Saturday, January 28, 2012

Letter to Kathmandu

Dear Pratish. I tried to find the Nepali writer again; our Nepali writer, remember?
But going over my copy of “New Nepal, New Voices: An Anthology of Short Stories,” I felt lost, somewhat overwhelmed by all the strange sounds of the Nepali names; I could no longer recognize our writer among them.
But how could I forget? We have a much stronger claim over her than her father, or husband, or maybe even her lover! We were her sisters in life and struggle; her victories were our victories (or so, we’d like to think!) even if she never knew us, she never knew me, she never will. We were her readers; and that’s the most important thing of all, isn’t it?
The first time you showed her to me, and I read the first lines of her rapturous writing, I had gasped with delight. I tucked her name to memory; in a special place nobody could enter. I promised to read her again until she will become part of my body. We both promised to return to her over and over again, when reality is hard to bear; or when we were half dead struggling against the yoke of our daily coverages: the fightings, the wars, the politics. She would be our refuge, a sanctuary, a place so deep, so safe, no one could probably touch or harm us there; a place where our exhaustions vanish; a place where we start to forgive ourselves and we can be friends with the world again. But two summers afterwards, I have forgotten her name. Wasn’t she the daughter of a royalty who had once outraged her father by joining the street protests against the monarchy? Was she a recluse, who once retreated to the forest to write her first novel? Or were we just making up stories, turning up fictions to escape the tyranny of facts in our lives? I know that our link to our writer is made of a more lasting stuff. Even if I can’t remember her name, I still can still find her in her writings.

Sleepless at Esteban Abada!

May 13, 2009—

We just entered our room at half past midnight after Pratish and I listened to Kevin, a young Tsinoy from Davao’s Juna Subdivision, discussing Heidegger. He’s taking up Philosophy at ADMU and staying up all night to do some paper.
“Are you, in any way, planning to be a priest?” I asked, just curious, when we first learned about his course.
“That’s the problem with Philosophy,” Kevin began, obviously flustered by my question. “People think that if you’re taking Philosophy…”
“She used to love Philosophy,” Pratish quickly said, turning to me, coming to my rescue.
“Yes, I used to love Philosophy,” I said, thinking only of Literary Criticism and Deconstruction during my Silliman University days.
Kevin nodded, surprised.
“She wanted to be a Priestess,” Pratish added.
Kevin’s eyes widened.
“Yes, I wanted to be a High Priestess, that’s why I asked.”
I did not say I wanted to be a Witch. And a witch doesn’t need Philosophy to be a High Priestess, anyway. All she needs is a pure heart, and that will serve as her compass; her ephemeris, and a blanket of goodness that will protect her against evil and will enable her to read everything—the present, the past and the future—! Pratish knew how often I struggle to keep a pure heart every day because my mind is always up to some particular mischief. I could never be a witch.
Kevin said, “Ahhhh!” nodding even more vigorously.
Finally, he welcomed our friendship and began discussing Heidegger. It was our turn to nod. Pratish and I couldn’t seem to fall asleep that night. We took iced tea with milk for dinner.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Walk in the Park

While we were talking in a bamboo shed, a drizzle began and just as suddenly, the sky over the Philippine Eagle camp in Malagos grew dim. "Don't worry," Rolly assures me, "It's still early and it's still pure sun down there," he says, his lips, pouting towards the town of Calinan below. "It's just this way up here, the precipitation is high."
Just as he speaks, we feel the coldness of the jungle beginning to penetrate our bones. The chill reminds me of what I once felt in the forests of Makilala, Cotabato, a long, long time ago. The memory curiously mingled with the smell of damp clothes and bath soaps of a certain fragrance. I remember the feel of soft mahlong beneath my feet, I remember the sight of wet earth and the shivering frames of our companions as they rushed to join us, leaving their slippers at the door. I remember a particular look on a boy's face.

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

For years, I've been living beyond the fetters of Time. Maybe, this explains why I could never keep dates. I can only remember the "before" and the "after" of an event, never the actual event, itself. But this year, at least, I'll make a real effort to remember. I'll take note of beginnings and endings; of the ebb and flow of the tide, of the rising and the setting of the sun, of the appearance and disappearance of the moon, of the time for planting and the time for harvesting.
I'll try to follow the seasons.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I’m inside my favourite internet café in my favourite cubicle: an empty wooden desk near the glass wall looking out to one side of the JS Gaisano mall.
I used to love it here because the sight of the empty desk the color of maples reminds me of the cubicles of some libraries I used to love: the cubicles on the third-floor window of Silliman U Lib looking down into the acacia-lined green oval of the soccer field in Dumaguete city; or, the reading cubicles of the Rizal Library looking out into the dark limbs of acacia inside the ADMU campus in Quezon city. I used to think the mere sight of this empty desk at the internet café could inspire the deepest of my thoughts to come out of the dark dungeons where they lay imprisoned; could perhaps help break my fettered spirit free!
Until the guys next to me started their transactions on the phone; all with their booming voices and their tripping egos, announcing to the world they are certain-so-and-so's, berating someone in a merchandising department of some Tagum city mall, complaining why their dicer cannot get through.
I wonder what a dicer is. I’m sure she’s not someone who throws the dice, the way I used to see people playing dominoes. But the guy is very mad. His voice fills the entire internet cafe as he scolds the woman—I imagine someone on the other end of the line as a woman because of the way the guy talks; I couldn’t imagine him talking that way to a man!
I came here in my favorite cubicle, thinking I could be alone with my thoughts. Now somebody else is stealing my focus!