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.

29 October 2010

In Walter's office

One Friday afternoon, while the officemates and I were in our work cubicles, cramming for the week’s deadlines and dealing with last-minute stuff that kept coming up as we went along, it rained. But it was no ordinary rain. It was cold, dark, dense, driving rain at half past four, after weeks upon weeks of fiercely hot weather. It was rain that seemed bent on some kind of revenge, making itself heard even through the sealed windows of our office, and the wind it came with howled with force that the glass panes rattled in their frames.

At the sound of the thunder and the sudden heavy rainfall, everybody got up and ran to the window.

“This is exactly the kind of weather that I like,” announced Louie.

“This makes me want to read a good book,” said Gretchen, giggling.

“Ayos ito, ah,” said Dennis, dancing around.

The rest of us just stood by the windows, and then Walter shut the lights in his office (the one that our Vice President was previously occupying before she was transferred to the executive wing in another floor) turned on an OPM classic, and we all trooped in and watched the rain from there, and each retreated into their own quietude.

I myself love the rain; I love it extravagantly, outrageously, unreasonably. But I didn’t always use to. Just a few years ago I went through some very sad and heavy months, and the rain that seemed incessant then seemed to mark the beginning of the realization that the man in my life was falling out of love with me. That was the era in which I had to drive to Baguio, in the cold and the mist, with rain sheeting on my windshield, to deal with some problem or other, to clarify some issue or other, and the misunderstandings never seemed to end, and phone calls never seemed to suffice, and then eventually, it all had to end.

But there is a reason for every season, as they say, and as I moved on (having no choice in the matter, anyway), I’ve grown to accept that some things will always be out of my reach. The concept of love is itself something that will always elude me, and I have the perpetual feeling that love is constantly slipping through my fingers, and I spend most of my emotional energies trying to grasp at the light, feather-like slivers that remain, like the vapors that stay for just a few seconds before they disappear completely and so smoothly that I never notice that they have already gone. Such was my life then, and such was I: always grasping with my cold, wet, half-numb fingers at ever-elusive things that didn’t quite belong to me.

But now, I jump with joy each time it begins to rain. I think that to some degree, it’s because I’m happier now, because I know I’m beloved, and I’m not alone. And with that love, rain has become my new sun, filling me with warmth and acceptance, and happy memories, making my heart feel hot, sweltering, summer-like. Because that’s what the heart keeps at the foreground after all the hurt has receded into the deepest abysses of our remembrances. At some point, it all starts to heal, become good again, become happy again, like a child again. No one who is loved can ever be sad in the rain, and as I looked at my officemates, I realized they must already have known what I am just realizing then.

And so we sat there in the semi-darkness, at 4:30 in the afternoon, listening to the sound of the crashing rain and songs about unrequited love -- Ricky the Photographer, Louie the Copywriter, Walter the Art Director, Dennis the Webmaster, Gretchen the Executive Staff Assistant, and I, Resident Misanthrope -- and quiet contentment wafted around the cold room, because we all knew in our hearts that none of us were loving unrequitedly.

[Image credits: 1, 2, 3]

22 October 2010

Still the one color (a colorcast)

[Previous colorcasts: 1, 2]

15 October 2010


There are stories that you could tell a thousand times. There are stories that you remember until the day you die because of their vividness or their richness or their profundity. There are stories that leave a taste in the mouth, or a sting on the cheek, or a memory of a sound or an odor. There are stories that bear an awful weight, and freeze that one moment in your life into a stigma that you just know will keep bleeding its way into your soul.

And then there are those stories that do not really feel like stories. Having no beginnings and endings, these stories settle over its characters ever so thinly that there is a danger of never seeing it at all until time, in its eternal jest, pulls someone’s eyes upwards to see it. These are the stories that hold no deep, numbing emotion, cause no smarts, create no stigmas, draw no blood. Spanning years and years and years of regularity and prosaic calm, these stories have the quality of air. Not even of wind or of breeze, just of air.

This is the kind of story that I have. And it is a story I can tell only once, and without words. So listen to the silence, and feel my story.

Image credit

13 October 2010


When I was seven or eight years old Da brought home a rented Betamax tape of Xanadu. I loved it! I loved the celebratory music and the joyous cinematography. I was especially enthralled to see that the Nine Muses knew how to jazz dance to the Electric Light Orchestra, wearing their ruffled dresses, with their hair Farah Fawcett-like and their slouchy leg warmers Jane Fonda-like. Gene Kelly was there, and so were roller skates. What more could a girl growing up in the eighties want? Of course I watched the movie over and over.

After about a week, Da had to return the Betamax tape to the Betamax rental store, and rented several more really good movies for me every week after that -- Chorus Line, Electric Dreams, Flashdance, Body Rock, The Goonies, Footlose, The Pirate Movie, St. Elmo’s Fire -- but I found that none of them were as feel-good as Xanadu.

Maybe it was the fantasy of it, and the allusion to Greek mythology (even as early as that, I already loved the age-old stories that form part of the literary tradition). Maybe it was the fresh-faced innocence of it. Maybe it was the character of Olivia Newton John, which made me feel like a happy young girl who would never have any problems in life, unlike the burdened, neurotic, damaged girls in the other eighties movies.

