How to Green Your Holidays

Christmas is upon us and with the joy and celebrations come the piles of torn wrapping paper, mounds of food waste, busted string lights,and other stresses that will make Mother Nature shout “Bah humbug!”. But it doesn’t have to be like that. It’s possible to celebrate Christmas without creating a trash pile for Santa’s elves.

  • Collect your coffee (and planner stickers) in a For Here mug or your own reusable tumbler. 

How many coffees do you need to buy to get a free planner? How many thousands of people want the same planner you do? Multiply the two and you have an idea how many paper cups are thrown in landfills just this Christmas season to get that free planner. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Bring your own mug and save the planet. As a bonus, many coffee shops (both chain and independent) give you a discount for bringing your own mug. Chances are, by the time you collect enough stickers for that planner, you’d have saved enough from the cup discount to buy yourself a bonus coffee.

  • Unplug your Christmas lights before you go to sleep.

If you’ve had your Christmas lights installed since November 1st, you’re probably already feeling the monetary pinch from keeping them running all the time. Remember to unplug your lights before you go to sleep. Anyway, no one’s awake to appreciate them. If you can, invest in LED lights too. While they cost more in the beginning, they also last longer and are safer to use.

Christmas Spirit

  • Unplug appliances before you leave town.

Appliances left plugged in still use electricity – often called “phantom energy” – so unplug them when not in use, and especially when you’re about to leave on a long trip.

genius invention: why didn't I think of this?

  • Say no to food waste.

Food waste – whether it’s the waste from food preparation (think peelings) or waste from your plate – almost always also ends up in landfills. Once there, they decompose without air and produce methane.  Methane is an even worse greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide, trapping 28 to 36 times more heat compared to CO2.

Reduce food waste by planning properly so that there are no leftovers. If there are leftovers, give them away or eat them right away before they spoil.

Compost the food prep waste. If you have even a small garden, you can compost at home using the Bokashi method. If you need to compost food waste from a large party (your company party maybe?), consider hiring a composting service like Green Space.

The aftermath 3

  • Go for greener gifting.

Everybody loves gifts. We love getting them and we love giving them (to people we actually like). But to soften the blow to the environment and avoid all the messy post-unwrapping cleanup, consider:

  • Gifts that don’t need to be wrapped, like tickets to concerts or classes and store gift certificates. One of my friends gave me gift certificate for classes with Writer’s Block Philippines and it’s one of my favorite things ever.
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  • Gifts that keep on giving, like donations to charity on behalf of your recipient
  • Buying gifts from environmentally and socially conscious SMEs. Buying locally made items from local companies supports more jobs and keeps the money inside our economy. Last year, I gave away bottles of tea concentrate from Bayani Brew. The tea leaves come from small Filipino farmers who are paid fairly, the price is right, and the tea itself is damned good. I’m also a big fan of SGD Coffee, who buys their beans directly from small farmers in Sagada,
  • Placing gifts in reusable gift bags. I save all the paper gift bags from the previous Christmas so I can reuse them for the next year. If you don’t like paper gift bags, maybe you can learn the art of furoshiki instead.

For this year’s gifts, I’ve gone for the following:

  • Bath and Home Care gift sets from Messy Bessy for the family titos and titas. Messy Bessy’s corporate gift guide, Christmas catalog, and regular catalog are available for download:

Messy Bessy Corporate Gift Guide 2018

Messy Bessy CATALOG 2018

They offer free shipping within Metro Manila for orders worth at least Php 5,000. If you’re getting items from the regular catalog, they offer 5% discount and free shipping for orders worth at least Php 5,000.

  • Baby-safe liquid laundry detergent from Messy Bessy for my brother and sister-in-law (and super cute niece)
  • Books from Adarna House and Tahanan Books for my inaanaks. Support local authors and publishers!
  • Homemade goodies for my friends and cousins. Yes, they are my (unwilling) test subjects for my baking.

 Merry Christmas everyone!

