Friday, February 08, 2019

There are some things that I missed

I am surprised to discover that I only posted five blogs for the entire year last year.  I failed to mark the coming of the year because I was too tired to do so. My memory comes in fragments and my days since coming here bleed into each other; my nights bleeding into days, my days bleeding into weeks, the weeks into months in a never ending stream, I could no longer tell one from the other.  At times--and it's because I read the news fast and edit the stories fast before they go out to the world as news and because I frequently read the stories that I edit, I oftentimes get the feeling every time I read the headlines in the morning that those headlines are stale. I get the feeling that they happen the other day or the day before that instead of yesterday. Sometimes an excruciating pain shot up from somewhere in my back and I begin to be afraid of things that I don't understand about spines and lumbar column or whatever they are called. I want to read more about them but the breaking stories keep me occupied, they get in the way in everything I do, they even awaken me from sleep in the middle of the night. I long for simple things--like reading a good book at a leisurely pace in the middle of the garden or eating pizza with my boys at a table near a big window. I got a message from Prateeh the other day but I was too busy when it arrived and when I saw it and replied, Prateeh must have already gone too far away to even see it. I want to sit down and read a book without anyone disrupting me. The thing that I loved most working in Makati was reading The NewYorker everyday and listening to the Fiction podcast until I drowse off to sleep.  Now all I hear is the sound of gunfire in the morning.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

What am I supposed to do?

So, am I supposed to tell you my life has become too laid back now? My life? What life? I don't even have a life. If I had, why can't I rest even just for a day and read Fiction? Am I complaining? During times like these, I used to turn to God. But now that my Pa has left, I always turn to him in my thoughts. Where am I going, Pa? Do you think this is the right path to happiness? What were you thinking before, Pa, did you think I was happy? But did you ever think about your daughters, Pa? Why can't I just give up everything and retire under an old Red or White Lauan, one of those which survived the logging era but fast being threatened by thieves and robbers? (This is a picture of our Maranao friend looking at Lake Lanao during our visit to Marawi in 2014, at least three years before the dreadful siege that reduced the beautiful city into rubble.)

Monday, August 06, 2018

I'm back in Davao!

Staring again at this view from our smoking window (which means, the window where we smoke; este, the windows where smokers smoke because I'm not really a smoker). But I could not yet begin to tell you how hard my trip back home was. How I almost had a breakdown, but a friend at the dorm was kind enough to accompany me to the airport, and it really made me feel better.  I did not have any sleep the night before my trip and so, when I arrived at the passengers' lounge, I felt I could almost collapse from sheer exhaustion.  The people I saw were no longer people. But I waited until we had boarded the plane to finally get my sleep.  Because I was feeling so, so, really bad, so shocked and horrified, I bribed everyone along the way.  So, I paid huge tips to the porters, to the guy who helped carry my luggages, everybody who helped me every inch of the way. I was feeling so bad that I was thinking the only way to save my sanity was to see people happy.  And that was how I started feeling better.  I was thankful to all those people.  When I arrived home, I went to the office right away and began work as if I were superhuman. You could not believe what kind of work I do there. I realized I had to assume the work of three people.  On the third day, we got blame for sleeping at night.

Friday, June 08, 2018

To look so happy!

