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.

27 August 2010

In the light of the afternoon

One afternoon on a weekend The Dude decided to take me somewhere low-key so I’d get a change of scene. We drove around the semi-deserted streets of Metro Manila, settled on a mall, had fruit juice and flavored ibos, and talked. We didn’t talk about us, though. We talked about movies, current affairs, House, puzzles, Manny Pacquiao, and maybe a little bit about how to tell good leatherware from bad leatherware.

It was nice. After a while, he turned on his computer and surfed, and I opened my book (a gift from him) and read. And the afternoon sunlight streamed down through the windows in its soft, watery orange-y way, and I wondered when I have stopped thinking about the future.

I have always been an A-type person who had to have a plan before embarking on something, whether it’s starting a craft project or just dealing with the laundry for the weekend. I had to know what my year would be like before committing to any new projects of major engagements. I’d always plan out my outfits for any appointment that would not require my office uniform. And my Moleskine planner would be filled with details of how my days are supposed to come out as, and each October I’d always make it at point to purchase next year’s planner, so I could plan ahead. I always needed an endpoint; I always needed gauges, parameters, markers, and timelines.

But somewhere along the way, I became less hard with myself. After all, we can only plan so much, but life always unfolds the way it wants to, no matter whether we plan for it or not. Planning would indeed make me more prepared, but if something catches me unawares, I’d more or less be able to come up with something to deal with it, anyway.

Perhaps this was why I never even brought up the future with The Dude on that afternoon. Life was right there, or should I say, we were right there, in the middle of life, as it was happening. It wasn’t anything groundbreaking, and the earth didn’t shake and there was no thunder and lightning. It was just an ordinary, low-key, modest, quiet afternoon. And perhaps that is what we are for now: small, simple, modest, low-key, but functioning. Getting along, surviving each day as it comes, without plans, but knowing that we will be okay.

In the light of the afternoon, things are softer, slower, kinder, more hopeful. On afternoons like this, I know things will go on as they have before.

Image credit

20 August 2010


You to me are a battle of flavors,
like orange and chocolate,
like cucumber and tofu.
When you kiss me my tongue burns
with the quarrel of purple and yellow,
like the fried ice cream you gave me,
a reticent betrayal of depth by light.

[Similar posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]
[Image credit]

16 August 2010

A rather long letter, on the occasion of a birthday

Dear Fifteen Year-Old Maryanne,

Hi! I hope you’re doing fine. I hope you’re not afraid that you have received a letter from me. I know how scary that sounds, but I’ll try not to scare you, today being your birthday and all. Scaring you is the last thing I want to do.

Because I don’t want you to be scared. All I want is to let you know that I miss you. I miss your simple life, your simple joys, your simple dreams, and your simple needs. I miss the girly, small-town ambitions you used to hold, and the adorable little standards you felt you have to adhere to.

I miss the way you try to vary your handwriting, and I miss wearing a high school uniform with the white socks and the black leather shoes. I miss school. I miss the green grass of the paranymphus, and how the morning light hits the blades of grass at just the right moment to make the dew glisten as you walk on it towards the daily flag ceremony. I miss the notebooks, the Trapper Keepers, the neon felt markers, the pencil cases made of tin. I miss you taking down copious notes during Physics class with a dark pencil, and drawing arrows representing the directions of the momentum, and writing down concise definitions of physics terms in Bicol-English, like, “Pareho dapat pirmi ang force kaining duwa.”

I miss that class in which your PE was a double period, but the first PE period was at 1:30 and the second PE period was at 4:20, so you and your classmates had to change into and out of your PE uniforms twice in one afternoon. I miss watching a kick-baseball game from the second-floor balcony of the school building, and going home hoarse from all the cheering. I miss going bowling on Sunday mornings. I miss throwing tiny crumpled papers at classmates during tests.

I miss the outfits, the torn jeans and the sloppy shirts and the Reebok sneakers and the neon-colored socks and the cycling shorts. I miss obsessing about a pimple on the cheek, and I miss walking under a drizzly sky on Sunday evenings on the way to church. I miss oversleeping, and staying in bed all Saturday, completely engrossed with a thick, fat Sydney Sheldon book. (You might think this strange, but in only two years, you will stop reading Sydney Sheldon completely.)

I miss the fads, movies like Batteries Not Included and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, and the music, and the New Kids On The Block. I miss not knowing what to study in college. I miss staying up late to read novels. I miss living with Squiddward and Nachie (although I know now what a pain I was then). I miss singing along to that old Coca Cola jingle with them. (“It’s a burger, pizza, fries kind of feeling. That only taste that goes is the real thing.”) I miss being sincerely and deeply excited for Christmas. I miss being sincerely and deeply excited about many simple things, like getting a new Walkman, or getting to eat cake, or getting the latest issue of Seventeen which had a feature on rollerblading. I miss being you.

