Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sights to See

At the strike of the magick hour, I went out to see the cats play in the jungle in the backyard. I thought, maybe, they're happier here because they can smell the grass, they can climb the trees and even walk their way through the top of the fence and they have a wide ground where to play, compared to their life in the city, where we used to live on the second floor and there was hardly any ground for them to play. I watched Shocklit clawing the trunk of the tree, watched Oreo climb up on top of a stump, and saw Muffin, her body lost in the wave of grass as she waded her way to catch up with sister and mother Cats. When I ran into the house, the rays of the late afternoon sun have entered the windows and struck the ceramic vase on top of the cabinet.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Stirring

I had a great time walking to the dam and back and seeing the full moon framed by the kaimito leaves as I crossed the hanging bridge on my way back to the old palengke, trying to find the way to Bebing's house. I'm a bit worried I would be totally broke for the New Year but the sight of the full moon, reflected on the water in the rice paddies, was more than anything money can buy, and so, I stood there, savoring the welcome bout of memory loss, for the full moon simply made me forget all my troubles, and the haunting beauty of the place made me think of you, made me want to see you, although, you're already out of my sight, maybe, even gone from my life forever, yet, I still treasure every tiny bit of memory of you.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

My Forgetting

I awoke with a bad headache and suspected it was my cholesterol shooting up again, so, I decided to abstain from my usual breakfast of rice and fried egg and promised myself to eat only slices of fresh pineapples from the market for the whole week. I wasn't able to eat until 1 pm because I still had to do the usual chores at home; such chores as feeding the cats, watering the surviving Oregano and Aloe Vera and mourning over my wilted Dillweed; washing Sean's dirty shoes, dancing the Zumba right in the living room; and then, looking at myself in the mirror while coddling Munchkin, the Cat, which has shamelessly and embarrassingly turned into a lapcat; and then, forgetting all about work.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Inventory

A bit of good news: At least, I was able to retrieve the images from my ruined memory card, after I thought I had lost everything (with no regret) when two computers and my laptop already refused to read it. I may have lost the Dream Journal that I wrote some time in 2007, after I've thrown away all my other reporter's notebooks prior to our moving, but I have full trust in the basic principle which says that whatever has been written has already been revealed, and having been revealed, it has been stored in the great storehouse of knowledge, ready to be accessed by anyone worthy of it.  I realized, too, that no matter what, I can still start another Dream Journal, and I can still recall some of the most important dreams that I've written in that Journal.  I should never feel so incomplete again. I only have to look around to believe that everything that I need right now is just within reach if I only look long and hard enough to find it. I never lack for anything. I have everything I wanted.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Feeling Screwed Up

Last night, I finished Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw and cannot stop cursing Henry James, because I thought I did not really like a ghost story, no matter how gothic; but in between, I thought, is Henry James’ narrator insane?  (It was much, much later, when I learned about Henry James’ ambiguity, that I realized, it was Henry James’ writing working in my head) but hearing me, Ja asked, why don’t you ask Henry James? Stop complaining to us. But Henry James is dead, I said.  Oh, Ja said. Then, he added, and how is the language? He’s a 19th century author, why would you like to read him? I said, I came to open the page while I was waiting for that guy in B’la, and realized I could not put it down. The guy—who was supposed to put on the grills in the upper windows—did not arrive and so, I continued reading.  I haven’t finished it when I needed to go back here so I took the book along with me despite my earlier promise never to bring new books to the new house, which is very small, and already too crammed with books.  But I can’t help it.  I needed to lose myself in a book to fight the deep uneasiness already bogging me, creating havoc to my nerves. At home, Pa kept saying, he used to have a classmate who used to have so many books, he was so stupid. Bobo. Dull. I told him I met so many people, Pa, who never went to school and yet were very brilliant, they had super-first-class minds. I was thinking of the lumads, who were clear-headed in their thinking. He did not reply.  I also met a lot of people who went to school and graduated and who were very stupid, they didn’t know how to use their minds. He said, I used to have a classmate who had so many books but was so dull (bobo).  I said, maybe, he never read his books? He said, how can he read them, there were so many? He said he never had any book, only a notebook, and yet, he was very smart.  Later, I realized, Pa must have been talking about me: was he thinking I have so many books and is so bobo? I was horrified.
I was getting anxious because I felt I was already being left behind by the election stories that were going very fast, I had trouble keeping up. And yet, while my world was slipping away, leaving me behind, I got so stuck in B’la, where Ma and Pa kept staring in space, as if nothing was happening to the world, and Pa would suddenly say, I need to go to town, I need to drink beer in town, and Ma would be frantic, running after him.  Watching them, I get so confused, disoriented. I could no longer understand what’s happening to me.  Oftentimes, I have grave doubts why I’m even spending time in B’la, especially when Ma and Pa are behaving like they never really needed me there, resenting my presence.  I’d asked Ja, are you sure, there really is any worth to what I am doing? They don’t seem to like me there. Why am I doing this? Why do I need to spend time in B’la when they keep saying to me they don’t even need me there? Why would I go there when I really badly need to earn an income here? Why do I need to sacrifice days-without-income watching them, only to be snapped at, and to be made to feel I was a total failure just because I love books and I hate to drink alcohol?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Moving On

