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Tidying Up For A Joyful 2019


By: Lou Maningas Cabalona


In the hit Netflix reality show “Tidying Up” that aptly premiered on the first day of the year, best-selling author and organizing expert, Marie Kondo shares her system of decluttering people’s home and ultimately, their lives. A refreshing take on “tidying up”, Marie encourages everyone to create a home environment for the future you envision by hanging on only to things that “spark joy” in your life.

As I move on to the New Year, I take with me some of these beautiful memories of 2018 that have brought happiness in small and big ways.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to use my abilities to benefit others and support worthy causes for the good of the community. I am also grateful for occasions that have allowed me to gain more friends and connect with individuals that inspire and invigorate my passion. Most of all, since all of these come with the challenge of juggling all these responsibilities on top of — the most important job of all — being a mom, I am grateful for my family – my husband Baron, my mother Sally, my in-laws Orlando and Genia and our whole Cabalona and Maningas families for without their support, I couldn’t have accomplished what I have.

And in true Marie Kondo fashion, I also ought to be thankful for things I am parting with. I am leaving behind all the hard times, the plans that didn’t come to fruition, the self-doubt, the misunderstandings, the times I chose frustration over understanding.

For situations I have no control of, thank you for making me a stronger person, confident that even if I cannot overcome everything, I have what it takes to weather the storm. For situations I could have resolved but failed to, thank you for teaching me how I could have handled things better. I am steadfast that with sincere intentions and a mind open to others, I am becoming a better person day by day.

Arigato, 2018. Looking forward to a new year filled with sparking joy for others and for myself!


Last year was off to a great start checking off two things that have been in my bucket list for a long time – to go on a non-work related vacation and to visit different countries in Europe! We went on a cruise travelling to Barcelona, Marseille, Monte Carlo, Florence, Pisa and Rome with our parents. Not only did we visit the many landmarks we’ve only seen in pictures like the Leaning Tower and the Vatican, we actually got to take beautiful photos announcing our pregnancy with the stunning backdrop of Rome. Left – Louella and Baron with Mom Sally Mesde, friends Marionne and Giga Yanong, and Baron’s parents Orlando and Genia Cabalona by the Statue of David in Florence. Right – our pregnancy announcement photos by the Colosseum and Castel Sant’Angelo.


Our son Reign Malaya, pictured with us in the NICU at 5 days old, was born a preemie at 35 weeks on April 17, weighing 3 pounds and 12 ounces. He was small but strong, he did not need support breathing or feeding from the onset and he finally came home two weeks after he was born.


Despite taking a leave from the band for a few months because of my pregnancy, 2018 was a record year for me as a singer having the most gigs I’ve been hired to perform – solo or with the band — since I started singing professionally in the USA 10 years ago. The De Leons of Kentucky booked us over a year ahead, I had no idea Reign would be touring with the band at 10 weeks old! Here’s a collage of pictures they sent us along with a sweet thank you card.


The Mainitnons Reunion organized by the Mordeno family to coincide with their matriarch’s 90th birthday was a special one I won’t forget. Rachel (extreme right) watched us on YouTube and decided we were the only band she wanted. With the event scheduled 5 days after my due date, I offered another singer which she half reluctantly agreed to. But good things can come from the not so good ones. Because I gave birth 5 weeks early, I was able to perform at her event after all. They loved our performance so much, they invited Baron and I again to play at her 60th birthday last Dec 30 at Cite.


In my work in the community, I sometimes meet personalities who are just as excited to meet my little one! Here’s a couple of fun encounters. Left – Filipino Celebrity and SingerInigo Pascual takes a break backstage playing with Reign at Piyesta Pinoy while Papa Baron volunteers working behind the stage. Right – Illinois Comptroller and Mayoral Candidate Susana Mendoza was smitten by Reign, she wanted to have her picture taken close to him. She also spent a lot of time talking about her grandkids with us.


Honored to lead the Filipino Musicians of Chicago, Inc in our first ever Summer Music Workshop curating a program where 8 students graduated with the skills to play an instrument of their choice and experience being part and performing as a real band. Looking forward to doing this again this year!


As a voice over talent since 2009, I have been guiding Filipino speaking consumers and constituents in getting assistance via phone in their native language. This year, aside from working with companies like Wells Fargo and Robinsons Bank, I also recorded over 700 prompts over two days for the government to aid Filipino speaking voters in California during the midterm elections.


Six month-old Reign Malaya Cabalona and two year-old Eloise Olivia Kniker surrounded by their Parents, Godparents and family at their joint baptism at the Immaculate Conception Church in Chicago. The ceremony was led by Fr. Robert Fedek. Not in picture are Veronica Leighton, Joe Mauricio and Fred and Nora Tsai who joined us later at lunch.


In 2018, Chicago was host to a few National events in the Filipino Community and I am glad to have been part of some of them. Left – SamaSama Project poses with speaker-attendees, Joanne Boston (2nd from top left) and Jason Tengo (4th from top left) at the FANHS (Filipino American National Historical Society) Biennial Conference after performing at the Welcome Reception last July. Right – Singing the National Anthem for the NFALA (National Filipino American Lawyers Association) Annual Installation Gala at the Signature Room in Willis Tower.


As a FYLPRO Board of Director and Alumni, I assisted in the Immersion program of the Filipino Young Leaders Program (FYLPRO) in Manila last November. My husband, Baron, was fortunate to have been selected among the 10 delegates of “Lucky Batch 7” in 2018. Pictured are (from left) 2013 Alumni Anthony Guevarra, Ebb Hinchcliffe of the American Chamber of Commerce, 2012 Alumni Louella Cabalona, 2015 Alumni Lakhi Siap, Melissa Palma, Meriden Villanueva, Catherine Sy Luib, US Ambassador Sung Kim, FYLPRO President Dondi Quintans, Baron Cabalona, Joshua Ang Price, Amanda Bantug, Anthony dela Rosa, Charlynne McGinnis, Brian Tajo and Lauren Lalicon.


Had a blast celebrating my birthday in Manila after so many years! Top left – Birthday Lunch with our Ninang (Godmother) Vicky Cuisia at Cyma in Eastwood City where she met Reign for the first time. Bottom – For dinner, our family in Manila surprised me with a beautiful cake and flowers singing “Happy Birthday” along with the restaurant staff as we entered Mamu in Ayala the 30th Mall. Top right – the following day, I participated in a the League of Volunteers for Relief Expedition feeding program in Helping Land, Tondo to provide healthy meals to over 200 kids living in poverty.


Continuing our mission of promoting Philippines through the arts, l co-directed the SamaSama Family Choir (bottom) and played Narrator and Emcee for the Cathedral Filipino Singers and Friends (top) for their separate performances at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World celebration.


In Manila, we met with with top leaders of government, business, media and social enterprises as part of FYLPRO’s Immersion programming last November. Left – Baron and Louella with Ayala Executives – Fernando Zobel de Ayala, Ruel Maranan and Jaime Zobel de Ayala during the Opening Ceremonies at the Blue Room in the Makati Stock Exchange. Right – With San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez and Vice Mayor Janella Estrada at Gloria Maris in Greenhills, San Juan

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