The Islander Girl goes to Travel Spread

I had a lot of fun (and learned a lot too) at Explore PhilippinesTravel Spread event last week 😀 The anniversary party was on November 24, while the event itself was on November 25-26, 2016.

Both the party and the event were in the events hall of Century City Mall in Makati. I was also lucky enough to attend both events with friends – yay less awkwardness at being at an event where you don’t know anyone @_@

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I have two main memories of the anniversary party: eating dragonfruit ice cream from Johann’s Cuisine and fried pizza from Chill Out Cooks, and seeing Rhian Ramos in person.

Johann’s Cuisine‘s dragonfruit ice cream is amazeballs. I’m not really a fan of dragonfruit – it’s okay, but it’s not something I’d go out of my way to eat – but the ice cream is love. Johann’s Cuisine uses coconut milk for the ice cream, not cow’s milk. So not only does it taste delicious, it’s vegan too 😀 Yes, I only found out after I forgot that I’m not supposed to eat dairy for a week (doctor’s orders) and ate a cup, so WHEW, crisis averted.

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I have no photo of Chill Out Cooks‘ fried pizza because I was so hungry that I forgot to take a photo before I devoured it. But here’s a photo from their page to show it in all it’s glory:

Mary Ann and I wondered how you could fry a pizza. Is it deep-fried as is? Do they coat the slice in batter then deep-fry? Do they put two slices together like a sandwich then deep-fry? As it turns out, it’s just the pizza dough that’s deep-fried THEN they put the toppings. They can also stuff the dough with the toppings then deep-fry. Their regular stall is in Greenfield District in Mandaluyong (Friday-Saturday, 5pm-12mn) and since I’ll be there anyway on Friday for Geekfight, I’m grabbing another slice of their fried goodness.

The other highlight was seeing Rhian Ramos, the cover girl for Explore Philippines’ 2nd anniversary issue (Nov 2016-Jan 2017). She’s so pretty, she’s unreal. Are all celebrities like this?

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France Pinzon (the editor-in-chief of Explore Philippines) is friends with the creators of Saving Sally, an independent animated movie that Rhian starred in when she was 19 (she’s 26 now!) that is FINALLY getting released this December at the Metro Manila Film Festival, so she brought it up during Rhian’s interview and gave her the opportunity to promote it. Trivia: Rhian is actually the second Sally – she only came onboard after the original Sally was unavailable for reshoots. WATCH THE MOVIE GUYS!!!

Another bit of trivia: I sent in an audition video for Sally. Obviously I didn’t get it 😛

As for Travel Spread itself, I was only able to attend the second day because I wasn’t feeling well on the first day. While that’s unfortunate, I’m still happy because I was able to catch my friend Paul Catiang‘s talk on travel and food writing! 😀 The talk itself focused on his experiences of eating while traveling, including an eight-month stay in India with his father, where the food was so rich (Paul says it’s like having a Bollywood dance number in your mouth) that he ended up craving for the simple things like plain steamed rice. Paul says that food needs to be understood in three contexts: survival, curiosity, and comfort. We eat to survive (none of that fancy stuff), but we’re also curious about other things. But at the end of it all, we come back to the food that comforts us and makes us happy. It was a great talk 🙂 The Q&A section had people asking him about how he got started in food writing for Explore (he’s known France for a while and she tapped him to write) and how he deals with restaurants where the food isn’t that good (apparently, there are lots of ways to avoid answering the question “Masarap ba?” [“Is it delicious?”]).

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The afternoon had a panel session by the Explore Philippines staff on what it takes to put out a great magazine.

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When (almost) all the travel information you need is online and available for free (mostly), why would a reader want to buy Explore Philippines? France (she’s bottom row, middle, covered by the mike stand) says that they produce Explore as a well-edited collector’s item – something you keep even after reading. “We want the magazine to stand the test of time”, she says. They attract readers using the quality of the visuals and stories, as well as featuring lesser-known destinations. Publisher Christina Po (bottom row, left-most) added “We feel like reading articles in a magazine is a different experience from reading something online.” This doesn’t mean that they’re skipping online content. Their website http://www.livetoexplore.ph has the same quality writing but in much shorter and specific articles, as befits an online audience. The gorgeous photos are there too. The website does NOT have the magazine’s content, so you still have to buy the magazine if you want the long-form stories.