My right ankle is almost healed when we moved to the new house. This one is a smaller one, making me realize with horror how much garbage I have brought along with me.  I'm not yet talking about my books, which I don't consider garbage in any way, but a lot of the boxes we brought along with us are still stuck in the doorway, prompting the landlord to drop by this morning, offering us his bodega for storage, or a piece of canvass covering to protect them against the weather. But still, I can't help feeling guilty and helpless every time I open a new package. I have amassed such a huge volume of books, which I cannot let go, which, in turn, added to the weight I have to carry every time we move. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

What I'm missing


The torn ligaments take very long to heal. I already miss running the stretch of road from the mosque to anywhere in Nova Tierra, I already miss dancing the zumba, I already miss skipping the flimsy rope that I bought from the bookstore and which takes a lot of effort and a lot of timing to skip. I even miss the plain, leisurely unadulterated walking without a limp—as I wait and wait for my swollen ankles to heal.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Room to Write


Just to spite her, I quoted Celia Brayfield, author of "Deep France: A Writer's Year in the Bearn," and said, I could not possibly write in an ugly surrounding. I told her I needed to have a perfect angle of light in a well-organized and well-ordered room to be able to write. I could not write in an area where the light comes from all directions, it would be too confusing, too disorienting, too glaring to the eyes, it could never help in my thinking. It had to be in a room where the desk is placed at a certain angle by a big window, with ample light streaming from a single source outside. For she thought I can just sit anywhere with my laptop and write. She thought writing does not involve deep thinking. She thought writing is as easy as that.

The Thrashing

I sprained my ankle out of my dread for my father. He was abused as a child; and now in his old age, he is unleashing the last ounce of his strength to crush his daughter with the most ferocious abusive language. I wasn't crushed but it takes a lot of effort to see where I was walking or to realize I was already treading uneven ground. Under the Child Protection Act, child abuse comes in many forms. Neglect is considered a form of child abuse. Father suffered neglect as a child. As early as nine years old, he was made to work in the farm, which made his teachers exclaimed, "Why, where is the boy's father?!" They were so considerate, they spared him from all the hard work in school and took time to visit the farm where he worked somewhere in Binugao, which they described as "parang Luzon," for they came from a farming community in Ilocos and was transported only in Mindanao after the war. But midway through highschool, the boy that was my father was made to drop out of school to work full time in the farm and send three or four of his siblings to school. I need another language to describe how hard his life was at the farm. I'm still trying to understand what has turned him into a tyrant even as I try to recover from a sprained ankle.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The No-Discussion Home

I wish I can write something good about home. After all, this was where I started my first education; and so, it deserved at least to be honored, to be praised. 
But right now, when I think of this particular home, all I remember are the things that my sisters say to me, and they are not exactly good things, nor the right or justifiable things, because they were things not scientifically verified but were born out of their own ignorance and biases. I remember, too, the things that Pa keeps saying to me nowadays, which reminds me of the things he used to say to me when we were children crouching in fear of his voice and his temper. I also think, every time I think of this home, all the things that my Ma doesn't want me to say; for Ma always wanted me to shut up to keep the peace in the house.  You see, even in my early days at  home, I was already cast as a troublemaker, a rebel.  Later, I'd learn, the activists have a name for this kind of peace: it's called the peace of the graveyard.  The peace of the dead.
So, it’s only now, decades later after I left home and returned, that I begin to understand. I was never really free to say anything at home. Not when I was growing up, not now, when I am [supposed to have) grown up. 
No matter how Ma used to expound in the classroom  the concept of a liberal philosophy, for I can think only of first taking that concept from her before I learned about it from other people. 
But at home, no one actually talked about things even when the family was in a grip of a very difficult problem because it was a home that never tolerated discussions. It was a home ruled by many tyrants or one tyrant, depending on the way you see it; and when you started a discussion there, everyone thinks you're starting a fight, and that's the reason I was a perennial outcast, always the odd one out, in that home, where I never really belonged.  No wonder then, that at 17, when everyone had their lovers and boyfriends, I ran away from home  looking for freedom; and luckily, found it somewhere else.

