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.

30 October 2009


Try looking up straight into the sun. Then close your eyes. Do you not see white owls swimming in the dark red of your cloistered vision? That is what you are to me: a floating promise of a forbidden sight.

[Similar posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]
[Image credit]

25 October 2009

And the wedding entourage wore Chuck Taylors

And the guests wore black. And the grandmother of the groom wore a dress embroidered with black flowers. And the father of the bride wore jeans and a blazer. And the flower girls had lollipops. And the wedding cake was shaped like a black electric guitar standing beside a silver microphone.

And the principal sponsors danced in a circle. And the band played progressive rock. And the groom played the base guitar. And the bride sang rock songs. And the priest who presided over the ceremonies was the very same one who wedded the groom’s parents 35 years ago. And the bride and groom have been together for 12 years. And everyone was happy.

And it’s called The Wedstock: the wedding of Ivy and my brother Kid.

And this is their logo, their crest, their shield:

Congratulations on a wedding like no other, and on a love like no other.

[Some photos here.]

23 October 2009

Stormy weathers

A couple of weekends ago I got stuck inside my own apartment building because Typhoon Ondoy, which ravaged Metro Manila and other provinces in the mainland, brought unexpected floods that horrified people as the water level rose fast in areas that had never been flooded before. By noon of that Saturday it was flooded everywhere. Evangelista, where I live, and which had not been flooded in the five years that I lived there, was knee-deep in dirty floodwater, and news reports say that Edsa was a twenty-kilometer river at the height of the rainfall last Saturday. It was the worst flooding in Metro Manila in over forty years.

Luckily, I lived on the third floor of an apartment building, and although electricity, internet connection, and mobile phone service were intermittent, I was safe and comfortable. I noticed a leak in the ceiling that was starting to create a puddle on top of my wooden desk so I placed a plastic dipper under it to catch the drops. From time to time I would look out the window to see the floodwater on A. Bonifacio and Evangelista Street rising consistently, and more and more vehicles getting stuck. I could not walk out in that deluge, not even to buy food or check on my car parked downstairs, so I just muttered, “C’est la vie,” and snuggled into bed with Proust.

I used to like summer so much. Growing up in a farm, summers have always been the highest point of my year. School would be out, I didn’t have to wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning, and neither did I have t go to sleep early, and I could read books that were not required for school. I’d stay up in a mango tree all afternoon, reading, with cushions stolen from the sala for my back and tushy. The maid would bring me merienda up at the branches. I’d only go inside the house once the mosquitoes started coming out.

Even when I was a freelancer, I’d spend summer like I was partly on vacation. I’d go out and have meetings only in the early mornings or in the late afternoons or evenings, and work at home just in the morning, and stay in bed reading all afternoon. There’s something about summer that makes me feel lackadaisical, carefree, like I’m a child again. And once, there was this magical summer when I joined the Hell Week of the Urban Counter-Revolutionary Warfare Course of the PNP Special Action Force. It was for work, but it didn’t feel like work. It felt like I was just hopping around the dust and the grass in combat boots smelling the gunpowder, with sweat streaming down my back and hot wind blowing through my hair – a child in a vast playground. And whenever summer ends, each June, I always feel like it's the end of an era.

I suppose when one gets older things do change. Now I find summer quite tiresome. It melts the makeup off my face, it makes my sun block feel sticky on my arms, it makes my glasses slide down my nose, it makes me sweat through my pantyhose, and it makes cars feel like ovens inside after you park them, even in the shade. The things that I have always liked about summer – the heat, the dust, the fact that school was out – seem annoying now.

But when it’s cold and raining, somehow I feel more cheery. I can run errands without (literally) breaking a sweat, there are less people on the sidewalk, and there’s no smog and no dust. The air smells fresher, too, and the gray atmosphere is easier on the eyes than the bright, vivid light of hot days. Though rainy days bring their own set of health hazards, these are nil with sensible rain gear. Plus, of course, no one should swim out in six-feet-deep floods.

Why have I changed this way? Perhaps, after all these years of summery living I’m due for a wash-down. Perhaps, too, summer fashion has gone and left me for younger skins and more active bodies. Perhaps the discomforts of summer has always really been there, but I was too young to notice, and now I am old enough to see them, and can now appreciate the cool, the wet, the gray, and the subdued. These days I look up at the sky, see dark clouds, and start feeling comfortable. Perhaps it really does come with age. Now approaching my mid-thirties with forty-inch hips, the rain has grown on me. Rain is now my new sun.

[Image credits: 1, 2, 3, 4]

16 October 2009

To bed, to bed

The thought of tackling Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past has always been intimidating. Just seeing the entire work in six volumes lined up in my bookshelf, in its own matching case, is enough to make me think of it as the reading project of a lifetime. But once I picked up the first volume, “Swann’s Way,” I immediately took to it, and from then onwards, Proust has become my bosom buddy.

That’s because he opened the entire work with memories of falling asleep.

Falling asleep is my favorite activity of the day. Not the sleeping itself, which I do not have much memories of, but the delicious moment of surrendering conscious thought into something dreamy and strange. Not, too, just the usual falling asleep after a long, hard day, but the luxurious falling asleep of one who has the privilege of time, like a princess who can linger in her pillows and let her mind swim to and fro in a thick, dark, warm liquid, not having to care about the state of her kingdom, because she is a princess and not a king.

