An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

31 December 2005

Over my shoulder

I've had a good year. This I will admit. Not ecstatically good, not dream-like good, not rolling in money or rip-roaring drunk good, but just good.

The year began with a triumph of mind over matter. I was diagnosed to be suffering from second-degree malnourishment due to borderline anorexia, not because I believed I was too fat, but because I did not feel hunger anymore. It got so that I had difficulty concentrating on anything, especially my writing. After I was placed on a medication program that made me extremely drowsy all the time so I couldn't get any work done, I decided to just beat the condition not with medicines but with sheer willpower to eat. It worked! I gained 6 lbs in a month and began having healthy, regular appetite again, and soon gained all the rest of the poundage I have lost, and a bit more. So although the year began rather darkly, by the summer I have grown a little fatter, and could write more.

This summer, I also began my work with the Philippine National Police Special Action Force. I was retained as a writer for the Office of the Director, and it has been delightful to know PCSupt Marcelino F. Franco, Jr. A kind and gentle man, he has the knack for easing a particularly tense situation while always remaining in control. He has a great sense of humor, too! His staff is just wonderful. His Deputy, PCSupt Luisito Palmera has been a bastion of security and comfort when I went to Abra with him and the Director on a chopper. He let me hold onto his arm during the chopper ride because I was terrified. The Chief of Staff, PSSupt Benjamin Magalong, can be such a dragon, but this is because he's always in line and always strives for excellence and expects no less of other people in the SAF. The heads of the offices were always so patient with me. I have become friends with two of them, PCI Nelson Banguilan and PCI Remus Medina.

I've also worked with other people in the PNP during the course of my retainership with SAF, people I've met in connection with the researches I did for SAF. PCSupt Silverio Alarcio, PDDG Avelino Razon, and retired General Reynaldo Velasco took time out from their busy schedules to sit for my interviews, and always answered my questions thoroughly.

Now as my contract with the SAF has ended, pending submission of my final report, I actually feel a little notch in me that's empty. I have found friends in the SAF that I will always keep. Vicky, Lemuel, Chy, and Marlu, and all the others who have been kind to me the whole time I was there, who have been forgiving of my failures and tolerant of my schedule changes. Knowing them all and working with them is one of the good things that had happened to me this year. I am glad that I can keep on working with them on another major project, and that they still seek out my help from time to time.

This year I have also proven to myself, to my close friends, and to the best professor of Shakespeare in the country, Dr. Wilhelmina Q. Ramas, that I can be an awesome Lady Anne. In the heat of the hottest summer ever recorded in the country, I donned a gray evening gown, a floor-length black chiffon veil, pearls, and cursed Richard III with all the hatred I could muster while clutching a silk handkerchief and dabbing at my eyes from time to time. I got a grade of 1.0 out of it, the highest grade. It was part of our final exams for Shakespearean Tragedy, and our class, composed of seven friends and me (we call ourselves “The Saucy Fellows”) had to perform as a company. It was truly a group effort, and the professor did enjoy our presentation, and she even shed tears at the scene in Hamlet where Hamlet accosts Getrude (with Rex Paras as Hamlet and Mabi David as Getrude), and at the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet (with Ram De Jesus as Romeo and Pilar Henson as Juliet). Studying Shakespeare with Professor Ramas and finding seven friends, both old and new, through it all was one of the highlights of my year.

And of course, my very first Palanca! I was sitting here in the exact same chair I am sitting on now, facing my computer, at about 6 pm on a Sunday early in August, when my mother's secretary handed me a plastic envelope from LBC. Through the translucent white plastic I could see the return address on the envelope inside, and it said Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature and I tore the plastice LBC envelope open, tore the creamy beige envelope open, and screamed and jumped around the house when I've read that I had won third prize for short fiction in English for my story "At Merienda." Even the awards night was just a fitting denouement, a formalizing of sorts, but the moment when I first read the letter informing me about my prize would stay on in my heart forever.