Is Destiny a Woman?

Destiny is not a woman--or is she?! They were waiting for Digong to walk into the lobby of the Apo View Hotel anytime that late afternoon of April to meet her.

Shocked and Awed

On my way back from Cotabato, I dropped by our old home which doesn't feel like home anymore, except for Oreo, the mother Cat and two of her four litters: Muffin and Shocklit. Earlier, I was planning to bring the other two kittens--Munchkin and BlackForest--to this place but seeing how Father whipped Oreo witless, I was thinking, no, I needed to find someplace else. I have to rescue the cats. 
Our family is crumbling; I could no longer talk to Father, who is always angry; nor to Mother, who could no longer make any sense of some ordinary things; nor to my sisters, who wouldn't listen, anyway, and who never seem to care whether the old folks are safe in the house or not, or whether they are safe going to town on their own or not. The old folks are becoming very weak. I could have quit my job to watch them at home but for my sisters' bullying, I was frightened: If they can bully me now that I still have 20 years of journalism as a leverage, an anchor of my identity, what would happen if I give all that up and be a beggar?    So, I refused to quit. 
Besides, do they really think I can just abandon my boys, just like that?
The whole house is a mess but I'm so powerless to clean it up, especially now when I'm in the mid of writing part of a book, and I don't have any choice but scratch my way to eke a living.
Father hates my books--the books that I collected and dumped in this old house which are quite many. He hates my cats and  he hates my guts. He told me in a voice that could turn my stomach inside out, I was maalam (knowledgeable), and he said it in a really deprecating tone, as if it was something I should be ashamed of, when I only warned him against eating corn that must have been contaminated by genetically-modified varieties growing in the neighborhood. He said, "maalam ka lagi," and humiliated me in front of the maid. Of course, he could not crush me. I realized that if I were an ignorant daughter, he would do the same to me.   He also castigated me for talking to my cats.  He   asked,  "Why don't you take them back to your house?" I don't have such a house, I replied. We were only renting an apartment in the city and there's nowhere else for us, nor the cats, to go. Ma regarded my books--which included my Doris Lessing collections--as garbage. When I complained I no longer have enough time to read and re-read my books, she smiled, as if to say, "What can you expect? What's the use of reading a book?" About my Latin diploma, she asked, "What are you going to do with that? Can you convert that to cash?" But this was many months ago. Now, Ma has lapsed beyond caring and disdain.
Then, adding insult to injury, sisters said, "Why don't you quit your job so that you can spend time in the farm?" Throw away 20 years of your life's work to risk an uncertain future, without the blessing nor encouragement, and with only what I can see a mocking and disdainful resistance of a wily Father. I can project myself into the future, and I can hear them say, we never asked you to sacrifice, in the first place!
Though my future here is uncertain, too, I am not the kind who would want to be crucified. After the previous Christmas party, I saw some of my books ruthlessly dumped, their spines cruelly distorted, inside cases of empty beer bottles. I went as berserk  as Jesus when he discovered the people had turned the temple into a marketplace. I said, how they're treating my books only showed what kind of people they are: real barbarians! I was thinking not of Father when I say that. I was thinking of all the drunks  at my sisters' party. I bet they only knew how to gulp beer but never read a single book in their lives! "Why did you brought them here in the first place?" Pa asked, still referring to my books. He loved those beer parties that much.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sean unfriends me

But does it hurt? Not really because he still talks to me in person, he still kisses me good night, good morning; he still listens to me when I talk to him. He still tells me about his young troubles, his classmates including the ones he likes best and the ones that pisses him off, particularly the boy who scored high in the exams because he cheated and posted his score on Facebook, so that his mother can see and share it with other mothers. He still asks me to bring home some really sweet things, including his favorite which should be our secret. He even asks me about how is it to be ostracized, which I often experienced in the past, and then, told me, yes, some of the boys also form societies like that; just like Lord of the Flies and they pressure their friends to like what they like and dislike what they dislike and sometimes, it's better for him not to be part of them  if they start acting weird like that. He also tells me he also wants some space sometimes, a little bit away from parental eyes just like the way I hate somebody snooping at me when I am writing my journals.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Delirium