Finally, after more than two years, I had my ailing tooth extracted. That tooth had survived Pa's battles, it had survived Digong's election, it had survived Makati, it had survived Nanay V. where we used to live near the river Pasig, it had survived all the newsroom drama, story conferences, birthdays, cakes and numerous desserts.  A few weeks before the elections in 2016, I remember how the ache started and my gums swelled so bad, I couldn't eat.  I went to the dentist to have it extracted.  She said it was swelling so bad, I had to take antibiotics first and come back after a week.  A week later, when I came back, the gums were still swelling, so, she gave me another set of much stronger antibiotics, and asked me to come back in another week. I began to have doubts whether it would really subside.  I told her it would be very difficult for me to have my teeth extracted because my father was dying of cancer.  She said I should not take it emotionally, everybody dies. But she did not get it: We had to lift him almost every second and lifting him used to take so much strength, it might be too risky once my tooth got extracted, because the bleeding might not stop. She said I should stop lifting heavy things because I would be grinding my teeth in the process, and that would increase the swelling.  I said, how could I do that? There were only a few of us in the family, there was nobody else to lift him. I also said, we were not lifting things, we were lifting my Pa. To end the argument, she told me to come back the following week after I'd taken the antibiotics.  But I failed to come back the following week because it was election time and I had to cover the elections. My sisters said they were going home to Butuan to vote so I had to stay behind to watch Pa.  The Mindanao bureau chief was shocked that they had to leave my seriously ailing father just to vote and prevent me from covering a major historical event for Mindanao and for the country.  That coverage was not just like any other election coverage because it was the first time that somebody from Mindanao was running for President.   "This is our story, we couldn't just let the Manila people cover this," he said.
So, what I did, I watched Pa while I covered the elections; and it was so stressful, I almost had a nervous breakdown. Of course, the boys were there to help me, but this added to my anxiety, because I was the daughter, I was supposed to be there in my father's sickbed but I was not there all throughout.  I was there but I was not there. So, the nervous breakdown started right at that moment, though, it would unleash its full force weeks later, when I would writhe in a kind of pain that the doctors had trouble explaining. Looking at my laboratory results, the radiologist said, there was nothing wrong with my gall bladder, there was nothing wrong with my stomach, was I in some form of stress? The room was dark and just chilly enough to relax. I said, yes, I was under such indescribable form of stress, I felt I was about die. Why? she asked.  If you've been in that kind of work for far too long, why were you so stressed? Then, I told her what I couldn't even begin to tell you.
[[Tonight, before I went home, I saw all the editors in the newsroom, their eyes glued to the TV monitors where the story of Anthony Bourdain's suicide was being aired. I heard them say they could not believe a man like that could be so sad. I heard them say they had never been that sad. They said, perhaps, he did not really kill himself; maybe, it was just an overdose, an accident.  I did not say anything. I couldn't even begin to tell them how it felt. How possible it was to look so happy and yet feel so hollow inside. And it happens even at your most successful moments, too. It never chooses a particular time or venue.]]

Monday, February 26, 2018

An Afternoon in Malolos

On my first days here, Pam was trying to convince me to join a photography club composed of aspiring (and most probably young) photographers . I told her I could only join such a club it it would have a Joan Bondoc in it. What would Joan be doing in a club like that? she asked. So, what would I be doing in a club like that? I asked. She can't believe it! To make new friends, she said, after a while. New friends?  I don't have a shortage of friends, I have so many!  What would I need some new friends for? The look she cast me that day was a baffled, uncomprehending one. Here was somebody who just arrived in this new strange place and didn't want to make new friends.  But it was true.  Why would I, when the first that I needed to befriend yet was myself? I just arrived here, totally lost and the first person I needed to find was myself. So, the first things I went searching for were the bookshops. I would always emerge with quite a number of books that would add up to my growing hoard. So, you could imagine how much time I needed to spend alone, just to read them. I never had enough time to go out and make friends.
Lately, however, the thought of spending two days in my room oppressed me so much that I ran away and took the bus to the historic town of Malolos.  (TO BE CONTINUED as the pictures take too long to upload and I've been overwhelmed by new spasm of coughing, I still have to go to my room and rest)

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Walking in Makati

Last night, a woman stopped her car in the middle of the street to talk to me.  I was walking home on Pasong Tamo, lost in thought, when I heard a  car stop and a voice calling out,  “Where’s Guijo, can you help me?
” I looked up to see a white car, and bending forward from the  driver’s seat, a woman , her hair silhouetted by the soft glow of the city lights, asking for direction.  “It’s somewhere there,” I said, waving my hand to where she just came from. For although I can’t tell exactly the exact location of the street she was looking for,  I was pretty sure it was not where she was headed.
Have I gone past it? she asked with a sigh.  I nodded sympathetically. “I think so.”
 “How about Bagtikan?” the woman asked again.  I threw her a glance which said I was as lost as much as she was.  “It’s one or two blocks away, I think,” I said, gesturing again. “Though, I could not tell you exactly where, it’s there.”    
The encounter was brief and noncommittal and yet it was for me a deep human connection.  If you spend a large part of your day feeling invisible, lost, to be asked for a direction and to have an answer that is readily accepted would be enough to feel good. Getting lost is part of a life here; this is a city of lost people like me; a city of transients; a city where nothing stays the same, including its buildings.