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

My Photo
Location: Philippines

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

29 August 2006

Another list for the bookworm in me

I've been tagged by Irene Tuazon at!

1. One book that changed your life - the hardest question first.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This book came late into my life -- only last year -- but I will never be the same again.

2. One book that you've read more than once.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arhtur Golden. I read it maybe four times while I was pregnant. You can imagine my disappointment when they made it into a movie. I didn't watch the movie, of course. Such sacrilege.

3. One book that you'd want on a desert island.
Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian

4. One book that made you laugh.
Forever, Erma by Erma Bombeck

5. One book that made you cry.
The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough. But come to think of it, I cried only because I was ten years old at the time.

6. One book that you wish you had written.
Unless by Carol Shields

7. One book you wish had never been written.
Eyes of Laura Mars by H.B. Gilmour. It was a movie before it was made into a book. What's the point? The first incarnation is always better than the second. The movie was fabulous. The book is not. What a waste.

8. One book that you are reading at the moment.
Konstable by Margarita Cojuangco, Rene Cruz, Guillermo Domondon, Ramon Monato, and Cesar Nazareno.

9. One book that you've been meaning to read.
Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. But I have to be able to concentrate on it.

10. Five others (or more) that you’d like to do this.
The Wordsmith, The Coach's Wife, Migginot, Jolography, and The One Who Keeps Eclipsing. See my links at left.

22 August 2006

The best things in life

... are free, to some extent. Here is my top ten list, not arranged in any particular order, and not all gotten for free.

1. doorways
2. a credit card
3. ballads from the forties and fifties
4. the high noons of summer
5. a swing
6. moldy old statues
7. a full tank of gas
8. freshly sharpened pencils
9. camouflage uniforms
10. a library floor

I wonder what my list reveals about me.

17 August 2006

A birthday in the life of

I’ve never really liked having birthday parties for myself. I like going to parties, but only if I’m not its cause or focal point or host, perhaps because I am a lazy person and do not like preparing for parties but prefer just walking into a room full of people, giving my gift to the birthday person, making a beeline for the buffet, and then eating while talking to people about other people we know who are not at the party.

I remember a birthday party I had when I was five, when I had a blue cake with a swing on top of it made of wooden sticks. In the photographs I was wearing a red and white jumper. I think it was also the first time I tried to cut the cake myself. But all the other birthday parties I’ve had I cannot remember anymore. They have all seemed to blur into each other and then had blended further into a huge glob of undifferentiated parties and reunions and get-togethers in my memory. When my birthday is coming up I generally steer clear of people I'm not particularly close to so they won’t be reminded of it. It’s enough for me to be greeted a happy birthday by the handful of the people I love, and if I don’t get greetings or cards or even gifts from people I don't even think about once a week, I wouldn't really mind. My birthday for me is something I prefer to spend like any other normal day, without any special lunches or dinners and no blowing of cakes, but happy and comfortable knowing I’m a year older and I’m fine.

My mother, on the other hand, always accidentally finds herself by my side with a cake and candles on my every birthday, but of course not before dragging me to church to hear mass. This even after I have already specifically requested her to not do it anymore. She has always told me to go to mass because she doesn’t know yet that I have been an agnostic since I was about 19. And I always end up going, because I after all, I was living under her roof, and if I didn’t go to mass and have a party I’d never hear the end of it.

It was easier when I moved to Manila. I didn’t have to go to mass anymore, although the reminders to go to church had been just as consistent as ever. I do remember that there was one year when I had to work late in Camp Crame about two years ago and my mother was in Quezon City with my brother and sister and asked me to come over because we had to talk about the new business venture that my Dad was thinking of going into. I told her I had no mind for business and that I had a heachache so I would not be of any help, but then she told me she needed me to write something for that, and so I told her maybe we could talk about it the next day because I had too much work to do, and I have been writing the whole day anyway. She said she was leaving for Bicol by dinnertime and would not be back for weeks. I told her we could just talk about it on the phone. She said she had documents to explain to me before we can even begin talking about it. To cut the long story and the extraneous and winding conversation short, I drove to Quezon City, was dragged to church, was dragged back to my sister’s apartment, and there saw the cake with candles. Nobody talked about my Dad’s business venture. And of course she never had a trip to Bicol scheduled that night.

I only remember this particular birthday because of the extreme exhaustion that I felt after realizing that I had been wheedled into yet another mass and party. I felt more exhausted than I usually feel after writing 10,000 words in 16 hours non-stop.

My happiest birthday was when I turned 13. Months before my birthday I was so excited at the prospect of finally becoming a teenager. I remember wishing that I would be 13 forever, because it sounded like such a magical age. I also liked turning 30, although a couple of months before that I was a little afraid to enter my thirties with nothing to show for it, but on the day itself, I felt fine, happy, comfortable, and honestly, a little proud. And I’m sure, of course, that there was a church and a party, although I, in true antisocial fashion, forget now where it was held and who went, much less what the priest said.

Now I’m 31. Perhaps 31 years of going to masses and birthday parties was what I needed before I could finally ask my mother to stop making me hear mass and have parties. Thus I was able to spend my birthday the way I wanted it. In old Manila, sitting in a corner in Quiapo with a notebook and recording all the details I saw, going to a vintage fountain pen store in Escolta to start the search for a vintage fountain pen for my dad, browsing the books in Solidaridad Bookstore in Padre Faura, and then finally spending the afternoon and evening in Intramuros, writing and having coffee in Iluztrado Restaurant, walking along the top of the ruins, and then treating myself to a nice quiet dinner and then more coffee while reading. It was a good day, which started well – my man called me at 4:30 in the morning, my son at 7:45, and my father at about 9:00 – and ended well.