Halfway-through Hanif Kureishi’s Black Album, I asked, what is happening to me? I could no longer lose myself in the story the way I used to get lost in the whole universe of words and their meanings. Is it because the camera is already replacing an old passion, rubbing away the old pleasure, replacing it with another one? Is it because I have finally lost all zest for life, and that what is left now is the empty shell of an old longing? Is it because of the blurring eyesight? Is it because I am sick? On Wednesday, while waiting for the President to walk inside the SMX function hall filled with the yellow crowd chanting Oras na, Roxas na, I discovered I had trouble breathing. Ruth handed me a piece of paracetamol she faithfully kept in her wallet, because she said she was also prone to being ill these days. I managed to go out to look for a glass of water, when I came upon Edith R., who again saved me, helped me get some hot water from the jug that stood in the corner. I did not know if the story that I sent to the papers made any sense to those who read it because I was already in such pain and in such delirium, as soon as I reached home and plopped myself to bed, I discovered I was having a really bad chill.  Maybe, I could not stand the yellow crowd. In my half-asleep, half-awake state, I was singing, “Break it to me, gently,” thinking I were Brooke Shields trying to move on from a really bad, devastating love.

Days Without You


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Why I Write What I Write

I wrote my last story in 2003; which earned me a slot in the Iligan national writers’ workshop, usually held in summer in the city of Iligan, where I spent about a week with the most amazing mix of young poets and fiction writers from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao; and some unforgettable awestruck moments before the great names in Philippine Literature, who sat as our panel of critics.
Until then, I realized that no matter how often and how many people abused the term, not everyone can actually be called writers in the real sense of the word until you go through a “rite of passage,” that is called the “writers’ workshop,” and come up with something that you can call your body of works afterwards dealing with serious stuffs.
Yes, serious stuffs.
The workshop, in itself, was an experience. Just think how it is to sit in wait for judgment as critics (most of them belonging to the Philippine literary canon) scrutinized what you’ve written to its tiniest bit of detail.
First, you get the feeling that you are lucky enough to get admitted inside that chosen circle, just for having written something good enough to be chosen over the rest of the manuscripts that did not make it to that workshop.
But just as you thought you’ve got the taste of heaven, you finally found yourself in a series of sessions where each manuscript gets scrutinized for every detail, motive, innuendos, nuance, by all critics and fellows present. Our usual preoccupation, every break of the session and in the evening before we sleep, was to go over the roster of stories and poems to be read next, trying to figure out the author’s name behind the pen name, and trying to guess more as you read the story.  The author’s identity used to be withheld until after the manuscript was read in the session and everyone has given her comments. His identity revealed, the author can finally say something in return; but usually, it didn’t really sound good to defend ones work against criticisms, so, we deemed it best to keep mum and think about everything in silence.
Every moment of the workshop actually felt like a stretch of the Green Mile, every one of us heading towards the guillotine, a terrible execution chamber from which there was no escape.  “But even if they kill every bit of my soul, they could never get to that part of myself where the poems come from,” I remember what a young poet named Duke Bagaulaya said during our darkest hour in another writers’ workshop, the UP national writers’ workshop in Davao; and that was how each of us found the real meaning of what it was to be a “writing fellow.” I remember the elevator ride with the beloved fellow alien named Ava Vivian Gonzales, when our manuscripts were about to be read; the last ones to be scrutinized towards the end of the workshop. Ava and I and the third fellow Janis had taken to calling ourselves “aliens” at this time after our realization that we have been perennial outcasts in the world and its celebrity culture whose shallowness we abhor. We realized we could no longer belong anywhere except to ourselves.
Contemplating our impending doom, I told Ava, I felt like I was about to deliver a baby for the second time, and knowing the impending pain, I wanted to escape from my own body and run. But Ava had put up a good fight during the scrutiny. I remembered her calling the critics an offensive name I can’t recall.
Afterwards, I felt an urgent need to tear the whole manuscript to pieces, except that it was already accepted by a literary editor of a national magazine for publication, which made me feel even worse.
Since then, I thought I haven’t written anything.
But that’s not true! I’ve written many things since then. News stories, long features, a chapter of a book, journals, blogs, diaries, instruction manuals, foreword and afterword, an introduction of a book, a preface of a book that came out last year, introduction of another book I edited, a preface, love letters to my mother, accusatory letters to God, emails, etc.,

But they did not count because they were not the kind of things I wanted to write about. But what are the things that I want to write about? I don’t know.  I must have forgotten.