The revamped Explore Philippines now comes out quarterly instead of bi-monthly, which France says gives them more leeway in logistics for shoots and more time to make sure that stuff is well-edited. “It’s actually more work, not less work [to publish quarterly]!”, she says.

France also says that they’re coming up with more travel events next year. I’m definitely looking forward to those 🙂

Explore Philippines Magazine is turning 2!

Explore Philippines, the official inflight magazine of SkyJet Airlines, is turning two years old! To celebrate, Explore Philippines is hosting the fantastic Travel Spread: Traveling the Philippines One Page at a Time – a super fun free event for travelers interested in learning more about travel and food writing, promoting conservation through art, and bringing local communities and travelers together. It will be on November 25-26, 2016 at the Century City Mall Events Center, 4th floor, Century City Mall, Makati City 😀

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I was lucky enough to be part of the media launch at The Mango Tree in BGC, where we got to meet the editorial team (EIC France Pinzon and Managing Editor Alyssa Lapid), and publishing team (publisher Christina Po), as well as some of the speakers for Travel Spread.

According to France, Explore Philippines differentiates itself from other magazines by being the “premiere lifestyle and travel magazine that’s pro-Philippines”. France also credits part of the magazine’s success to featuring celebrities (as guest Explorers) who really do travel and have their own travel personalities. They match celebrities with their locations, like surfer gal Rhian Ramos with Siargao (the 2nd anniversary issue cover girl!) and adventurers Marc Nelson and Rovilson Fernandez with rugged Albay. Christina also takes pride in featuring sustainable tourism in the magazine, as she sees it as a “great way to break barriers”. “How and why we travel has a great impact”, says Christina.

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The editorial sections of the revamped Explore Philippines include Main Course (OMG food), Now Boarding (what’s happening now), Checklist (the best and the brighest in local tourism), Pulse (all about travel trends), Disruptor (focuses on life on the move), Jetsetter (Pinoy tourist share their secrets), Pilot (movers and shakers in the tourism industry), Roots (a new section dedicated to “the faces and places that helped build a community’s identity”), Recreation (sports and the outdoors!), and Detour (traveling with a purpose). I get the feeling that Detour and Main Course are going to be my favorite sections.

The speaker lineup for Travel Spread also got me hyped up to attend (yes, you can be hyped about attending talks. It’s a thing.). I’m definitely looking forward to hearing from these people:

travel-talks-poster_small

Raffy Dionisio of Circle Hostel is going to talk about Tribes and Treks, a new activity offered by in their Zambales hostel where guests can interact and live with the local Aeta community. They launched the activity a few months ago to help their guests connect with the Aetas and for the Aetas to further benefit from tourism. Tribes and Treks is also featured in Explore Philippines’ 2nd anniversary issue 😀

April Cuenca of Tripkada will be talking about tripkada.com, an Airbnb-style app where travelers looking to save money can join trips put together by independent trip organizers. While Tripkada is officially registered as a travel agency, April considers Tripkada to be more of a “travel tech” company than a traditional travel agency. The trip organizers benefit by reaching out to a wider client base and organizing their own schedules, while travelers benefit by not having to organize everything themselves and getting lower prices. My friends and I have been talking about organizing our own environmental education tours for the longest time and Tripkada sounds like the perfect platform for it.

Paul Catiang of Puzzled Owl (YASSSSS!!! WHOOOO!!!) will be talking about some of my favorite things: food, travel, traveling through food, and writing about food and travel. Paul is a regular contributor to Explore Philippines and yes, he gets paid to eat lots and lots and lots of food 😛 Yoga keeps him trim though. Part of his talk will involve his eight-week trip to India to meet his father for the first time. In his words, eating Indian cuisine is like “having a Bollywood dance number on your tongue”.

