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.

25 June 2010

The fortress has risen

Tonight I am looking out of the window towards the lights of the high-rise buildings of the city, and wonder about the lives of the people who inhabit those spaces. Are they happy? Who are they living with? What color are their drapes? What did they have for dinner? Do they like their eggs scrambled or over easy? Do they watch old movies? Do they like the Electric Light Orchestra? How often do the laugh? Do they get headaches? What really goes on inside those spaces that I can only behold from afar, other lives that go through their days not knowing that I wonder about them from time to time?

I, on the other hand, am in a different place. Though I sometimes wonder about other lives in other places, as a writer is wont to do, in the quest to gather details that make up a believable story, the demarcations between them and I are clear. I am not them. And not only do I live elsewhere, the structure of my life now is also different, and the air around me has been transformed.

I live along a large, black river that functions as my moat, and even my door is the same color as the lamb’s blood that was daubed on the doorposts of the children of Israel so they will not be stricken with the plague. I am safe here within these tall, heavy walls, and my doors are guarded by a sentinel upon whom is vested the powers of love.

Because of love, this sentinel’s competence and constitution extends to the walls, becoming the structure itself, throbbing with life, reverberating with music, and ablaze with the light of a thousand mornings. Nevermore shall I be the damsel in distress; nevermore shall I want to be anywhere among the ruins of a world that goes to battle on a whim and a conjecture. I am here. This is now. Out of the ruins, the fortress has risen.

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18 June 2010

Out of the ruins

One morning, after a deep and dreamless sleep for what seemed like a hundred long and winding years, I woke up to the bright sunshine, the smell of roses, and a man’s familiar voice that reminded me of goodnight wishes and a particular song. I, in a torpid state, was at first confused, for I thought I would never see him again. But I blinked my eyes and looked harder, and indeed, there he was, looking exactly like the last time I saw him, a hundred years ago.

I looked around, seeing the ruins around me, ruins of a union that had toppled over due to an unnecessary declaration of war, and realized that the battle had been totally unfounded, and that the premise of the war was grossly untrue.

As the waves of guilt and remorse washed over me, I could not even look him straight in the eye, didn't know how to begin asking for forgiveness. My mind went back to everything that had happened, and then, little by little, like tiny slivers of light coming into view, clarity came. And I knew then that, like the archetypes of our psyche that have been true for as long as anyone can remember, he is someone I can never live without. And though we might live among the ruins for now, eventually, with forgiveness and sheer hope and sincere love, we can always build something new from the old foundations that will always, always be there.

And so it goes that fairy tales don’t always end the usual way, and they are not always over when we think they are. For even when we behold something that has already crumbled to the ground, there is always, always something -- maybe a token, or a magic spell, or stardust -- that carries the entire fairy tale with it in a grain of a promise, and keeps it there, ready to be unleashed in the future as something stronger, more magical, more magnificent. And out of the ruins, something even more beautiful can live again.

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11 June 2010

The long and winding

If life is one long journey, how do we know what paths to take in the myriad of streets that make up the history of living? We have all heard about the road less travelled, and the well-worn path, the trees paved with gold, and even the place where the streets have no name. Many a song has been written about the journey that life is all about, but is it really a road? Is it even a journey? What if it’s an open field, or an ocean, or even pure air, and we are not so much walking forward as being tossed around by the forces that surround us?

For comfort, though, I pick the metaphor of the road.

The image is familiar, the connotations are mundane, and it requires me to always put one foot in front of the other, on and on, day after day after day, which is much like how I am living my life at the moment. After loss and heartache and guilt, and while still dealing with the confusion and exhaustion that comes out of them, one can only aim to survive each day as it comes, and not think too far into the future, lest one realize that the road might not extend onwards too much for oneself.

I have been through many turns and bends in my three-and-a-half decades of walking -- sometimes running, something hopping, sometimes tiptoeing -- along this infinite road. Recently I have taken what can be called a literal turn for the worse, and though I want to turn back and take the correct turn, unfortunately, in the unwritten laws that govern the traversing of these roads, that is not allowed. So I trudge on, apprehensive, fearful, yet also hopeful that somewhere along the way I will come upon a side street that will bring me back to where I made a wrong turn, and enable me to correct my mistakes.

I have come upon that side street. It beckons to my feelings of contrition, and assures me that this is my chance to face my fear of the unknown. The longer I look upon the opening of that street, the more it tugs upon my longing to be loved once more, qualify myself for retribution, make myself ascendant to my calling to be part of a whole. And though I know the road will not end there, and though the subsequent roads be long and winding, I will flourish with the conviction that I took the step forward.

So tomorrow I walk into the unknown, armed only with faith and love.