And I miss you. I want to tell you things, many of them seemingly trivial, like why you have to take better care of your teeth, and why you don’t have to worry too much that you are skinny. (In twenty years, you will get forty-inch hips.) I want to tell you to start using Nivea Creme this early in your life and not be afraid that it looks too rich. I want to tell you not to get that perm when you turn sixteen. I want to tell you to start your Dickens reading with The Pickwick Papers and not A Christmas Carol.

I want to look you in the eye and hold your hands, and tell you not to be in too much of a hurry to see everything. I want to tell you that life will always run its course whether you hurry it or not, and all that remains for you to do is to be happy for every second that passes by, and be grateful for the chance to learn something new and do something good everyday. I want you to make friends and keep them. Spend time with them. Share your secrets with them. Talk to your siblings. Write to your parents. Reach out. Trust your instincts. Pray more.

I also want you to learn how to work hard and earn every glory you get, and know that you deserve it. I want you to see that you don’t have to be in a hurry to grow up, but when you do decide to grow up, in your own sweet time, you don’t have to revert back to being childish again. I want you to learn how to let go and move on, and be strong for the bad things -- which you call battles -- that life will throw at you from time to time. I want you to realize that you don’t have to think of them as battles. Life is not a battlefield, and you are not a soldier. You’re just a girl who wants the world to be happy and peaceful, and who loves books and wants to be a writer.

I want to tell you to write as much as you can, about anything that you want, without being too conscious that you want to be a writer. Don’t dream of becoming a writer; just write. Write a lot. Write anything, and do it in a way that you feel you will never forget.

But who am I to tell you these things? I am not living such a perfect life myself. If anything, I have been only plodding along, halfheartedly taking one step after another, making wishy-washy turns, slipping along the wayside, sometimes being evil, sometimes being timorous, but never ever truly resolute. And though I might try to sound wise, I have to admit that I have not really understood the lessons that I am supposed to learn in the past two decades that I have been trying to learn them. I have the sinking feeling that I am here largely because I have forgotten about you, and now, at this moment, twenty years later, I remember you.

Write me a letter. Talk to me. Teach me how to be simple again, to have simple dreams again, to be excited for Christmas again. Teach me how not to be afraid again.

Teach me how to read for enjoyment again and not to break down each sentence with a literary criticism. Teach me how to jump rope again, and play jackstone again, and sing along with commercial jingles again. Teach me how to ride a swing again, and walk in the rain again, and cheer wholeheartedly at games again. Teach me how to sleep soundly again. Teach me to celebrate life again. Teach me to believe again.

Thirty-five year-old Maryanne

Posts from birthdays past: [2006, 2007, 2008, 2009]

Image credits: [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]

13 August 2010

The dude next door

He didn’t always live next door. He’s someone I have known for a long time, before I lived next door to him, and our memories together go far back, perhaps even further back to a previous life. But in the heart’s attempt to make sense of the overwhelming ebbs and swells that make up a relationship so recondite, one needs to have an anchor that is portrayed in a more or less conventional light. Thus, he is The Dude. And he lives next door.

What can I say about him? Perhaps just a few simple things, like, he loves puzzles. He can solve the 3x3 Rubik’s cube in under a minute. About a year ago he purchased a 5x5 version and after just a few days of practice he was able to solve it in under five minutes. Also, he is a vegetarian, and prefers his food spicy. He drinks a lot of water, and is online a lot, to look up his Lakers, to browse the boxing websites and blogs, to read up on Manny Pacquiao, and to look up the latest news in technology and the latest Apple rumors. He is an Apple geek. His latest Mac is called Sans Rival; his previous Mac was called Cotton. He irons his own shirts but cannot do his own laundry. He likes the color black, because he says it’s elegant and sophisticated and goes with everything. His cars have always been black.

What else to say? Now he likes good leather. Before he met me, he didn’t even notice leather, but now he can tell whether or not a piece of leather-ware is of good quality. All his leather-ware are black, of course. Now his casual clothes have less color and prints, but more style. Now he also knows some Shakespearean lines, and I suspect that sometimes, he secretly Googles for papers on Shakespeare. He likes at least one chick flick that I know of, Letters to Juliet. He admitted this to me after we saw the movie in a cinema. He likes House, M.D., and he likes 24, and he thinks that the writers of those two TV shows are some of the best in the industry. His favorite movie is The American President. I watched Salt with him and he watched Sex and the City 2 with me.