A photo posted by Macy (@theislandergirl) on


Travel Spread’s sponsors also got to talk about what they’re bringing to the event: Merrell will help you find the right trekking shoes, Oculus Academy will teach you how to throw shuriken (whaatt???), Chill Out Cooks will feed you fried carbonara, fried pizza, and fried Oreos (sign me up!), and Ozamiz City‘s tourism department will feed you dragonfruit ice cream and laya fish

The Mango Tree kept this writer from starving by feeding us authentic Thai dishes: vegetarian spring rolls, fish cakes, pad thai, chicken skewers, and mango cake. I think I visited the buffet three times *ducks*

 

I’d like to thank Explore Philippines for the opportunity to be part of the media launch and the Mango Tree group for the GCs to Cocina Peruvia that I won in the raffle draw 🙂

Remember: Travel Spread happens on November 25-26, 2016 at the Century City Mall Events Center, 4th floor Century City Mall, Makati. See you there!

Surf, sand, and saving the sea with Reef and WWF

Last week, I had the great opportunity to attend the Free the Sea Movement sponsored by Reef Philippines in partnership with WWF Philippines. Reef and WWF put together a great event that featured some of my favorite things in one place: a coastal cleaup, surfing, and good music.

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To join the event, I needed to purchase anything from Reef (whether at a Reef of G-Force store) and text my name and receipt number to the Reef coordinator. In return, Reef would take care of everything else related to the event: transportation, accommodations at Little Surfmaid Resort, meals, and the surf clinic. Needless to say, it was a fantastic deal. Plus, coastal cleanup! There were only 50 slots so as soon as my friends confirmed that they were game to go, I went over to Trinoma to buy some Reef goodies. In fairness, their flip-flops are super comfy and soft. Much easier on the feet than Havaianas.

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The Islander Girl goes to Blogapalooza

Last May 21st was my first time to attend a Blogapalooza event. Billing itself as the Philippines’ first and largest B2B: Business-to-Blogger Networking and Marketing Event, Blogapalooza brings together business looking for bloggers to write about them and bloggers looking for content to feature.

blogapalooza sked

My primary reason for going to Blogapalooza was to listen to the speakers. As both a blogger and someone who was thrust into social media marketing without any prior training, I wanted to learn more about how PR professionals approached social media marketing and how bloggers chose the companies that they worked with. However, that didn’t mean that I couldn’t have fun and learn more about the products that the businesses were promoting.

The two panels that made the day worth it were Blogging as a Business by Ginger Arboleda of MommyGinger.com and the discussion panel How Brands Can Work Best with Celebrities and Influencers by Norman Agatep, Matec Villanueva (two PR pros), Mikael Daez, and Erika Padilla (two celebs I know nothing about). Granted, I didn’t know who these people were prior to Blogapalooza but their presentations and insights were very much welcome. I loved how Ginger broke down marketing strategy into easy-to-understand pieces that a non-Marketing graduate could understand (Ginger, don’t ever apologize for discussing technicals! Those were awesome.). She discussed the importance of knowing who you are as a blogger, what you stand for (your personal brand!), and what your purpose is before you even start blogging. There was also a section on knowing who your demographics were and the importance of approaching companies who share the same demographics AND values as yourself. After all, you can only sincerely and truthfully promote a product that you believe in, right? 🙂 A lot of what Ginger discussed was something I knew on an instinctual level, but it’s very different to hear a professional’s take on it.

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Got married to the Doctor! Part 3: the church, food, cake, and flowers

Previously, in The Islander Girl…
Adrian and I got married! Our wedding was Doctor Who-themed! Our prenup video had us escaping from Darth Vader, a stormtrooper, and a Cyberman, and traveling through space and time! The groom dressed as the Tenth Doctor! I had a headpiece made of stars! And now, the venues, food, and flowers…
The church:
Wedding venue was Nuestra Senora de Gracia Parish in Guadalupe Viejo, Makati AKA the site of almost every telenovela wedding ever. Despite its stately facade, NSDG is actually smaller on the inside. Seating capacity is around 200-230 people (5 people/pew X 2 pews/row X 20 rows) with a relatively short aisle: save the long train for a different church.

