The wife and I recently had a conversation about 2017. We talked about goals that weren’t met and frustrations with the year. We were feeling down, and gave each other a hug. Just then our two year old entered the room, with a big smile on his face, he saw us hugging and shouted, “Family hug!” Then ran towards us to be part of our moment.

That’s precisely when we realized that 2017 was the best year ever. The year blessed us with two little boys, plenty of time to spend with them and the means to give them everything they need. What more could we ask for? We have everything important in this world.

This is one of the reasons I continue this tradition of looking back with a photo essay. It’s a reminder about what is important, a push to do even better for the coming year, and it encourages me to take even more photos.

I can’t believe I started doing this in 2014. It’s going to be interesting to look back after ten years and see what my world was like. For example, in 2015, the wife and I adjusted to having a baby for the first time. In 2016, I discovered my love for good coffee and how simple living made me happy.

Here’s a look at 2017:


surfing photo by @paolo_ong

Photo by Paolo Ong

Early in the year, I hung with Aframe Surf Company and Explore 360 for another surf trip. It was the first time I felt competent enough to go out to the waves on my own. Throughout the whole trip, there was no one assisting me, no one helping me carry my board, no one pushing and pulling me on the waves. It felt really good. I still suck, but I don’t suck as much.

Hopefully the wife and I will find ourselves in more trips like this in the future.

copenhagen streets


Photo by Mel B.

The past few years, we have been blessed to travel to places we’ve never been. The cherry on the cake is we get to do all that with family. 2017 was no exception. Our big trip was to the Baltic Sea.

“Copenhagen made me wish we had a bike culture in the Philippines. I’ve never seen more bikes in my life. The fact that there were bike lanes all over the city helped foster this environment. You could see Copenhageners heading to work on robust heavy e-bikes or exercising with light road bikes. During one of our walks, we were even approached by a lady with a box bike full of healthy drinks that she was giving away. Back home, we would have called her a promo girl and they would be giving away free coffee in the supermarket or selling cigarettes in bars. In Copenhagen, the promo girls are giving away green juices on bikes.”


7 Stories From Cruising the Baltic Sea (One from each city)

I ride a Jamis Beatnik

After our trip to the Baltic Seas, it made me seriously consider getting a bicycle. So I finally did. It’s my best purchase of 2017. Cycling around the city has made a huge difference in terms of my sanity, not to mention the time and money saved, as well as the free exercise. I wish I bought the bike sooner.

“But the simple truth is, I bike because I enjoy it. I look for any excuse to get out there. The other day, the wife wanted dinner from Matias which was only a few kilometers away, so I volunteered to pick up the food. My commute back and forth was less than 15 minutes. If you’ve ever tried to visit Matias on a weekday in the middle of dinner, you know how it can be a hassle to drive there. You need to brave the traffic on the way there, then navigate the crowded intersection, and finally look for a parking spot. With the bike, I was in and out. Simple easy and fast.”


Why You Should and Shouldn’t Bike

Rare hosting gig for Art Party. Photo by Monica Villarica .

First time to climb down the Buhisan Mountains

Working on Zerothreetwo allows for plenty of opportunities to get out of my comfort zone. Two that come to mind is reluctantly hosting the Art Party and trekking down the Buhisan Mountains.

The rewards for working on something you love is that you get to do more of what you love. One of the things I love to do is photography (Duh… you are reading a photo essay after all). Zerothreetwo has allowed an avenue for me to continue doing this little hobby of mine.


The highlight of 2017 was the birth of our second son. On September 12, 2017, Liam Matthew S. Villarica was born. At first, I was worried about the rigors of caring for a new born, but Matti has made the transition from one kid to two so easy. I’m happy to report that at four months old, he isn’t fussy, sleeps easily, self soothes, and is a dream to be around.

The second child is definitely easier because you already know what to do. We’ve got two years of experience under our belts. Compared to our first born, everything was new. We had no idea what we were doing, and we were learning on the fly. This time, we are prepared. Matti, we got you.

Of course, 2017 was filled with challenges as well. I’ve already mentioned goals that weren’t met. But there were times during the year when we really were overwhelmed. The pressures of two kids, two full time jobs, and a stretch when we didn’t have a yaya inched us closer to our breaking point.

In particular, not having a yaya proved very challenging. It felt like a whole year, but really it was only two weeks. We survived, but it was invaluable to our growth as parents. We learned to rely on each other, we did every day tasks that made us learn a lot, but most importantly, we were able to spend even more time with the kids and know them even better. It’s amazing what you can do if your environment forces you. For a moment, I even thought we could get by without help, but luckily we found someone who could care and watch for the kids while we were working.

Bathroom duties with the two year old.

Having two kids made us reshuffle our responsibilities as parents. The easiest and most convenient was to divide and conquer. For the most part, my responsibilities catered towards the two year old, Manu. The wife and I are lucky to have jobs that allows us to be flexible and in many cases, even bring the kids along.

This allowed for many long car rides with Manu. Lots of quality time spent on the road, visiting construction sites, and watching boats on the water.

2017 was also the first time I made real strides to change my diet. After our US trip in December 2016, I was at my heaviest at almost 200 pounds. I didn’t want that to be the new normal. So I looked into the slow carb diet, and just executed.

Since my diet change, I am at my lightest in years, but more importantly, it made me realize how much better it feels when you take out white carbs and sugars from your diet. I’ve never had more focus and more energy in my life.

I still eat a bit of sugars and carbs, but in a much more controlled fashion. If you are interested to learn more about the slow carb diet, here’s a summary:

“Your diet in a nutshell: Eat lean meats, beans, and veggies. Don’t eat fruit, white foods (bread, potatoes, pasta), or sugar. Give yourself a cheat day each week, where you’re allowed to eat any of the banned foods.”


Everything You Need to Know About the Slow Carb Diet

I need to take better photos of the food. haha

Of course a 2017 roundup wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my partner in crime, Steph. A lot of us take for granted the importance of choosing the person we are with. Choose the wrong person and you end up wasting time worrying, fixing, and mending relationships. Choose the right person and that person lifts you up and frees you to do what you want in life.

Steph and I will have been married four years this January 25, 2018. No doubt time flies. I always joke with her that it feels like we’ve been married forever. Usually I groan when I say the words “forever”. But deep down, I’m hoping we get there. Forever is a long time, and if I were to spend it with someone, there is no better person in the world to spend it with.

Thank you for a wonderful 2017 my love.

Time to tackle 2018 with a vengeance.

Happy New Year from the V’s! Photo by Jacklyn Kaye .


Carlo Villarica

If you want to hear more from me, I publish a weekly newsletter called Monday Musings — a set of recommends and thoughts I had that week, subscribe here. Or follow me on instagram @sobermusings.

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