How I Fared in that American University

[This is an excerpt from a Journal.  I really did not think of posting this here until this time when sisters are bullying me to give up journalism, where I'm earning a pittance, to spend the rest of my life at the farm.]

Sometime in 2010, as soon as I got the Latin diploma for Magistratum Artium (MA) mailed to me from ADMU, signifying my successful completion of the MA in Journalism fellowship programme at the Asian Center for Journalism (ACFJ) at ADMU, it was not my Ateneo grades that that got me very excited upon opening my transcript but something else.
I already knew how I fared in the journalism class, so, it was not the reason why I gasped, half-anxious, half-intoxicated, as I opened the transcript. 
It was my excitement over the fact that I’d finally be seeing the part of the transcript I hadn’t seen before: the part which showed my performance in the MA in English major in Creative Writing programme I took at Silliman U several years earlier.  
I never had the chance to come up with the Fiction Collection demanded by my thesis; and so, I have left that part of my transcript half-finished; and yet, I was wondering how I was faring among the subjects I had loved so much that I crammed myself to the brim with long readings during my brief stay at Silliman U: Literary Criticism and Creative Writing, Contemporary Novel, Asian Feminist Writings, etc. 
Touting itself as an American university that pioneered the longest running creative writing tradition in the country, Silliman U kept a grading system that is quite different from other universities I’ve gone to.  Instead of the usual 1.0, they kept the highest grade at 4.0, which is an equivalent to an A+. This must be why, getting a 3.5 from the American professor Dr. Law once flustered me, because in the previous universities I attended, 3.0 already carried with it the stigma of failure. And yet, looking closer at SU’s unique grading system, I checked and realized that a 3.5 actually meant an A-, which was not so bad after all. I was in the lowest point of my life at Silliman U that I decided to get back through my grades.
So, that day I received my ADMU transcript, I went over my records for Contemporary Novel, Literary Criticisms, Contemporary Drama, and my heart leaped with delight. The lowest grade I got from the university, which I always look up to as the only university that really introduced me to Art and Letters, was an A-, and in some other really difficult subjects, I even managed to post an A+; not really that it mattered so much in life, but I remember standing side by side with journalists, who thought there was only one way to write a story, I can’t help recalling how, in one of those creative writing classes, we were allowed to write about one subject, and each of us came up with totally different stories. Remembering how I straddled the totally alien world of journalism and the world of writers, poets and artists, I realized it was not so bad at all; not really half so bad after all.

Some shocking things I encounter

The past few days, I’m holed inside my room transcribing interviews for the story of a life of a man. I’m holed in, too, for a purely online class on How To Write Fiction with the University of Iowa, which gave me pure delight at some time, and pain and torture the next. But now,  realizing what I’ve done, I’m asking myself, why-oh-why didn’t I remember getting Prateesh, and even Sheilfa, to sign into this as well when I signed in a hurry one deadline day the previous months? We could have been into this together! And they would hate me when things get rough and love me when they find such brilliant and inspiring writers such as what I felt when I heard the Russian writer Alan Cherchesov say in the introductory lecture, “to learn how to write, you have to learn how to not write, how to keep silence, to think and to observe.” I’m sure they would have plenty to say about the whole thing that’s why I miss them so much.
Yet, I also think I was a little crazy for signing into this thing when I have rarely been online the past months, when I was always running after some elusive news stories every day, the kind of stories which increase my skin rashes and irritate my nose, causing sudden bouts of sneezing when I interview my sources, embarrassing me and alarming Pamela, who immediately taught me how to irrigate my nose the other day, using Indian technology with some improvisation she learned on the web! 
I never knew she’s a magician, this Pam Chua, and it’s beautiful when you get a taste of such magic at the most difficult time of your life, when I’m always shuttling back and forth to Bansalan and here, keeping an eye of my old folks, unobtrusively because they do not want to be kept an eye on, “like hapless children,” father says, so, I keep going back and forth, keeping an eye on them without making them feel I’m keeping an eye on them; but as a result I’m quite shocked and horrified of the things that I discover there.  
What shocked and horrified me most are my sisters, who think the old folks will live forever and so, they trust them to strangers, instead of informing me so that I can properly take action for their safety.  It really horrifies me that the helper’s judgment is better than those of my sisters, what a shame, when my sisters, were supposed to be, “educated,” Titing didn’t even go to college, but she knows how to deal with the world, she has wide-open eyes, not blinded with delusion or wealth, she has both feet planted firmly on the ground, and not on the steering wheel of a car.  But looking back, I realized, it must have largely been the sisters' mis-education, the kind of education that is prevailing in the country before and now, who can blame them? I was quite unlike them. I was the odd one out in the family. Owing to my extreme unhappiness, I left home at 17, to study in the University of Life.  I disappeared and learned many things in a life of simplicity and struggle. They stuck to their boring lives and now, they social climb. Their kind of friends are not really my kind of  friends, and now they end up totally trusting and naive, and this really is quite a shocking thing to me.
When I see the mess at home, I get the feeling that we’re back to the Stone Ages, or was it the Stone Ages, before such thing as political organization was invented? Was it the reason that our people were easily conquered, subjugated, because we are so disorganized, and we let emotions rule over our mind? They’re so irrational and you can’t even talk sense with them!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Gecko