03b nsdg EBE_smaller

Our reception was in the garden of the Monasterio de Guadalupe next door. The garden is in the middle of the monastery and with some planning, was able to accommodate 2 long tables, 21 round tables, 2 buffet setups, the couple setup, the band stage, the projector screen, and the TARDIS.
aerial table setup_smaller
The monastery let us use their airconditioned library (where I got my makeup touched up and stored the wedding cake) and their non-airconditioned recreation room (became the storage area for our suppliers). The monastery has toilets on the first floor for visitors but since their staff don’t maintain those during events, my ninang (who operates a restaurant maintenance company) hired two staffers to keep the toilets clean and restock toilet paper throughout the reception.
Weekend weddings are scheduled for 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm, while the garden can host one event per day.

Continue reading “Got married to the Doctor! Part 3: the church, food, cake, and flowers”

2015 in review

Confession time: this article is actually back-dated. I wrote this post in February 2016 instead of December 2015. I wish I had another reason aside from “I was busy!” but I don’t. HUHU. Anyway, I still wrote it because 2015 was still a year worth remembering, regardless of how outdated this post is 😛

Environmental Work
See that map below? Those are all the municipalities I visited for work in 2015! The red markers are January to mid-July, while the blue markers are mid-July to December.

2015 pearrl map_edit

The numbers: 122 barangays in 18 municipalities in 14 provinces. I’ve traveled for fieldwork before but 2015 was my first time to do it regularly. The most tiring trip was the Cawayan, Masbate-Babatngon, Leyte-Kawayan, Biliran run in November. Although the Tawi-tawi trip was almost as long, our travels were pretty straightforward: fly Manila-Zamboanga-Tawi-tawi, stay on the ship, stay in the hostel, then fly Tawi-tawi-Zamboanga-Manila. Traveling Masbate-Leyte-Biliran was nuts:

* Fly Manila-Cebu
* Van from Cebu City to Bogo City (3 hours)
* Roro from Bogo City to Cawayan (12 mn trip, arrival at 6am)
* Cawayan fieldwork
* Roro from Cawayan to Bogo City (12nn trip, arrival at 6pm)
* Van from Bogo City to Cebu City (3 hours)
* Overnight in Cebu City
* Roro from Cebu City to Palompon, Leyte (10pm trip, arrival at 2am)
* Van from Palompon to Tacloban City (2 hours)
* Babatngon fieldwork with Tacloban as our base
* Travel from Tacloban City to Kawayan, Biliran (2.5 hours)
* Kawayan fieldwork with Almeria as our base
* Travel from Kawayan, Biliran to Tacloban City (2.5 hours)
* Fly Tacloban-Manila

Why all the land trips? Because we were lugging about 200 kilos worth of gear, including dive gear, compressor, dive tanks, focus group discussion materials, interviews, and the personal luggage of 12 people.

pearrl team pic

Each fieldwork stop truly deserves it’s own blog entry, which I will do as soon as I get the time. Which reminds me: I still have pending entries for Cambodia, Alaska, Orlando, and Japan 🙁

Last sunset in Biliran. We go back to Tacloban tomorrow then back to Manila! #fieldworkdiaries #Biliran #sunset

A photo posted by Macy (@theislandergirl) on

Writing Work
I got to attend the Biodiversity Reporting 101 workshop!

biodiversity reporting 101 poster

I found it interesting because it was a workshop geared towards writers who don’t have a science background, as opposed to scientists who don’t have a writing background. I was the only science graduate in the room, with another guy taking up Forestry before shifting to communication. My main takeaway from the event was that we need better science education! It blew my mind that one of the teams (the participants were split into different teams for an activity on pitching a story based on a photograph) thought that Philippine eagles (Pithecophaga jefferyi), or birds in general, get pregnant. For the record, they don’t. The Asian Center for Biodiversity and US Embassy Manila (the sponsor for the event, under the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative) said that were thinking of sending two journalists to the Turtle Islands to wrote a story about the area. Considering that I haven’t written a biodiversity-related article in a while because of fieldwork and other things, I’m not holding my breath that they’ll choose me.

