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 July 2010

Searching for Sheryl Festejo

We called her Pot-Pot, although she looked nothing like a Pot-Pot. She was taller and older than me, very graceful and slender, and had straight black hair that flowed down to the middle of her back like smooth black liquid. Her name really suited her: Sheryl Festejo. But I never remember calling her that. She was always Pot-Pot to me.

She lived next door to us in Jacob Putol in Naga City. Her house was in the innermost lot of the neighborhood we were in, so her two-storey home was almost completely enclosed by a high perimeter wall and dark trees. The house I lived in was the very first house that Da built for Ma.

Suitably enough, Pot-Pot was my very first best friend, and she made me feel preferred. She would stay with me in our house most afternoons after school, and sometimes we would play in her living room, where her hundreds of dolls were displayed. She had all kinds of Barbie dolls, including one which had very long hair that we could cut half an inch from, and see it grow back right there and then. There was a larger doll who could change the color of her hair, a doll that sang to us, a doll that cried to us, and I think there was even a doll that danced the hula for us, in a grass skirt and all.

That young, and enamored with Pot-Pot, I was sincerely happy, in the prosaic way only children could be. Also, I never wanted her to leave at the end of the day. I would hide her slippers, or her toys, believing she will not leave me without them. What she would do, then, is put me to sleep for a late nap, and then she would leave, without her slippers, but when I would wake up in the evening at dinnertime, and Ma and Da would already be there. But then during most of the next day, I would go through the hours looking forward to when I would see Pot-Pot again.

She always seemed glad to see me, too. After school, even before going into my own house, I’d go running to her gate, and she would meet me with some kind of contrivance that she had innovated for my amusement: a new dress for one of my dolls, a pair of Barbie doll shoes that she painted with her mother’s glittery red nail polish, a fan made out of leaves, a headband with rabbit ears. I revered her, and she adored me.

We would sometimes fight, of course, and this was always because I couldn’t get what I wanted at once, but Pot-Pot had the knack for making my childish anger dissipate within minutes. Once, I remember I got mad at her because of something, and I went to sit and sulk on my bed, leaving her at my desk. As I sat there smoldering, she cut a square piece from a sheet of cartolina, and curled it into an S-shape, laid it on the desk and started typing on it, the concave surface jumping up and down the desk. I was immediately captivated.

“What’s that?” I asked, my eyes getting bigger and bigger.

“It’s a calculator,” she said, smiling at me.

I jumped out of bed, and we were friends again.

There, in that valley of dolls, dark trees, late naps, and murky orange afternoons, I found the seat of my girlhood. There I learned how to marvel at toys made of paper, hair that grew before my very eyes, magic wands that really do magic, and the resilience and clarity of someone who understood me to my core. Perhaps I never really left that place; perhaps after all of my three and a half decades of life, I have never really grown past five years old.

When my family moved to a different house, Pot-Pot and her family moved to the United States, and we lost each other. Not having the benefit of technology at the time, and all wrapped up with growing up, I let go of her, and moved on to jeans and brassieres, and new friends with short hair and who listened to pop music. I suppose she let go of me, too, in her own way. But now I wonder how my life would have been had we stayed together, in our street, living out our afternoons in the microcosm of our childhood.

My fondest memory of her is also my last. It was late afternoon, and we has just finished making new magic wands out of Bic “Haba-Haba” ballpens, ribbons, foil, and old tinsel stars from the previous Christmas. We decided to test the magic of our new magic wands while taking a walk around our neighborhood wearing matching dresses. So we skipped out the door, singing nursery rhymes and casting spells on birds and bushes and rocks and butterflies and fruits and parked cars, and cats that rejected our spells by hissing at us and then slinking away. And then we reached the end of our street, and before us, when there was supposed to be more houses, lay a vast field of cogon in full bloom, with nothing beyond but an orange and magenta sky where the sun was slowly sinking like the last forgotten candy in the wrapper.

And I was awed by the magic that our wands had created.

I am looking for her. I hope I still find her.

[Image credits: 1, 2, 3]

23 July 2010


I found out yesterday that a friend and classmate from high school and college, Annabelle Goce, had died. She was only 35. She was the subject of one of my earliest blog posts, and after I found out about her death, I read my old blog post again, and reading it gave me chills.

In the blog post I predicted how she would grow old. (Now I know I am definitely not a fortune-teller.) Neither do I really remember what happened the first time we met. All I could remember was that we were both thirteen. It must have been in the classroom, and it must have been quiet and polite, because that’s how she was. She was unassuming, proper, kind and considerate. Even though she was fighting her own battles, she never showed it. She had poise, and everybody could see that. In the elegance and quietude of our first meeting, more than twenty years ago, the details have been lost to memory.

But I do remember the last time I saw her. It was on the day of her wedding, in January 2006. As I watched her walk down the aisle in a pure white gown, to the song “On the Wings of Love,” I sat at the end of a pew and cried, because she was so beautiful. I wished her a long and happy life. Little did I know that that wish would not be granted. And as the choir sang to a crescendo, saying that the only way to fly is on the wings of love, I felt so much gladness that Annabelle was doing exactly that.

And now, on the wings of love, we send her off. On the wings of love we see her through from this life to the next, amid flowers and tears and the extraordinary memories that she leaves behind. She will be laid to rest on Wednesday, July 28, in Naga, the city that witnessed her life. And even though I cannot be there myself, she will have many people there who will bid her farewell, including our high school batch-mates from the Colegio de Santa Isabel Batch of 1992. I can almost see them there -- an army of 35 year-old women propelled by sisterhood and memories, walking along the streets of Naga alongside Annabelle’s casket.