Last night, I listened to the sound of the gecko. He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. You don’t have any idea how much each stop or pause of the gecko can affect me. I feel some tightening in my stomach as I lay still thinking of you. I came here by way of Kialeg, where I heard about a new bike trail being carved in one of the mountain barangays in time for the approaching local festival. I learned about the B’laan community in a village called Tagaytay. On my way home, he stopped by the roadside, fiddled with his phone and gave me your number. I couldn’t resist taking it. The number would bring me a step closer to you, a proximity that is fret with risks or dangers, depending how I would use it. I noticed the way he slumped his shoulders. I kept thinking of what I should (or should not) do with your number. With each sound of the gecko, I keep thinking of you. He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not. I lie still in utter darkness until I drifted off to sleep.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Inventory

Pawned my Samsung tablet for the second time after redeeming it from the New World, pawned it again at RV, the guy appraising it nodded his approval and threw a sneaking look at me, thinking this woman must be in dire need of money, this woman is not used to pawnshops, does this woman ever have a piece of jewellery, why does she have to pawn a tablet? and suddenly, I was seeing myself through the man’s eyes, I see this middle-aged woman in a dark blouse, a knitted chalico over it, drawing from a heavy black bag what must be her last treasure in the world, did the man ever see that that tablet was my reading tablet; that I read from there W.H. Auden’s essays on poetry, W.H. Auden’s essay on reading and writing, that guy Nathan Poole’s impressive short story, “Stretch out your Hand,” which won first prize at Narrative.com in 2014,  Joyce Carol Oates, “Fragments of a Diary,”  Salman Rushdie’s The Duniazat, Salman Rushdie’s Personal History; I’ve been reading from that tablet about Stalin’s daughter, and volumes of poetry I downloaded from Narrative.com and The NewYorker and The Paris Review; and plenty of books about photography and the past presidents of the Philippines. Can’t the man see, how that piece of equipment has sustained my life, given me a rare source of pleasure when things are becoming unbearable? But as I said, these are times of extreme difficulty, when the pay I receive could not last until the next payday; and so I have to forego the source of life’s greatest pleasure to buy a kilo of fish and vegetables and rice, pay the fare, and most of all, feed the cats, and the boys, until the next payday comes again with a shock, because no matter how hard I work, the pay always run short, and life always ground to a halt before the next payday arrives. Now, I know that even though man (woman) does not live by bread alone, woman also needs bread to live and have a soul, I’m not sure if I still sound right at this point.
Still, I hope pawning the tablet  will not completely deprive me of my secret pleasure. I can still find so much to read everywhere. I can still make do with the books at home, mounds of them staying unread in one corner, gathering dust; on top of my cabinet, towering over my table, threatening to fall. Books are growing on the floor, at the side of my desk, on my table. Haven’t I told Sheilfa books are streaming in my room, like a river? A copy that I bring home one day can first be seen on my table, and then on the bookshelf next before it succumbs to the floor; and then gone to sea afterwards because I could no longer find it. My books don’t stay in a fixed place, in a fixed position. They form part of a bigger universe where everything is revolving around something and rotating.  At times, they grow wings or gills, they begin to have lives of their own. Sheilfa was shocked. At first, she hesitated lending me a book; but because of desperation, she left me some of her most prized collections, Edith Wharton’s Old NewYork, Proust’s The Germande’s Way, Zeotroppe’s, Willa Cather’s, when she was hurrying to leave for Jolo.  So, here I am now, friendless and tablet-less; my friends are faraway, battling their own battles. I’m fighting my own battles vigorously but I can now feel the strength draining out of my body. I just discovered that I’m now a 47-year-old woman, without a past and a future; trying hard to retrieve my past to understand it; turning it over into the light, like a piece of jewellery you’ve seen for the first time. For a moment, I believed that by understanding the past—my past—I might discover the future—though, the future for me is already way too late. Now that I no longer have that tablet, I feel naked.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Declaration

Since my frequent comings and goings, and my infinite trips back and forth to my hometown are causing so much disruption and severe hemorrhage to my writing life, which also means, my financial life, I promise to spend every tiny bit of a rest day or holiday only with books, and not with people. I will get back by totally boycotting all forms of inebriating liquid, and by avoiding like plague all types of merriment and the wrong type of people.

