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My lists of threes from 2020: Why we're still grateful and hopeful |

For Men

My lists of threes from 2020: Why we're still grateful and hopeful

WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT, ALFIE? - Alfred Vargas -
Alfred Vargas on Eat Bulaga
"Eat Bulaga" guesting in October 2020

Since I started writing this column, I have received many emails asking me about my routine, my take on many things, the things I value and how I deal with adversity. Many people especially the young, feel trapped or confused in this world of gray areas.

Perhaps we can say that because of the overload of information we have access to and the drastic change in how we communicate with the rest of the world, navigating through life today is much more empowering, albeit, complex and perplexing.

With 2020 now over, many of us tend to have many questions: How did I do in 2020? What can I make of it? Did I waste my year or embrace it meaningfully? How do I move forward?

In an attempt to put 2020 in perspective, here are my personal lists of threes that left a significant mark in me. I plan to hold on to them as I face 2021. I’m sharing them with you hoping that some of these can help you answer your own questions. And if you’re willing to share yours too, I’d love to know what your personal threes are.

Three things I’m grateful for last year

1. For God, who was with the whole time. With all the troubles and worries brought about by the pandemic and other events, I have relearned Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.”

2. For my wife and children, who have continued to be my source of strength and inspiration.

Vargas family

3. For my true friends who were there with me through thick and thin. Let’s just say that last year was the year when I truly knew who my real friends were. They weren’t too many, but they were solid. There were surprising ones that appeared and disappointing ones as well. You’ll never know who’s who until your friendship has been thoroughly tested.

Three things I learned last year

1. The universe is fair. I have been a dreamer since I was a kid. A lot of things that I have now, I have envisioned years or even decades back in detail. And what have noticed is that the things I really put hard work and dedication to, the principles that I held onto ever since, the relationships I nurtured and fought for, and all the love I gave to my family, friends, work, and to God all came back to my in many different wonderful ways. Whatever you plant, you will harvest. Sometimes it would be tempting to take the shortcut or the easy way out but believe me, this doesn’t work at all. Nothing of value comes without hard work, as Michael Jordan would say. The universe is fair to everyone who ever existed no matter who you are or where you are from.

2. The best antidote to trolls is the truth. Trolls, whether which side they come from will always be that—trolls. Their primary reason for existence is mainly to destroy their target’s reputation at all costs, without consideration. Their motivation comes from hate and compensation. But no matter what slander they throw at you, they will never siege the permanent walls of truth. It may take time sometime, but in the end, the truth will always save you.

Greeting a constituent in November 2020

3. Our resources will always be limited but if we share what we can, we become limitless. I’ve witnessed the sheer power of generosity from other people and even strangers during this time of pandemic. For some reason, the selfish ones are more prone to worry and shortage while the ones who share and help others are witness to more abundace in all aspects of life.

Three milestones

1. Being a columnist for! I never thought that I will be able to write as a columnist for one of the best and most trusted papers (and online news outlets) in the country. Nor did I ever think that I will be competent enough to write a regular column. I still have a lot to learn, most definitely, but I’m taking it one step at a time. The encouraging emails I get from readers make me want to do better every time I write.

At a hearing as chair of the House Social Service Committee

2. Being elected as chairman of the House Social Services Committee. To be entrusted by my fellow representatives with the enormous task of heading this committee during this time of pandemic and vaccination program rollout is a tall order, but immensely inspiring.

3. “Tagpuan” garnering 11 nominations from the MMFF. Some say that you cannot be considered a real producer until you have become part of the very exclusive club of MMFF producers and that you’ll never be an excellent one without the accolades. These 11 nominations put Alternative Vision Cinema on the map of Philippine cinema.

Three achievements

1. Sustaining almost 300 days of daily COVID-19 relief operations in the district through community partnerships. Being able to do this as a legislator, without the powers and budget like that of an executive office, counting on just partnerships with groups, donors and friends, is one of my greatest achievements as a public servant. I’ve always believed that service is not the job of the few people in position. It is an endeavor shared by everyone in the community.

A scene from "Tagpuan," an official entry to the 2020 MMFF

2. Winning 3rd Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Shaina Magdayao) for Tagpuan in the MMFF. Yes, Tagpuan got two of the six major awards from the recent MMFF. After the awards night, many writers, directors and producers got in touch with me for possible partnerships in the future.

3. Finishing my term as the 2020 National Training Director for JCI Philippines. With this national position, I was responsible for leading, designing and implementing the yearly leadership and skills development training program of the whole organization—with almost 200 chapters and around 10,000 members nationwide. My team and I successfully did all this during this time of pandemic by introducing new ways of online training and seminars. We even received record-breaking attendance with the hundreds of events JCIP conducted last year and were able to groom young leaders to head the organization forward on.