This is how I spend my days off. #biodiversity101 #sciencewriting

A photo posted by Macy (@theislandergirl) on

I attended my first celebrity press conference! I got to attend the press conferences for Paul Bettany and Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei in Game of Thrones) last APCC. I was supposed to go to Colton Haynes’ press con too but I was late (ugh Manila traffic) and they wouldn’t let me into the room anymore. Huhu. But still! I got to ask Paul a question! I was so happy about that. My press badge (sponsored by GMA News Online) also got me a front-row seat to Paul, Nathalie, and Colton’s panels. I still find it funny that a teen heartthrob drew in more people versus a BAFTA-nominated actor.

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05 Colton Haynes panel end_resized

I wrote an article about a year in the life of a marine biologist! Truthfully, I was planning on releasing this as just a post on this blog but my SciTech editor (thanks TJ!) said that he was interested in publishing it and convinced me to give him the piece instead. I don’t have the exact statistics but TJ said that the article got good traction within the circle of scientists he moved in, so I’m happy about that. My friends and coworkers also shared it so that’s additional mileage 😛

Personal stuff
We got engaged this year 🙂 Wedding is in March 2016!

We went to Hong Kong! This ties in to the getting engaged part. Went to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, the Hong Kong Science Museum, Victoria Harbor (again), the Hong Kong Museum of Art, and on a pink dolphin (Sousa chinensis)-watching trip with Hong Kong Dolphinwatch Ltd. Downside: we visited in February and it was HELLA COLD. Like 16 degrees Celsius cold. The clothes I brought weren’t warm enough (though the lightweight Uniqlo thermal shirts from the Alaska trip helped immensely), I sniffled the whole time, and my skin cracked. Huhu.

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I joined the DC Comics All-Star Fun Run! Granted, I only ran 3km but that’s still an achievement over 0km 😛

I co-organized NexCon 2! More info and photos here and here. Bigger, better, and more work than NexCon 1. We’re getting ready for NexCon 3 (April 2-3, 2016 at Function Room 5, SMX MOA) and we promise EVEN MOAR FUN!
nexcon3

I watched Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady the Musical with my officemate Jem as part of the ensemble! Plus Markki Stroem as Leading Man. Because Markki is love.

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Book signing with Kevin Kwan! His China-Rich series is a pleasure to read. Also helps that I’ve been to Singapore and Hong Kong so I’m kinda familiar with the areas he mentions in the stories.

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Watched Rak of Aegis with my sister and friend Joyce. Super extra bonus: a photo with Markki! He was there because a lot of the KPANLL cast were in Rak of Aegis too. He was so nice!

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CARLY RAE JEPSEN!!! I love Carly Rae. I just love her. And her album E*MO*TION is fantastic and criminally underappreciated. It was so great to see her in concert. We bought Upper Box tickets but because of slower than expected ticket sales, we were moved down to Lower Box. Sad for Carly, good for us, I guess? Still sad that Adrian wasn’t able to go because of work. Shared the concert with Kubi and Rima instead. Kubi and I managed to convert Rima into a follower. Yes!

carlyraejepsen manila

Got to present my research at the 13th National Symposium on Marine Science 😀 Previous experience really does keep you from being nervous. Our lab spent most of our PAMS 13 time manning the Secretariat booth. Definitely an experience to remember. And yay bonding time with labmates and Haribon friends. But because we were manning the Secretariat, I only got to watch maybe 2-3 presentations. Ah well.

pams team

As our reward for manning the Secretariat booth, we got to go to Lake Sebu after the conference and before going to Glan for fieldwork. Got to try the highest zipline in South East Asia, plus see the T’nalak weaving center and T’boli museum.

tnalak weaving center

STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS!!! Homaygad I’ve been waiting for this since 1997 <3 TFA was a fantastic way to close out the year 😀

03 TFA3 - RL and 501st by Lawrence Aliwalas and Milchy Pe

While 2015 was certainly a great year, I’m looking forward to 2016 being an even better one 😀