The party, though, I still could not escape. I had to go to a second dinner somewhere in Greenbelt, where I never go to because parking is like going through a warp zone and I keep getting lost among the stores and cannot find myself in the areas beyond the fountains. But thankfully, the dinner did not take long, and I even enjoyed it a little. There was just my mother, my brother who came in later than me, and my sister and her boyfriend. Maybe it’s because this party was so recent that I remember it – though I still don’t know exactly where we went or what I ate – or maybe because there were just the people closest to me there. Maybe it’s because I could see their effort at not being too birthday-party-ish for me that night. Or maybe it’s because I’m a little older that some things about me are already changing, and now seem to take on more resonance than others. Perhaps it’s not the parties we have that make our birthdays but the company we keep. Maybe it’s not so much the physical presence of loved ones but the proximity of the heart. Maybe it’s not even the birthdays but the everyday living, the day-to-day glory and the day-to-day madness that make up real life, and the knowledge that everything will be okay, that makes the birthdays feel like a nice reward no matter what happens -- church, party -- on that day.

I’m not looking forward to throwing birthday parties for myself here and there in the years to come, but I can now see the merit of turning a year older. In the propensity to place people and events into categories and labels, I have forgotten that boundaries and differences matter only up to a certain point. Sooner or later, they all home into one single heart.

11 August 2006

Old key, new key

This key, printed with yellow flowers and green leaves on a blue background, used to belong to the man in my life. It is a key to the downstairs entrance to my apartment. I took it away from him before I left Baguio last week.

This floral key does not work anymore, because my landlady had the lock changed recently, the same day a neighbor in the building reported that she had been held up at knife-point, and her bag, which contained her keys, had been taken. (My neighbor is fine now, although, I assume, cellphone-less and credit card-less for the moment.)

Of course my man now has a copy of the new key, although I wasn’t able to find a floral design for him before I went to visit him in Baguio. What he has now is an ultra-light alloy colored a strange orange-y gold, with a matte finish. I chose the most conspicuous-looking key template I could find, so he can quickly distinguish it from all the other shiny steel Yale keys that he has, keys to his numerous places of habitat – his quarters at the brigade, his office drawers, his house keys in Baguio and in La Trinidad, Benguet, his locker keys in school.

My own copy of the old key, on the other hand, has always been the ordinary silver Yale key that was given to me by the caretaker when I first signed the apartment’s lease contract. When the caretaker gave me the new key he asked for the old one back, and I noticed how worn the old key looked, with the patina already showing in the corners, and with the formerly sharp edges now smoothed out after over three years of use. How many times has that key locked and unlocked the downstairs entrance? Since my days are so irregular – some days I just stay in, some days I don’t go home, some days I’m in and out of the building – it’s hard to tell. On the average, I would say that the combined locking and unlocking of the downstairs entrance would most probably amount to more than 7,000 times a year, which totals to over 21,000 times from day one of my stay until now. That’s a lot of use for a key!

The floral key, on the other hand, had not yet been used as much. After all, my man came into my life only this summer. And regardless of the fact that the floral key had also been held by a different man from further back into the past, the floral key had always been just a duplicate, a side key, a cute reassurance that someone will come into my life and hold that key in his hands whenever he wants to be with me.

Furthermore, since the floral key is a signifier of the kind of simple and limited reality that I have in my relationship, it thus does not deal with the nitty-gritties of my apartment that would require its holder to go in and out of the building several times a day, like taking out the trash, or dropping off the laundry, or letting the cleaners in and out once a month, or running to the store to shop for supplies or groceries, or to go to the landlady’s office to pay the rent and other bills. The purpose of the floral key is to simply look conspicuously feminine within the secret folds of a male wallet, a reminder of my purpose in its holder’s life: the light, sunny, prettifying fixture. Which is what should be, I think. Like me, the floral key is an occasional thing, a part of reality but not the entire reality, but is a critical element to hold in a man's hands when the need arises. It might not always see the light, might not even be kept in a proper keychain, but it is always there when needed, a promise of unconditional companionship and acceptance.

Lest I portray my man to be negligent, let me say that his holding of the key proves his power and reliability. A key inherently carries reponsibilities with it, and duties that have to be rendered to the occupants of the space that the key secures. In this sense, all keys are the same. My silver Yale key requires me to pay the rent and take out the trash; his floral key requires him to treat me with tenderness. But the sameness ends here, and where the sameness ends, the beautiful, chaotic, mad, turbulent, healing, reassuring, strengthening, challenging, inconvenient, and uplifting difference begins.

The floral key is just one of two keys that lead to my sanctuary; the holder of the floral key still has to knock on my door, to which he doesn't have the key. But still, the hand that used to hold the floral key – which now, temporarily, holds a strange orange-y gold key with a matte finish while I have yet to find another floral key template for him – is no insignificant hand. He opens the first entrance, I open the last one. After these two equally important unlockings, together we lock the door behind us to create our own microcosm in which there is no more need for keys.


05 August 2006

The return to paper

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting