Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What my life looks like right now

I've been to a much harder, much more dangerous climbs before: joining the health workers of Balsa Mindanao climb the miner's trail up the mountains of Pantukan in February for a medical mission to miners' families, mostly survivors of a January 2012 landslide that killed probably over a hundred people; survived the trip to Tudaya in 2007, at the foot of Mt. Apo, following a trail through the almost 90-degree ravine that local people called Palos Dos because the easier route was sealed by soldiers; riding through a skylab through the mountains of Caraga and another skylab to Casosoon in Monkayo, where tires of the Saddum truck left deep craters on the road. But nothing could match this latest climb, this latest hurdle, because it leaves deep, indelible marks on the spirit.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Every three to five years, we say goodbyes to things we love. We stay too long in one place until the place ceases to protect us, cast us away.
Now, I am saying goodbye to this room and this house, where Sean and I curled ourselves together on rainy nights or on lazy Sunday afternoons; and where on late nights or midmornings already late for work, I delivered pretend-lecture/conversations with Karl about Art and Architecture and History; for this has been up to this minute where my small family lived in the last four years--it would have been our fourth year here on August 15, but we never mark anniversaries; we don't celebrate dates.
Four years ago, I remember arriving here both with relief and trepidation. Relief for leaving that house on Mapa Street which used to flood every time it rained; trepidation because the new place was strangely new to us, too far away from the city where we worked, and we can't discern yet the good things that it promised. Or, if it ever promised anything.
But the sight of a cow grazing in an abandoned lot nearby and the sight of the trees and grasses; the comfort of the relative silence of the place; and the warmth of the light streaming from the sky to our windows, removed our initial worries.
"I feel like I'm in Istanbul," Ja had said as soon as we arrived, as he stood by the doorway looking at the Indians, our next door neighbors; and just across our window the beautiful Al-Ziddiq mosque issued its call to prayers.
For Ja had brought us here. Now, there's no more Ja to even ask, "Where are the Indians?" He just packed up and left, like an overnight acquaintance you meet at a party. Clean and light, isn't it? So, before I clean up and start packing, I still have to take pictures of the whole place, the things that Ja had once installed when we first arrived, and later abandoned. He never noticed that the place grows dimmer everyday. I will also take pictures of the stains in the bathroom and the markings on the wall, and the growing pile of books from the floor to the ceiling.
I'm nursing a bad headache as I write this, Dear Reader, and I badly need to vomit; so, will you, dear Reader, excuse me first, I needed to go the bathroom; and afterwards, I have to start packing.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dear Reader: A Belated Introduction

Hi, Reader. I came upon blogging as a gate-crasher into a party. I arrived without an introduction. It was 2005, about a month or so before Davao Today came out with its maiden issue on the “Rise and Rise of Rodrigo Duterte;” six months before a memorable summer spent in a riverside kampung in Malaysia for the Seapa journalism fellowship, three years before rooming with Prateesh for the on campus sessions of our MA in Journalism programme at the Asian Center for Journalism in Manila, two years before our rented "home" in Matina disintegrated and crumbled to pieces, three years before it could rise again in another part of the city threatening to crumble once more; four years before I met a striking Mansaka woman who gave me a plant which horticulturists and culinary experts would actually identify as chives, four years before the tumultuous time when I would alternately scale skyscrapers and the most dangerous mountains in Mindanao for the editing of an 11-chapter-book on the Lumads, secretly crying on the road while listening to Louise Erdrich read and discuss with Debrah Wickenden Lorrie Moore’s “Dance in America,” and sobbing, to the consternation of other passengers in a bus I was riding. Sobbing because Louise Erdrich’s voice was so good and melodious, and I was so damned tired, body and soul!
I brought these up to describe the particular time that the blog was born.
This blog is not a journalism blog, as you might have felt for a long time now. “Are journalists ought to blog?” used to fuel a fiery debate inside Prof. C.H.’s class in journalism ethics at ADMU, with Bryant espousing the strong “no,” Bryant getting stronger in his "no" as more people talked, while I defended “yes,” not because I did not support the hard stance on journalists’ code of ethics, but because I was arguing not as a journalist but as someone else.
Blogging has democratized the telling of the story; and I am not going to give that up too easily.
My blog had nothing to do with journalism. It was borne out of my desperation to write fiction. In one of the national writers’ workshops, I overheard the writer Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo telling another member of the panel: “But we, writers of fiction are supposed to be the best judge of characters,” she said. “We study characters in every story we write. The success of our stories depends on how we know our characters.”
That might not be the exact way she said it. But I’ve been thinking of it ever since.
When I opened this blog, I meant it to be a study of characters, I meant it to be an experiment. I hope you don’t feel cheated, once you read this. This blog has no other goals but to stoke the fires of Fiction.
And just like other fires, it is meant only to be discovered. Thanks for discovering it, Dear Reader.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

State of Mind

My project for this year is to gather all the Grantas scattered all over my and my mother's place: tucked inside some forgotten boxes, gathering dust in some obscure corner, eaten by termites near a crumbling post, buried under the pile of laundry. This, at least, will give you a hint of my state of mind. You probably know how it feels to have the things you treasure most abandoned in some forgotten corners, gathering dust and in such a sorry state of neglect, as we carry through, running after stories after stories while the real stories that we live every day remain untold and forgotten?