That it was a big flop then was irrelevant to me; I had no idea it was a big flop until I was nearing my thirties, when I Googled it, looking for a DVD copy to purchase. And when I finally found a DVD, I re-watched the movie, for the umpteenth time, and relished it as if it were the first time. And I watched it three times in a row. And then I realized that I when I was seven or eight, I did have my own Xanadu. I was a fresh-faced and innocent happy young girl who didn’t have any problems, I lived my summers the way I wanted to, and had everything I needed. And all because of Da, who has given me that Xanadu, both the movie and the paradise.

I still watch my own DVD copy of Xanadu from time to time. Now I am hardly the fresh-faced, innocent, leg warmers-wearing happy young girl who would never have any problems in life. Over time, I have gradually become a version of the burdened and the ever-so-slightly neurotic, as life only so often turn us into, but that’s okay. Because I’ve had my Daddy-sanctioned Xanadu, and the memory of it will see me through for the rest of my life.

Thanks for Xanadu, Da. Happy birthday!

And of course, Happy October Thirteen!

[Posts for previous birthdays: 2007, 2008, 2009

[Imade credits: 1, 2]

08 October 2010

She is sugar and spice

and everything nice, including freshly-baked brownies, ice cream with sprinkles, and chocolate eclairs.

Also little soft rabbits, flower petals, bracelets made of beads, and long, fruity showers. She knows how to bake cupcakes, and can run faster than I can. When it rains she wears little red rubber boots and stomps around in the puddles in the garden, happy and contented to be our song and sunshine.

Happy birthday to my niece, The Shrimpmouse!

[Post for a previous birthday]

[Image credit]

01 October 2010


Ever since I was a little girl growing around books, I have always dreamed of having my own private library, in a large, dark, room that’s lined floor-to-ceiling with books. My daydreams often consisted of dark, gleaming wood, reading lamps, heavy curtains, and an overstuffed leather chair, and the company of the likes of Dickens, Atwood, Garcia-Marquez, Updike, Austen, and Shakespeare. Daydreams of pink fluffy bedrooms and huge closets full of dresses to wear when I go out with a Prince Charming were definitely not for me. When other girls my age would dream of birthday parties and pink bicycles and cupcakes and dolls, I would dream of leather-bound pages, the smell of wood and paper, and the light from a reading lamp falling on black type as I flipped page after page after page of a novel or a treatise or a monograph, time passing me by in hours, years, eons, while I sit entranced, immortal.

Now I already have my own library, although it is nowhere near my dream library yet. I have about five hundred titles on six medium-sized shelves made of laminated wood fiber (four of them a gift from my mother, and two I eventually purchased as my book collection grew.) These books I have been able to acquire over the years from a myriad of sources. Books do not come cheap, so after the books I have inherited, I continued the collecting by going to book sales and estate give-aways, often finding one-of-a-kind editions, such as the unmarked first edition of The Naked Ape and The Witches of Eastwick. I also “discovered” so many wonderful authors through a book I found in these rummages, such as Tom Robbins and Anita Shreve. When I was starting my library, Google was not up yet, and the internet was in its baby stage, so I had a dearth of sources for information. But whenever an author I admire does mention another author he admires, I’d try to find a book by that author, and that’s partly how my library grew.

When I moved to Manila, started studying in UP Diliman, landed a series of well-paying freelance jobs, got broadband in my apartment, got my own credit card, and discovered Amazon and Paypal (milestones that occurred one after the other with dizzying speed, much to my delight), I started buying books brand-new. I had more reason to: research for my freelance jobs, readings related to my graduate studies, and reading to ease my loneliness whilst living alone in the big city. And my library continued to grow. And now I need even more shelves.

I don’t place books in storage, because i find that I go back to the already-read ones from time to time, sometimes to re-read (as in the case of my copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Funny Farm), sometimes to quote (as in the case of my copy of Negotiating with the Dead and How To Read A Novel), sometimes to check certain things against (as in the case of my copy of Generation 13 and The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism), sometimes to feel amazed at the wonders of the universe (as in the case of my copy of The Fabric of the Cosmos and The Biography of E=mc2) and sometimes to just skim through to get strength from during difficult times (as in the case of my copy of The Year of Magical Thinking and Emma). Books have become my security blanket and I need to see their spines all lined up in the shelves all the time.

When people see my now-overstuffed bookshelves they often ask me, with awed voices, if I have read them all. I am perplexed by the question. Of course I have read them all (except for the latest batch acquired which I am still in the process of reading). When I say yes, they look even more awed, as if they have just witnessed me accomplish a stupendous, almost inhuman feat, such as reaching the summit of Mt. Everest alive while wearing a flimsy dress. For what purpose would I buy books except to read them? How difficult is it to finish reading books? How extraordinary is it to love books, much like other people might love diamonds or cars or gadgets or handbags or watches or antiques?

But then again I suppose there are diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks. I do love reading books over every other activity in the world. And even if the books in the bookshelves would overflow onto other newer bookshelves that would eventually ease out other furniture, it’s okay. I’d be happily reading on, so comfortably, even if the books would overflow from all shelves, onto the floor, onto other remaining pieces of furniture, at times even occupying half of my bed, like some profound, verbose fungus gradually growing larger and wider to cover the entire forest floor, then creeping up towards the hills and the mountains, spewing adjectives and verbs and gerunds and metaphors and dialogue and arguments and streams of consciousness as it spreads along, enveloping my world with chapters upon chapters of plot and premise.

And there I nestle underneath the soft darkness, a growing mountain of literature over me. The people who ask me about my books are wrong. I have not reached the peak of the mountain. I lie ensconced underneath the dogmatic layers of the centuries of writing, life, and learning that have come before me.

[Image credits: 1, 2, 3]