note the spectacular architecture

Well, folks, that's all for now. I hope you enjoyed my mini journey, and I can't wait to take you along on my next one. I've got a flight to catch!

See you in America, 

-Kristen

Back to Manila

After waking up and having our last breakfast buffet in Boracay, it was time to say goodbye. This vacation within a vacation went by far too quickly, and I'm already trying to plan my next trip back. On the way out, I made sure to get pictures from the speedboat because it was the one thing I regretted the other day. The view on the water are so unique, and it would be a shame to not capture them. 

Ube and an omelet. My mouth is watering.

Ube and an omelet. My mouth is watering.

It's hard to tell, but those little carts were specially for APEC

It's hard to tell, but those little carts were specially for APEC

A view of the villas

A view of the villas

The boats were everywhere

The boats were everywhere

If you didn't get a speedboat, you got one of these babies

If you didn't get a speedboat, you got one of these babies

The flight back to Manila wasn't too bad. I slept on the way there. The flight is barely an hour long, but, hey, I'm a sleepy girl! For the rest of the day, we resettled back into our hotel and visited Shang Plaza, and had more tea. All in all it was a fantastic day. 

See you soon, 

-Kristen

Boracay Day Two

Let me just start of by saying I love paradise. I woke up at 5AM this morning to watch the sunrise on the beach, and I have never felt so alive in my entire life. 

Imagine the freshest air you'll ever breathe

Imagine the freshest air you'll ever breathe

Mmm, cotton candy skies

Mmm, cotton candy skies

After my alone time on the beach this morning, I went about and did the typical beach-y types of things people do. Lying in a chair and soaking up the sun, snorkeling off-shore, and eating finger food once you got tired. I did just that until this afternoon when I had my massage appointment. Let me tell you, if you ever get the chance to have a massage next to the ocean, do not turn it down. I repeat, do not turn it down. It is beyond relaxing. I even want another one. (There was a bit of an awkward situation involving my undressing and an old man with an iPad sitting nearby, but I feel that I could turn that into a post on its own.)

Such a beautiful infinity pool

Such a beautiful infinity pool

Wishing you were all here

Wishing you were all here

After the massage, we went to the terrace cafe and situated ourselves into a booth hanging over a cliff overlooking the ocean. The workers informed us earlier that that spot was the best for watching the sunset. How lucky were we to have gotten such perfect seats? However, not only did we get to see the spectacular sunset, but we got to have spectacular food to go along. (How many times am I going to mention that we had food?) 

View from the booth

View from the booth

(APEC was being held around the same time we were there, so here they are setting up for it)

(APEC was being held around the same time we were there, so here they are setting up for it)

Fresh seafood, anyone?

Fresh seafood, anyone?

Just when you thought life couldn't get any sweeter. 

Just when you thought life couldn't get any sweeter. 

With the magnificent views, superb food, and jubilant live music, and great company, this was a night to remember forever. If I had to choose one night to relive, it might just be this one. I wish all of you could have joined me, but hopefully these pictures will do for now. :) 

See you soon, 

Kristen

Graduation

My brother graduated from medical school today! It was a grand graduation with nearly 500 students lined up to receive their diploma. That being said, with 500 students waiting to receive a diploma, the ceremony was unbearably long. Despite my brother having a last name near the beginning of the alphabet, it took nearly an hour just for him to get his fifteen seconds of the limelight. 

Take what you see and triple it. 

Take what you see and triple it. 

Finally, after the painstakingly long ceremony, it was finally time to partaaaaaay. We reserved an entire section of the main restaurant in our hotel just so we can get our party on. We catered to over a few dozen guests, ranging from friends and family, and it was just the perfect size. The food was fantastic. I mean, Filipino food is always fantastic, but having access to a huge buffet with fantastic chefs was a huge plus. Anything you could think of was probably in the buffet. By the end of the celebration, I swear I set some sort of new record for being full. Wow, I'm hungry again. 

A fantastic structure on the UST campus that I just had to capture

A fantastic structure on the UST campus that I just had to capture

That night, we ate like royalty 

That night, we ate like royalty 

That is the end of today's post. I have to wake up early tomorrow because we're off to Boracay! White sand beach here I come! 

See you soon, 

Kristen

A Three-Day Recap

Saturday up until today has been packed with a multitude of events. Because of that, I didn't have the time to write up new posts to provide updates. In addition, it's difficult for myself to lug my DSLR everywhere, but I intend to change that. There is so much that goes on throughout my day that is picture-worthy, so it's clear that the pros outweigh the cons. 

Because of the lack of updates, and for the sake of longevity, I'll supply a day-by-day summary starting from Saturday until today. I'll try my best to recollect all of the important details and provide relevant visuals. However, I'll have to maintain brevity since I have to sleep soon because I have to wake up early for my brother's medical school graduation. 

