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.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Nights at Edsa

Chrismas shift at the newsroom

This was the second Christmas I spent inside the newsroom. Many things were happening in the regions, so, we could hardly look up from our desk to consider what day it was.  Three days before, Vinta made landfall on Cateel, Davao Oriental; and had badly hit the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte, and we had to keep track as the stories--and the numbers--kept coming.  It was not until I was about to go out hours before Christmas Eve that I noticed the many gifts  gathering at the bottom of the staircase and remember what they meant. I said goodbye to the guards and the last few people left behind.  Everybody was asking where I was going and what I would be doing during the next happy hours! I went out as fast as I could, my heart beating fast. How I loved to be alone with my thoughts and my readings at the strike of Christmashour!  Merry Christmas belated!

Thursday, December 28, 2017


They had this beautiful church in my Pa's hometown.  When I first saw the image, months after he passed away, I regretted that I could no longer show it to him to ask how it was to run or walk around its grounds as a boy? And if he ever was allowed to climb up to its belfry and when he was there, what did he see? Did he see the entire Mambusao, did he see his mother looking everywhere for him? Did he see a girl? Did he see an angel? 
Then, I regretted, too, that I abandoned my desire to visit his hometown. I was always broke during those times, I worked too hard--even on Sundays and holidays--and earned too little that the only way for us to push through with the trip was for Pa to shoulder the expenses.  I was not aware that he could afford it but I took pity of him (for having a penniless daughter like me) when I thought about the idea. Besides, his temper was the worst during those times; he insulted me for the flimsiest things he caught me doing, such as, talking to my cats!  Smarting from all the insults I got from him, I retreated to the deepest corner of myself, licking my wounds. Inside my room, reading a book,  I heard him badgering Ma, "What was she saying? She wanted us to go to Mambusao? Why? Shall we go?"
But I never pursued the topic anymore.  With pursed lips, I stopped talking.
Months after he was gone, while editing stories from the regions, I came upon the old church named after Catherine of Alexandria, and was wondering what could Pa's memories be of that church. Did he ever run around those grounds and how did it feel to be there as a boy?