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04 June 2010


Towards May the stifling, overbearing heat wave of several weeks prior broke in torrential rains. The rain came so suddenly and so forcefully, and people were startled, umbrella-less. Some were walking to dinner, some were on their way home, and when the rain came, together with the deep puddles it created everywhere, people had to cancel their plans and run for shelter, bumping into each other, edging each other out under awnings or whatever slivers of roof they could find. It was as if the entire world had stopped in mid-sentence, in mid-bite, in mid-stride, stunned in the most prosaic of manners, like chickens jolted out of their roost at midnight.

I, however, felt it coming, like a rumble from deep in my bones.

For most of my life I have always felt some kind of intuition each time the rains were about to come suddenly. Even in the midst of stifling hot weather, I would feel a tug from somewhere deep inside me, something with a very old and brittle voice, and I know that it would rain very hard in about an hour or so -- and it would. Most of the time I would pretend I didn’t know, and I’d stay out to get caught in the sudden downpour, even letting myself get wet sometimes, just to keep up the pretension. I don’t know why I did it; it was just one of those things that young people did to blend in with the crowd, the crowd that had no premonition whatsoever of the coming rains.

But really, perhaps my premonition of rains come from my understanding of the logic of rain. Because after all, isn’t it supposed to be a cycle? When summer has ended, isn’t the rainy season supposed to begin? When the dry, cracked earth has given up its yield and bounty, the heavens open up to drench the plains with water and then turns the dry, gritty soil into warm, fragrant mud, dark as dead dreams but fertile again, absorbent again, as a woman regenerates after childbirth. Isn’t this an organic thing, an instinct of nature?

Now May has passed in its full unpredictable glory, and June has begun to settle in on us, and at this point, I have begun to enjoy the rain as a happy fact of life. After a while I hear the steady drone of the heavy rainfall die down to a mere whisper, and then hush itself up to the deep stillness that often follows a downpour. The stillness feels portentous, as if it was pregnant with some hidden life that could, at any time, spring forth from a mossy green womb. But though I know there will be more rains, I also know that they will never really catch me by surprise. Something ancient inside of me sees to it that I will always know beforehand.

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01 June 2010

The red kangaroo pillow

When I was in kindergarten I went to this little school in Naga City, called Kiddie Garden. I don’t remember much of the whole experience. Like most everything from childhood, we only tend to remember snippets and snatches of things when we're very young -- the colors of the walls, fragments of voices, the beats to certain songs but not quite the words, the feel of a classmate’s small hand on our equally small shoulders, someone’s mother’s floral dress, the taste of milk from a thermos, the scent of the teacher’s legs as she walked around.

I remember letting my crayon shavings fall to the floor and stick there, to the chagrin of the janitors, who would have to go down on their hands and knees to scrape them off the surface of the floor tiles. I also remember a fat, loud Santa Claus who gave us all brown paper bags with large red apples inside, and the feel of a dry clump of soil in my hand as we planted forget-me-nots under the windows of our classrooms. I remember the headbands I wore, which always matched my dress. I remember strawberry-scented shampoo and white lace socks. I remember Winnie-the-Pooh, Raggedy Ann and Andy, and Holly Hobbie.

I remember afternoons in Kiddie Garden, when our teacher and her helpers would lay down colorful mats on the floor, make us get our pillows from our lockers and lie down on the mats to take our siesta. The pillows in Kiddie Garden were never the usual pillows. They were always in some shape or other -- a large candy, short and very fat pencil, a pink cat, a blue car, a large yellow flower, a green dog with plastic eyes that rolled around. I had a pillow in the shape of a kangaroo. My kangaroo pillow was made of red felt, and its ears and pouch were made of red and white checked fabric. It was big and fluffy and smelled of crayons.

I loved that red kangaroo pillow. I was the only one in my kindergarten class that had a kangaroo to hug every afternoon at siesta. My mother designed this pillow and had it made by the family seamstress. She was twenty-six. I was four.

Now she is fifty-six, I am thirty-five, and my son Chandler is ten. I am not the kind of mother, though, that would have my son’s siesta pillows custom-made. The kind of mother I am is generally forgetful, disorganized, un-coordinated, highly strung, paranoid, melodramatic, histrionic, a little frazzled, and just a wee bit neurotic. But when I am with Chandler, somehow he compensates for my mercurial ways, and we get along perfectly fine. No fancy pillows, but there are peanut butter sandwiches, stories, movies, long telephone conversations about anything under the sun, being together in the rain with rubber boots and a very large umbrella, or just waiting to see how far up into the sky a balloon would go.

It’s Chandler’s birthday today. And as he enters the two-digit age, I wish only that he grows up to be an adult who would have happy memories of his own childhood, and remember the sounds and the colors and the aromas of book pages and chocolate and freshly-fallen rain and --

Well, I will stop now. It’s Chandler’s turn.

Older posts for Chandler’s birthday: [1, 2, 3]
Image credits: [1, 2, 3]