Saturday

Saturday was a day of learning and exploration. We started off the day with a lovely brunch, and got right to business. We first went to Podium, a mall in Edsa, to get haircuts, which all turned out wonderfully. You can find my haircut on my hair stylist's Instagram, but I'll leave that to you to find. Next, we went next door to Megamall to have a Michelin Star dim sum at TimHoWan. Let me just say that I did not want to eat anything for the rest of my life. I was so full afterward, I could not walk. I ended my day extremely early due to jet lag. I knocked out at 8:30 PM and struggled to sleep all the way through the night. Ah jet lag, my worst enemy. 

Sunday

With another lovely brunch, Sunday started similarly to Saturday. However, we ended up having a round of coffee in the hotel lounge to take in the sights of Makati and the hotel itself. The views are absolutely spectacular, and I could spend hours admiring them. I've always been interested in architecture, and the growing number of large construction projects all over Manila has been extremely exciting to me. In addition, I just love cityscapes in general, and Manila just has a unique feel to it. 

View from the Shangri-La Club

The lobby lounge in the Makati Shangri-La

 After brunch and coffee, we relocated to the Shangri-La in Edsa because our hotel room in Makati was too small. After settling in Edsa, we explored the Shangri-La Plaza, a mall connected to our hotel. The Plaza is a surprisingly great place to shop. It feels amazingly upscale, and it's extremely clean. The highlight of our trip to the Plaza was at TWG Tea, a Singaporean tea shop that offers a wide variety of tea and tea-infused treats. The salesman at the store has such a talent for selling things, because we ended up buying a dozen macarons and returned the next day (which I will get to in a bit). The macarons were unbelievably delicious, and I just couldn't believe it. 

Love love love this shop

This makes me feel so many different emotions

Afterwards, we went to visit my aunts' new condominium, and then settled down for an extremely filling Filipino meal at Sentro. The meal encompassed everything from crispy pata to grilled squid to halo-halo and so much more.The food was so good, I wish I had brought my camera to capture all of the deliciousness. Perhaps the next time we go there — trust me, we will be back. Just like Saturday, I knocked out early because of jet lag. Although, I did sleep a bit more soundly at night. 

Monday

Today was a bit more lax than yesterday; however, we still had a lot going on. After a delectable brunch at The Heat, we went to go explore the Shangri-La Plaza again. We somehow found ourselves in there before opening, so we returned to our hotel room to relax and take a breather. Once my mom and brother returned from my brother's graduation rehearsal, we decided to have dinner at Kimukatsu to have pork tonkatsu. However, they were closed for another hour, so we went down a couple floors to have an afternoon tea at TWG Tea. After a painstaking twenty minutes to choose what teas to order, we settled on quite a few. My parents decided to try the Longevity tea, while my brother and I opted to have the Yellow Gold Tea, the rarest and most expensive tea in the world. The tea is special since the leaves are coated with 24ct gold flakes. According to the TWG Tea website, 50g of the stuff runs for $480. At the shop, since I have trouble converting PHP to USD, I had no idea a small pot of the stuff was already over $60. I must say, the tea was extremely strong, and we had quite a bit of trouble downing all of it. All in all, though, the afternoon tea was an unforgettable experience, and I'd love to go there at least once more before we leave. After tea, we finally went to Kimukatsu to finally experience what my brothers have been raving about for the longest time. No words can describe how amazing that place is, and I could eat there everyday for the rest of my life. After tonkatsu, we returned to the hotel so we can socialize with family and relax. And now here I am writing this post to provide updates on my life. 

After writing this, I finally realized the true importance of taking photos, and I'll strive to bring my camera to more places in the future. Starting tomorrow, I'll be trying my best to capture the details of my brother's graduation and the following after party. Because of the time of the event, I must be heading off to bed now. 

See you soon.

-Kristen

The Arrival

In my previous post, I mentioned that I'd probably write my next post before taking off to Japan. I could not have been any more wrong than that. Instead, it is 3 AM, and I'm writing next to a hotel window overlooking the Makati skyline. 

My view from the Makati Shangri-La

The voyage to the Philippines felt relatively short compared to the other times I've visited. It may have been the fact that there were more things to entertain me along the way. (Or perhaps it was the Ambien that knocked me out for hours.) I must add, Whiplash is a fantastic movie, and I'd recommend it to anyone and everyone.

Twelve hours after departing from the US, we reached the Narita airport, and headed straight toward Tatsu, quite possibly my most favorite udon place on the entire earth. It just makes me feel good, and it brings back nostalgic memories from other times we've traveled through that airport. Plus, their tempura udon is just delicious. See for yourself. 

If you don't find this appetizing, then please reevaluate your life. 

