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.

28 August 2015

An excerpt

from a novel I am working on.

It is only after the passing of so many years and of so many of her bloodline that Assumpta could begin to understand a little of what had happened. But even then, she could not make sense of much. All that she could experience are random glimmers of sentience, somewhat like memories, somewhat like prophetic visions, somewhat like voices whispering to her from somewhere from the past or the future or an indeterminate time, but always out of reach, like a patch of sky on the pavement on a very bright and hot day, looking like water, inviting and fresh and rippling, but then dissipating into nothing when approached, and the pavement remains flat and parched and gritty as it always has been.

She wishes Guadalupe were still alive to help her figure everything out. But Assumpta no longer hopes to understand it all. At her age, she no longer remembers so many things, even things that had happened the day before. But of a certain part of her life, when she was much younger, she could remember every single detail -- when the very sky broke with ferocious wind and rain as if it were hell itself, when the hills undulated and moaned and changed shape, and the tree branches swayed in terror, and fell, and walked, and wrapped their big, trembling arms around each other, and the stalks of rice trembled on the wet ground from they grew and then fell onto the swampy paddies, defeated by the elements and the fury of the night, and brown, filthy, half-naked, malicious, demented men came up from out of those moaning, groaning hills with weapons of death, and the house of her forefathers burned to the ground.

But there is more that had happened. It wasn’t just the horrifying things. No life can ever be just about monstrosity. There had been beauty, truly, there had been. And there had been order, and good manners, and tradition, friends, the seasons of planting and harvesting, a system of life that had sustained them, and there had been trust and faith, and strong men who kept her safe, and warm beds and beautiful curtains, perfume, flowers, evenings of lights and laughter, food wonderfully concocted, and love, and the land which had been nurtured by her family and which had fed so many generations of Camarines people. Those, Assumpta also remembers. Those, she feels strongly, ferociously, and defiantly, are her birthright. And those are what she holds on to with more vehemence than her memories of the day of annihilation that left her and her youngest brother as the only remaining descendants of the powerful family Arguelles who owned and ruled much of Camarines for over two hundred years.

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21 August 2015

To the streets

After more or less nine years of driving a car, I am back to taking public transport. The change is required both by practicality and my psychiatric condition; traffic in Metro Manila has been getting worse, and I have the vestigial remains of a driving-related anxiety which has plagued me for two long and excruciating months. Because of these, in order to cope, I have transformed myself into a commuter.

So far it has been relatively easy, and the ease is of course facilitated by my move to a place that is much closer to the office. Now I carry an umbrella in my bag. Now I wear rubber boots when it's raining. Now I walk to where public transport is, and join the horde that battle the streets to get where they need to go everyday. Now I am one of those who say, "Bayad po," and , "Sa tabi lang." It's not particularly difficult, but it's not easy, either. The Metro Manila commuter is, I daresay, the new salt of the earth.

There isn't much contact with other people when one drives a private car. Most of the time it's just Daft Punk, America, and me. I can make and take calls. I wear a Bluetooth headset. I use Waze. I talk to myself sometimes. I let my mind wander a bit, especially when stuck in traffic. Though I still traverse the same streets as public transport, it's still an entirely different plane.

As a commuter I have to be alert always, and I have to keep my phone on silent and out of sight. I dont bring my valuables. I don't need Waze. And I dare not listen to music for fear that it will distract me. I am one of the horde now, walking, taking rides, walking again, and taking another ride, until I get to where I need to be. It's a very earthy kind of existence, one with its own norms and demarcations that I am still in the process of learning. I traverse a different kind of plane this way.

[Image credits: 12]

14 August 2015


I have recently moved out of the Makati apartment I have lived in for five and a half years. Before living there, I lived in a small Makati studio for seven years. That's a total of thirteen years spent living alone in Metro Manila.

When I moved out of my 58 square meter apartment in Makati, my stuff completely filled up the interior of a very large moving van -- a six-wheeler container van, actually -- with the help of four workers. It was a total move out, consisting of just one trip, so we had to find a way for everything to fit. It was a rather stressful exercise, as I was temporarily living in Bicol because of certain illnesses, and had to travel to Manila just to move and start my life over.

As I watched the van slowly fill up with stuff, I wondered how I had accumulated so much for the past thirteen years. A whole lot of them were books, and then shelves to hold the books. A lot of them were files that I still have to hold on to, so there's that. I do have a lot of bed linens because I love my custom-made bed with the orthopedic mattress topper, and that was the one area in which I tended to splurge. A lot of them were also clothes, which is strange, because I have never really been a consciously sartorial person, always just favoring jeans and round neck shirts if I could get away with it.

It all got me thinking, if I who don't buy much can end up with so much stuff over the span of thirteen years, what about those who consciously buy a lot of stuff? Why do we buy stuff, anyway? I bought stuff because I thought I needed them. Books were a necessity in my life, and thus so were shelves. Clothes were cycled as my weight roller-coastered. I didn't fancy many shoes. But what of those who bought stuff indiscriminately, such as those who buy stuff every time there is a sale, for instance? What of those who live in bigger homes where there is enough space to house a lot of stuff? What of those who live with other people who need stuff? I dare not think of our house in Naga, all 400-something square meters of it, housing its eight members and four maids, all of whom need stuff. A house in which stuff has accumulated for about forty years of my parents' married life.

Now I am sharing a house with several girls, and all I brought with me is one suitcase of clothes and my sister's old electric fan. Now I am already allergic to buying stuff. My mother wants new bed linens for me and my dad has suggested a new headboard, but I said no more additional stuff. I have used up my quota for the past thirteen years, and now I will use what we already have.

And maybe that's what the whole exercise is for -- for me to have had the experience of acquiring stuff, stuff that now have memories attached to them. Perhaps it was also for me to experience life in Manila for thirteen years with the convenience and comfort brought about by stuff. And in all this, it's for me to see that what I have is more than enough. I'm done buying.

[Image credits: 123]

07 August 2015

Life begins

at forty, as the saying goes, and as I enter the line of four, I crane my neck to see what's out there. Certainly when life begins there has to be some sort of ceremony, similar to the fuss and bustle that happens when one is pulled from the womb, when life begins for the first time?

But turning forty is quieter. Perhaps it does seem that way because right before I turned forty, there was so much noise and stress. I had to change psychiatrists. Then I suffered from an anxiety disorder, which turned me into a bag of nerves. Then I had to change psychiatrists again. Then, in an effort to relieve myself of driving-related anxieties I stopped driving and moved out of the apartment I have been living in for five years, moved into a place much closer to the office, a set of exercises that has its own inherent stresses.

And now, I am past the noise for the most part. The dust has settled after the mayhem has died down. Now I am forty, living simply and sharing house with several girls. I now walk to where public transport is. I now carry an umbrella in my bag, and wear rubber boots when it's raining. Once again, I am elsewhere, and by doing a paradigm shift, also living another life, albeit still mine. Let's see where this takes me. I begin.