I keep finding more and more things to say about him. Now he is more conscious about his grammar and word choice, which makes him feel insecure when he is composing a draft, but I think he really has nothing to worry about, because his English is very good. He can get a little pompous sometimes when he talks about his work, but it’s only because he is very passionate about what he does and he takes great pains to be exact in his conclusions. His Excel files are perfection. I am a beneficiary of this Excel perfection when he made me a template for balancing my checking account. I use it now not just to balance my checking account but to monitor all my bills and expenses, track all my post-dated checks, project my cash flow, and plan my purchases. Because of this Excel file, I have never had a check bounce, all my bills are paid on time, I don’t need to carry around much cash, and all my purchases are planned. His Excel perfection helped me live a mature financial life.

But not so much in other aspects. Because in other aspects I am still a little girl. I still need him each time I get feverish, or when my knee gets scraped and needs to be disinfected and bandaged, or when one of my software gets a glitch. I still need him to get dinner for me sometimes, and massage my legs when they get crampy. I still need to consult him each time I plan to buy a gadget or perform a software upgrade or install anything new into my system. I still need him to remind me to take my medication and to go to bed at 9:30 pm.

I also keep finding more and more reasons why I need him, and it could go on and on. But I suppose that in the dark and murky vapors that continue to surround our lives, and in the fears and uncertainties that plague us, what makes us endure are the prosaic, the simple, the everyday facts, such as the sun continuing to rise every morning, and AM Radio still churning out the news every day, and rush hour still awful but endurable, and Google still available each time you access it. It is small details like these that help me carry on, facts like, local checks still take about three days to clear, a thousand pesos plus five hundred is still a thousand and five hundred, that my ATM PIN still works, and that my taxes still get withheld from my salary. Lamps still light up when I turn them on, people still answer when I call them on the phone, and my analog wall clock still works. Books are still made of paper, hamburgers are still made of beef. The value of pi is still the same and Apple computers still don’t crash. And he is still the dude next door. For these, I am thankful.

[Image Credits: 1, 2, 3]

06 August 2010


In the late 1990’s I worked for about a year in a radio station in Naga, first as a newscaster, and then eventually becoming a newscaster-slash-disk jockey. Incidentally, it was also that particular FM radio station’s heyday, having placed number one in major surveys for two consecutive years, and one more time within the year that I worked there. I was part of the air team, and it was something unconventional for me at the time.

Our DJ’s booth was a regular-sized booth, with large picture windows on three sides. The DJ’s console sat in the center, the CD player desk was on the right, the guest microphone was further to the right, and the turntable was on the left. The library of CDs and vinyl records was right behind the DJ’s seat, and we have memorized the contents of the CDs so we could pick out a CD from the stack for a particular song without having to read through the CD’s contents.

The booth also had mood lighting. When the one on board was feeling a little jazzy, he’d close all the blinds, turn off all the lights and leave on the blue spotlights trained onto the console. It made it a little difficult to see, but we could navigate the controls even when blindfolded. Time slots with a rock playlist had the red and yellow lights turned on, and pop (which we didn’t like much) didn’t merit mood lighting and closed blinds. But even though we didn’t like pop so much, whenever pop stars and recording artists from Manila would visit the station we would give them a warm welcome, and we would let them joke around with us inside the booth, which we would air live, and listeners could phone in and join in the banter.

Our big boss was Brenda, herself a rather wild and raving Valkyrie, who was based in Legazpi City where the head office of the network (which she owns) was. She would show up suddenly at the station on random days with her peculiar ideas about how to sound sexy on the air, how to to market our airtime, and how to deal with that pesky advertiser who wanted the voice-overs on his advertising materials to sound like someone was choking on his food. And then she would ramble on about something else, walk out of the conference room in mid-sentence, and harp on the technicians about something completely unrelated, and then she would convene the TV people and talk to them about the coverage of the Penafrancia Festival that was, like, ten months away, and then, just as suddenly, leave, leaving behind bilaos of pancit canton and a case of Coke Litros. No wonder we felt cool; our big boss was insane and never felt it important to rein us in, so we were, happily, all over the place, just like she was.

We lived only in the present. We had cellphones and pagers, wore jeans and Tretorn sneakers, went to street parties, played billiards, drank flaming drinks, listened to Bjork, went swimming at 2 o’clock in the morning, and were always the first to play the newest songs in the city. We were young, immortal, inviolable, and defiant of the times and of playlists. We were a rather uproarious bunch, didn’t care much about what other people said, but we lived our lives in hi-fidelity.

That was almost two decades ago, and I never looked back to that time until now. I realize how different I have become now, and how far I have driven myself. Thus, in loving memory of who I used to be, I play the old songs, remember old friends, old stories, and my old life, things that I will never have again, but am grateful for still being able to remember.

[Image credits: 1, 2, 3]