The Narita airport really is a fantastic place to rest in-between flights, and the amenities provided by the airport are top notch. My particular favorite place in the airport is the lounge, where I can rest before hopping on another plane to Manila. With unconventional seating arrangements, and artistic accent panels, the lounge is a place I could spend hours relaxing. Just look at this guy, he's so relaxed...I think. He was in that position for at least half an hour. But that's besides the point. Look at those panels. 

Some say he's still sitting there till this day.

The four hour flight to Manila from Tokyo was easy for me — I slept for about 75% of it. Although, I guess I missed a lot while I was in dreamland. Apparently, a passenger had passed out, and my mom had to go and help him. I didn't know of this until after the flight, however. I was confused when I saw my mom walking up and down the aisles with her stethoscope around her neck, but I was almost sure I was still asleep. 

Upon arrival in Manila, my family and I went straight to our hotel to meet with my brothers and my brother's girlfriend. It was so nice to finally see them again after about six months. Had we not gone to the Philippines, we wouldn't have seen them for over a year. Because we were craving Filipino food, we went out to the shopping complex, Greenbelt, next to our hotel. The restaurant we ate at was extremely delicious, but I personally didn't enjoy it enough as much I should I have. Since it was past midnight, I was more concerned about getting back to the hotel, taking a shower, and sleeping. Yet, alas, here I am — four thirty in the morning and writing a blog post. And because of that, I will be ending the post here, so I can catch some zzz's. 

See you soon. 

-Kristen

 

And So It Begins

It is currently two in the morning, and I'm sitting in my bedroom taking in the situation. Clothes are strewn about, trash bags are filled to capacity, my bed is in a disheveled state, and my suitcase is finally packed. The past few hours of my life have been absolute chaos, since I had only until the last minute to pack my bags. Because of my schedule the past few weeks, let alone today, I simply did not have ample time to prepare. I'm contemplating staying up all night, since I have to leave the house in about five hours anyway. 

This is the current state of my desk as I write this post. As you can see, I'm well-hydrated and well-read. Are there things in life any more important than that? 

Normally, I would have my things packed around two days before my trip, so if I forget anything, I still have time to sort it out; however, because of AP exams for the past couple of weeks, I really had to set myself up to multitasking and sacrifice. An accurate account of the past two weeks of my life would entail sleepless nights filled with cramming, mornings and afternoons dedicated to taking exams, and evenings spent trying to make sure I have all the things I need in the next two weeks. 

I've traveled enough in the past few years for myself to understand my traveling habits, and how I can account for them. One thing I noticed is that I never pack the right amount of clothes — either too much or too little. In this case, I decided, because of the duration of my vacation, it would be more beneficial to at least overpack rather than underpack. I tried to account for various different occasions (i.e. my brother's graduation, traveling the city, and lying on the beach). Dresses, skirts, blouses, a pair of jeans, and swimsuits were my articles of choice. I also tried to taking into account the hot and humid Philippine weather — I opted for lighter colored clothing more lightweight materials. The hardest part for me, however, was deciding what pairs of shoes I would bring with me. I'd rather not discuss the decisions I made, but I will say that I will have a generous selection to choose from. 

There are plenty of more things I would like to touch on, but I simply do not have the energy to continue writing. It's nearing 3 AM, and my eyes are getting heavy. My next post will most likely be in the airport, before I set off to Japan. Oh how the excitement is growing. 

See you soon.

-Kristen

Welcome to my site!

As a lot of you may clearly see, I've indulged in starting a new site where I can share my work. Some of you may know of my old blog, but I just wasn't feeling the motivation to keep it alive. I was forced to create it for a high school photography course, and I used it sporadically throughout the years to share pictures and give updates about my life. It was fun being able to combine photography with writing, and I had soon come to find out that I had a passion for both. However, I was not satisfied with the overall quality of work put into the site — I knew I could create something much more constructive and worthwhile, so I sought out a new outlet where I can cultivate my work in a high quality environment. 

A major impetus for the creation of this site is the amount of impending commotion in my life. In just two days, I will be leaving for the Philippines for two weeks, and in about a month, I will be heading to Stanford where I will be studying for the summer. While these two events are highly significant in and of themselves, they're only the tip of the iceberg. Fortunately, with all of these things going on in my life, I have been given plenty of space for myself to develop. However, not only do I see these events as opportunities wherein I can grow as a  photographer and writer, but also I see them as important milestones in my life whose memories I want to preserve and share with everyone. 

All in all, what you will find here in the next few weeks, months, or even years to come, will be glimpses of my life that I want to share with all of you. Whether it be about traveling, studying, or the drab and mundane, every post and picture will be significant to me. Consider this place a visual journal through which all of you can join me in my own life's adventure. 

I cannot wait for what lies ahead of me, and I hope you'll stick around to find out. Cheers!

-Kristen