Of course, Proust had it differently. He was sickly and delicate, and he probably spent long stretches of time in bed out of necessity rather than luxury, but the experience of falling asleep, that moment where the mind is suspended and sort of just goes about slowly in gloopy semi-darkness, is divine, regardless of whether one is a princess, a sickly aristocrat, or me.

I would often spend hours in the office, doing things that I have to do, all in anticipation of going home, getting into bed, and falling asleep. I would spend hours on a short story or a paper, telling myself that my reward for finishing the work would be to let myself fall asleep. Over a year ago, when I was suffering from a mood disorder that had depression-like symptoms, I would let myself fall asleep over and over again, all day. I would wake up after an hour just to make myself fall asleep again. Now that I have largely recovered from that condition, though, and have a nine-to-five job, I don’t sleep so much anymore, but I always look forward to the moment of falling asleep everyday at the end of the day.

What do I get out of it? It could be a million things. Aside from feeling good at knowing that I do have the luxury of time to linger in this moment of falling asleep, it also helps me to remember things, important things that I have already forgotten for a long time. It gives me images and aromas that eventually end up as details in some of my stories. But perhaps, most importantly, it teaches me the importance of surrendering to things that are beyond my control -- the night, the biological need to shut down for the day – and realize that there are other things I can wield my power over. Perhaps this is why Proust was still able to write his six-volume novel despite his physical weaknesses. I'm no Proust, but I can also fight battles of my own choosing.

13 October 2009

A case of very fine steering

My Da taught me how to drive when I was sixteen and we were in California. When I went back to the Philippines, I still lacked practice, and thus practiced on the car of whatever boyfriend I had, at night, after dates, on the private roads of subdivisions whose residents have long gone to bed. I could make mistakes and not kill anybody, I didn’t have to stay on my own lane, and I didn’t have to obey any traffic rules. I thought I did pretty good.

But when Da came home, I still wasn’t a good enough driver. It was only after a while that I realized that it’s not the practice on deserted roads with the freedom and ignorance of a four-year-old that makes a driver. It’s the daily nitty-gritty of driving through many different roads amid constricting situations and still arrive unscathed that makes a driver.

They say we get the habits of our teachers. I never got the driving habits of my boyfriends who taught me how to drive, in their own teenaged way, but I did get some of my Da’s habits. Perhaps he was really the only one who taught me how to drive.

Once, years ago, as a new driver with a student’s permit, I was plowing through traffic and barely missed another car that was backing up. Da, on the passenger side, just said, “Oops,” and didn’t say anything for five minutes. I knew he was disappointed, and I felt bad. And then he said, “No matter how much you know the road you’re on, no matter how perfect your driver’s instincts have become, you still need to be unfamiliar with that road in certain ways, because sometimes that’s the only way you can keep a sense of defense when driving.”

I nodded, but couldn’t say a word. And then after a while, he added, “You can only steer finely when you can really see both what is there and what isn’t there.”

Little did he know that on that day, he has given me a mantra for going through the relationships of the rest of my life. Men are roads that I must travel.

Thank you, Da. Happy birthday. And Happy October 13.

[Previous posts about Da: 1, 2]

[Image credits: 1, 2]

09 October 2009


(An excerpt from a story in progress)

Evelyn coughed once, feeling a thick, warm liquid gather in her throat, and then realized that her legs were pinned under the dashboard with a searing pain that was traveling up her back, and she had the disconnected thought that she had somehow prophesied this: tired, brittle bones snapping.

The steering wheel, dented and dislocated by the impact, was digging into her chest. Blood was trickling from her nose and she breathed through her mouth, feeling more and more dust granules catching on her tongue. She could not feel her left cheek anymore. She felt dizzy, and in her swimming, swirling vision, saw that the red car was a Honda, and over its license plates was a black bumper sticker with “GUILTY!” spelled out in bold letters. Like a faraway phonograph from another time zone, the red car’s radio was still running, though stuck, playing what sounded like “No breathing... No breathing...” over and over and over again, and Evelyn, in the heady, muffled state of quasi-rational thought, wondered if she was really meant to die like this, violently, mannishly, entwined in twisted metal and covered with broken glass, with some unknown dead character of an indeterminate origin that flew towards her in an overturned and bashed-in Chariot of Fire, making her look like a blatant coagulation of blood like the incubus that would never be a part of her, telling her that she was guilty, and rubbing in the fact that she was suffocating painfully, blocked by an unforgiving fate at the fork of a junction: some obscure, has-been, barren writer who didn’t even think of gassing up before taking a drive to nowhere.

[Image credit]

08 October 2009

Little girl

She was born tiny and out of wedlock, but she is as pure as can be, and larger than life in her solitude and her books. She knows more Tagalog songs than I do, and can speak Bicol like she has lived for a hundred years.

But she still has her dollhouses and her bead bracelets that have her name spelled out in glittery curlicue letters, and for all her gravity, she is just seven years old. This is her magic.

Happy birthday to my niece, The Shrimpmouse!

[Image credit]

02 October 2009

Scarlet chair

A scarlet chair stands alone on a darkened porch, casting vague shadows on the floorboards like a forgotten thought. The half-light embraces me as I look at the crisscrossing lines, in the hope that in their junctions something would come alive, not like me, who stare at furniture with dust in my eyes.

[Similar posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]

[Image credit]