Dreaming of you

Awakened from a dream at 1:45 am. I was in a group, the usual crowd of journalists herded for an event, trying to find a restaurant. We were on a bus, as usual; and in a strange city. Aboard, we walked and ran while the bus was running, trying to keep pace with its speed inside the abnormally-shaped narrow space near the steering wheel.
The  woman next to me was a journalist from Manila, she had that look; and later on I saw my old buddy Bong Sarmiento, sidling up to me, and we beamed at this pleasant recognition. He used to call me, Luka, which was actually loka (crazy) but in this dream, he did not do such a thing. He was dressed in an old red shirt and he appeared so thin and bedrraggled, which was not quite like him in real life. Awakening with a headache and a bloated feeling in my stomach, I went down the house and did some stretching and kicking exercise before the big mirror. I forgot to say, I was in Ma's house inB'la. W hen I was huffing and puffing, the sweat threatening to burst, I stopped, fanning myself vigorously with Ma's paperfan, the kind the stores at the malls give you to advertise their products. 
When I went back to bed, I dreamed of you but couldn't remember anything from that more important dream.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Growing Wings



My Ma had asked my Pa, so, how is the copra going? And Pa thundered, “How should I know?!” and I told Ma in a whisper, “Don’t worry, Ma, I will go, I am your Magick Daughter, your runner, I am your Mercury, I go where ever you want me to go and you don’t have to worry because I run so fast; just like Mercury, I grow wings on my feet.” She looked at me with amused disbelief, and when I came back, she was surprised that I have paid her tax dues, paid the electric bills, pre-empting impending disconnection, talked to the people at the farm, all in one sweep. I said, I told you Ma, I’m your magick daughter, do you believe now? 
I’ve been intrigued by life at the farm. I’ve never been here for years except to sleep in Ma’s bed and then gone off the following morning, chasing love and happiness, which was always beyond reach.
But now, Ma’s crumbling memory, Pa’s ailment which we want to believe is only old age - [sisters don’t want to talk about Pa’s lungs anymore now that Pa has stopped taking painkillers] - have forced me to stay here several days a week to find out how they’re doing. 
I always find them in the mornings staring into space, their faces devoid of any sense of urgency; and so, I get disoriented, too.  I couldn’t touch the things I was supposed to write, as I stare into space myself.  
But life in this place intrigued me a bit.  Some curious things always happen to people and the rawness of them sometimes struck me dumb. As soon as I arrived here Thursday night, for instance, I heard about a boy the neighbors rushed to the hospital because he cut off the tip of his penis. They’re still in the hospital now, I hope the boy survives, and why would he do such an unimaginable thing? People here are asking. His classmates at the public high school said it must be the exams which are getting tough, but I suspect it must be something about his mother or father’s attitude towards sex, the rest of the folks said it must be that madness running through the family. His elder brother was mad, his father was mad, they’re not the kind of madmen you can see running around naked, but still they’re mad, said T, our househelp. 
I forgot to tell her madness is also a sign of genius, and I hope, I’m also mad—but I mean that in another sense.  I spent the morning reading part of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, thinking about you; and about what he said about the two of you, target shooting inside the property you inherited from your Pa and Ma. He asked, what did you two call each other before? Luv? Swiddah? I cringed. Questions I’ve been longing to ask you: What is your name? Who are you? Where did we meet? Where were you when I left my childhood?  Where were you when I arrived? 