And as we all walk in the memory of Annabelle Goce, we also remember other high school batch-mates who have already passed away: Georgina de Guzman, Sheila Cuarto, and Encar Parone, comrades from our unforgettable adolescence, sisters from the glory days of our youth. None of us will ever remember them sad, or ugly, or old, or in pain. They will live in our memories, always happy, constantly radiant, invariably golden, forever young.

[Image credits: 1, 2]

16 July 2010

Beyond this

Beyond the lights and sounds of this home
my heart sees an underlying pattern of fire and wind
that shape themselves into colors and aromas
which defy the notion that where I am
is where I should be.

[Similar posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]
[Image credit]

09 July 2010

At the bottom of my bag

One afternoon, while I was looking for a file inside my storage room, I came across an old canvas tote that I remember using from six or seven years ago. At the time I was still living in my old apartment and didn’t have a car yet. I was also still a full-time graduate student (as opposed to my current status of being a part-time, fallen-away, grappling-to-get-back-in-the-program graduate student), and living a vastly different life. I still lived along Evangelista St. in Makati, and my life revolved around the Camarines Sur and Makati offices of then Camarines Sur Governor Luis R. Villafuerte, for whom I was writing, and the subsequently his son, L-Ray, who became governor after him, Naga City, UP Diliman, and my old apartment, the College of Chaos.

This old canvas tote was huge! During its heyday it could fit my 12-inch Powerbook inside a padded sleeve, various chargers and cables and flash drives, two or three books, a stack of CDs, a thick sheaf of handouts and a handful of file folders brimming with even more files, a jacket, a folding umbrella, and a bottle of water. It’s a testament to its very good make that not a single stitch ever broke on me and my daily load within the months that I lugged it around the city, inside MRT trains, jeepneys and cabs and buses, elevators, classrooms, and offices. And for the past few years it has lain empty and quiet inside a large plastic storage box inside a storage room.

But not quite completely empty. As I fondled the material I felt some bumps from inside, and unzipped the bag. Inside I saw a wealth of small old things, the usual flotsam and jetsam from my life of six or seven years ago. There were old crumbling tickets from Baclaran-Novaliches buses, three Mongol # 2 pencils, a sachet of instant Nescafe, its contents as hard as stone. Inside I also found a handkerchief, two Yale keys I couldn’t identify, several paperclips, a small purple stapler, and three Globe prepaid load cards from when I was still using a tiny silver Samsung flip-phone with two green screens.

There were several crumpled Post-It notes as well, a few blank, but several containing names and numbers and email addresses of people, some of whom I can even remember, and short reminders of files to be sent, amounts to be billed, and places to be photographed. There were old tickets from Isarog Bus Lines for when I would travel from Naga to Manila and back, eight-hour trips I would take overnight, sleeping snugly under thick pants, two jackets, and a soft warm flannel blanket. And when the memories start, there’s no saying when they would end, because I don’t live that life anymore, and I am someone else now.

At the bottom of my bag there are fossils that contain a world inside them, a world that I no longer inhabit, but which I still recognize from a past era. If that world is not mine anymore, why then do I feel suddenly misplaced where I currently am? Why is my heart yearning to live in it once more? Has a piece of myself fallen off and embedded itself into one of these relics, and shall I always keep trying to find that lost part of me? Why am I dreaming of spending even just a day in that old world? And why am I imagining that, once I am back there, I shall overstay my welcome and not leave at all?

[Image credits: 1, 2]

02 July 2010

Here’s something a little different

In computer parlance, typecasting is the conversion of an expression of a given type into another type. In the world of typewriters, however, typecasting refers to the creation of the impressions of type from the type bars onto the paper, making an imprint through an inked ribbon. But there is another kind of typecasting, which involves a typewriter, scraps of paper, a digital scanner, a computer, internet connection, and a blog.

Typecasting, in the world of typewriter collectors who blog, is a different way of publishing blog posts. Instead of typing words directly onto the “compose” field, they type the words onto paper using a typewriter, scan the paper to turn it into a digital image, and upload it into their blog as a regular image. It’s fun and cute, in an analog kind of way. It can even be said to be some form of defiance of technology, where the defiance of technology is spread through technology. (It’s a little twisted that way.)

Something even more analog are papercasts, in which the blog post is written by hand on paper, and the paper scanned and uploaded into the blog page. I have my own papercast right here. These techniques using paper as primary media are supposed to be more spontaneous, fresh, natural, and open, because the whole thing is uploaded with all the handwriting slips, typographical errors, and corrections. I myself like it because it allows me to use paper, one of my favorite things in life.

A colorcast is mostly the same thing, except that instead of making the type imprints through the inked ribbon of a typewriter, a crayon is used. In colorcasts the crayon is rubbed onto a piece of paper, then that piece of paper is placed face down on a blank piece of paper, and together they are fed into the typewriter, and the words are typed on the underside of the surface that was colored, producing a colored impression instead of the usual inked type. Hence:

What do you think?

I have grown up with Crayola crayons, have always had them throughout high school and college, and relied on them as a mother to help me out in entertaining and teaching my small son. Throughout the years I have seen colors come and go. (I miss tumbleweed.) Furthermore, I have been living alone in Metro Manila for over seven years, and I have always had a box of Crayola crayons with me, so I thought I might as well do something novel with it -- not so original, sadly, but something new for me. New expression from an old type to a new type -- temporarily shifting from new technology to old analog -- all joined together in a blog that's approaching its fifth year. Old things in new things, and new things from old things.

[Crayola crayon in use: purple mountain's majesty]