I was part of a fiction class and a non-fiction class, in different semesters but both under Dr. Jose Dalisay, Jr., two classes that ended up being rather popular, since they had award-winning writers in them (Tim Montes, Migs Villanueva, Cel Flores, Carljoe Javier, Jina Andaya, Luna Sicat, Exie Abola, and of course Professor Dalisay himself, a Palanca Hall of Famer), produced one more (me, and another Palanca plus an NVM Gonzales award for Exie), and launched a classmate's new career in writing (Rica Bolipata, now a columnist for The Philippine Star and has also just recently launched her first book, published by Milflores). "At Merienda" was first submitted to the nonfiction class before I sent it to the Palancas. Another story, now renamed "Breathing Space," was submitted to the fiction class and was workshopped by no less than Gregorio Brillantes. It's wonderful to be able to go to these very good classes, and I feel privileged that these classes are open to me in the University of the Philippines. It's always an honor to study under Professor Dalisay, and it's already a gift in itself to have classmates and friends to talk to when a draft gets a little bit difficult to work with or when life gets a little heavier than usual to bear with. We gathered for class with food and wine, had dinners and coffee talks together outside of the class, and our egroups, initially put up to facilitate submission of drafts for workshop and posting of comments, had grown to an indispendable network that kept us in touch with each other's writing careers and each other's lives. Drafts of stories continue to be sent through the egroup, comments to them are always free-flowing, and invitations to book launches and dinners are always a welcome detail in my inbox.

There are other wonderful things that had taken center stage in my year. This is the year that the court granted the annulment of my marriage, bringing to a liberating end three years of married life and four years of separation. This is also the year I turned thirty, an age which I have always wondered about. When I was in my twenties I was afraid of what turning thirty would make me feel, and I was worried that I could not handle such a rounded, credible age. But when I turned thirty, I actually felt proud, and I settled into a comfortable acceptance that I'm doing just fine. Also, I danced on stage with my son Chandler Yuboco at a party in his pre-school, the Ateneo Child Learning Center. I looked like an idiot, but Chandler had a ball. Excerpts from my second book, Little Freedoms, was released by the National Center for Culture and the Arts as part of its New Writer's Series called Ubod.

And right before December arrived, I've found safe harbor. He came to me against all odds, against all the probabilities that pointed us towards different directions, and he did this with the greatest of ease. He just walked into the coffee shop where I was sitting alone, sat down in front of me, looked into my eyes and told me that he wanted to have a life with me. I said yes that very evening. It was a whirlwind, but sometimes it takes a whirlwind to wrench the heart out of the clouds that it's been flying in for some time and finally settle it on safe ground. Now, a month after, the whirlwind is over, but the ground that my heart is on is as solid and firm as ever. I've found safe harbor and sailing has gained a certain crystalline quality, a new beauty. It's amazing how a life can be turned upside down and right side up in just one moment, and things are never the same again. Everything seems crisper, sharper, more vividly colored. Now everything just makes sense. Things that were unclear to me before have fallen right into place, completing a picture that has eluded me for years. This is what love can do.

This had been my year, and it had been a good one. When I was a little girl in Tigaon, Camarines Sur, the Christmas Season was always a season that was so special and dreamlike and abnormal that I suspended my own personal sensibilities so I could enjoy the holidays amid all the family reunions and the sheer lack of order in our small, simple house. But now that I'm thirty, and a mother, and in a loving relationship, the holidays are for looking back over my shoulder. It's for realizing that things had not been perfect but they were good, that there is love in my life, and that life may be whatever I make it, but however I make it out to be, amid all the weight changes and the arthritic attacks and other disappointments, life just goes on and on, over and over, and a new year is almost here, and it is real and it -- just like our tree in the photo -- is simply fabulous.

Finally, a blog!

Happy New Year, friends! I am what you would call a late bloomer when it comes to blogs. First of all, I didn't know what I would post here! But a new year is beginning, and I am a bit older, and maybe it's time to try out new things.