Three pleasant surprises last year

1. Yasmine’s ube ice cream. My wife learned the art of making good home-made gelato in Italy a few years back. During the pandemic, she integrated it with a Filipino touch. And born was her now family-famous Fil-Italian ube gelato. With this, I found out that her ube gelato is one of my “happy foods,” never failing to lighten my mood and bring a smile to my face. She said that this can be an additional secret of ours to a happy marriage.

2. Ching’s massage. My eldest daughter who is now 10 years old is growing up to be this mature and compassionate young lady. In a few occasions last year, she would see me stressed out working in my study room all day. After we had dinner, she would ask me if I wanted a back massage from her. She would use her elbows to massage my big back and say, “Daddy, you’ve got lots of stress points. You need to relax more. Don’t worry, I’ll ‘melt’ all these stress points away.” She would massage me for five minutes and I must admit, I like her massage way better than most professionals because it's always done with love.

With Alexandra Milan nicknamed "Ching" in March 2020

3. Ching’s message. After one post-massage evening with Ching, she suddenly blurted, “Daddy, you’re 41. You’re old.” I was stunned and didn’t know how to react. Then she added, “Don’t worry, Ary (my second daughter who’s 9 years old) and I will take care of you and Mommy. You both can live in our house one day and we’ll give you everything you need, including diapers.” True story. Wow. Yas and I were quiet for three seconds then burst out laughing, truly touched. My heart was filled with love and joy at that exact moment. It made me realize how children see things through their lens. Their thoughts are so pure and so full of love. I remember when I was her age, I asked my Mom, whose name was also Ching, how old she was. She answered, “Forty two.” And I said, “Wow, Mom, you’re old.” She just smiled back. The past year reminded me about mortality. How short our lives are and how we should make every year count. And while mortality is for us adults to face, I marvel at how we can always catch a glimpse of immortality every time we look into the eyes of our children.

Three good habits I started last year

1. Gratitude diary. COVID-19 brought a lot of negativity to the daily lives of people, including me. But when I heard about the practice of keeping a gratitude diary every day from Jim Kwik online, I felt a lot better and positive. I bathed myself with gratitude in the morning by listing three things I’m grateful for the day. It could be a small thing or a big thing. It doesn’t matter. Just recognize the things you are grateful for and more blessings will come. Try it!

2. Daily prayer and meditation. This is the first thing I do every morning when I wake up. I use the app Calm for my daily meditation.

3. Reading a book for at least 20-30 minutes every day. This is also part of my morning routine. I read a book that’s not related to work at all. I usually read fiction and self-help productivity books while having my morning black coffee without sugar. It is only after this that I start reading the papers.

Three favorite books I read last year

1. “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson. Being an Apple loyalist and a demanding boss to my staff, I can totally relate to the journey of Steve Jobs in many ways. I was shocked with some of the revelations in the book. Steve Jobs wasn’t perfect after all but he made a big difference in the lives of many. That’s something I want my life to be about as well, effecting positive change.

2. “12 Rules for Life, An Antidote to Chaos” by Jordan Peterson. This is a book every young man and lady should read if they want to deeply understand themselves internally and externally.

3. “Everybody Writes” by Ann Handley. This is my go-to handbook to writing for this column. It’s on my desk all the time for easy reference. I also use this as guide for my Twitter and IG posts. Every writer should have this book.

Three skills I learned last year

1. Operating Microsoft Excel. Yes, it was only last year that I learned Excel. It just made a lot of things easier for me, especially organizing. It’s now an indispensable part of my daily life.

2. Writing regularly. I learned from Jordan Peterson that one of the life skills that you should enhance is writing. That is how important it is. Part of being human is expressing yourself. And part of being successful is expressing yourself effectively. Writing is recognizing, formalizing and expressing your thoughts in a permanent fashion. It was only when written tradition was practiced that civilization developed in exponential terms. What more now in the age of IG, Twitter, Facebook, and many others?! Writing has never been more important than ever.

3. Basics of vlogging. To my surprise, despite being an actor, vlogging doesn’t come naturally for me. I envy the ones who just press record on video and everything just flows easily to them, as if they were just talking to a real person. It is an art. And I would like to learn how to express myself more through vlogs later on. I believe it’s a powerful tool I can use to help others. I’m a Gen X looking for a millennial mentor!

So, 2020, despite its serpentine challenges was the year it was for a reason. Trying to rationalize it by listing all things to be grateful for helped me accept the realities and lessons it brought us. Like many of you, I also say it was an unkind period we’d rather forget. But in forgetting, let us not be oblivious to the lessons and chances that 2020 brought. Otherwise, we will be bound to repeat the same mistakes.

Good bye, 2020!

Hello there, 2021! I’m Alfie. It’s nice to finally meet you. I’m looking forward to a kinder year with you.


Write me and share your personal triumphs, too, in threes, at:

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