Monday, August 03, 2015

Thursday, July 30, 2015

At 45


She’s old enough to think and behave like her age, but right now, she’s behaving like an infant straight out of the crib. Maybe, Mother had spoiled her with too much bad milk that must have stunted the growth of her brain; and so, as a consequence of spoiling her, Mother had to suffer. At 45, she tried to justify her lack of foresight, her abject ignorance, and all the weaknesses in her character by pointing out that she is the youngest of the three sisters; but at 45, that’s hardly justifiable anymore, considering that there were only two or three year gap between her and her sisters; which more or less even out the differences in years. At 45, she was supposed to make some discernment in her judgment because at 45, a woman is supposed to have reached her peak as a person, everything that goes from there would be going down; a downward spiral, that is, they say. So, if you’re not getting sense at 45, there’s no hope you could still get some sense at all towards the end of your life.  Besides, I knew of so many people who are much younger than her and yet, they make sense. They would not just leave a sick man alone or ask someone to quit their job in 10 days or else. They can’t even abandon a sick kitten. But she, as a shock, would have a stranger in the house for company of her two ageing parents because suddenly she wanted to serve other sick strangers abroad. Some people have well developed sense and sensibilities, which are utterly lacking in some people like her at 45. At 45, she cannot stand my reasoning, so she preferred to assassinate my character in front of a domestic help who knows nothing about the world. At 45, a person is already considered middle-aged, a scary phase; it is assumed that she has gone through life’s numerous learning experiences. To be haplessly ignorant at 45 is such a big shame for there are so many things she could have known at 45, which she would not have anticipated at 20. Right now, she’s behaving like she missed some important learning of some 25 years of life. She’s utterly lacking in sense and sensibilities alone. She’s such a pathetic character, this woman of 45. 

Chanced Meeting?

That afternoon, I was a bit restless. I thought I needed to go to Upper to find out the next schedule for copra. I asked Ma if she wanted me to go, but Ma said, it’s getting dark, it’s not good to be out at this hour. I said I waited for the sun to cool to be able to go; and so, disregarding Ma and her fears, I walked out of the house all the way to the Crossing to wait for a ride.  I did not like the look of the motorcycles I met along the way. I did not like the look on their faces, those calculating look. So I texted him if he was in B’la. He said yes and asked if  I needed a ride. I said I was at the Crossing on my way to the Upper B’la and when I turned around, I heard a motorcycle engine revving up, and saw him emerged from under the trees. We were already a way off when I asked him where he’d been when I texted because it seemed he was just very close by. He said he had been up to your house. “His house?" I froze. "Is he here?” 
"Yes," he said. 
“Let’s go back, " I said.  
“Why?" he asked. "He is so busy, he’s got work to do.” 
“Let’s go back,” I said.
And so, he turned the motorcycle around so fast that before I knew it, we were already in your house, the motorcycle going right up to your front yard, what would your mother say? I did not know what to do. He stopped and pointed to you, “There, he is,” he said, saying your name. “That is him!” 
When I looked up, I saw several you’s at the same time, all seated there under the tree; and the eldest one, wearing a dark blue polo shirt, was looking at me, nodding, confused. Briefly I was able to say, “Just excuse us, we’re just passing by,” and then, we were gone, me, trying hard to hold on to the back of the motorcycle without touching his shoulders, and then, when we passed a hump, bumped upon his shoulders anyway.
We left you wearing a puzzled look on your face, watching me very closely; watching me and our friend sped away. 

Lover's Tryst

Will I ever have a chance to tell you at the right moment and the right time how you played an important part in my life, that the memory of you astride a horse treading the river ford is forever etched in my mind? Will there be a right moment and a right time now that we no longer own our time, our space, our bodies?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday, June 05, 2015

A glimpse of you

The motorcycle skidded, the driver said something; called out your name, asked me if I knew you, before I turned around, and very briefly, so briefly that it never even allowed my mind to register until long afterwards, flashed your image—your face, a little bit rounded now, your faded blue and gray collared shirt, your feet stretched out before the whole length of your body in perfect calmness, just the way I thought you used to do—as the motorcycle skidded past, so fast that I couldn’t even register in my mind the meaning of your sudden presence. As I turned around again you were gone. All I saw were trees, the coconut fronds, some weeds, the wall of some houses, the iron gate of Uncle’s house, and my heart sank.  What followed was the stillness that lay between us through the years; the long quiet that has forbidden me to speak your name. Can we ever cross that stillness? Will I ever hear your name again? When will I ever find the courage to ask: Where have you gone? Why did you leave?  What were you thinking when you used to sit on the porch of our old house? What did we use to talk about? Did we ever have anything to talk about? Or, did we just stare at each other as the seconds and the minutes ticked by; and eternity swirled in a moment of stillness? 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hearing about you

On our way back to town the previous week, someone brought up your name to ask if I still remember you.
But how could I forget? Those nights you used to sit on the porch, which we’ve torn down long ago to give way to a ground floor terrace that remains unfinished until now. That porch remained in my memory, haunting me in my dreams. It had a rectangular trough, which used to hold Ma’s potted plants that included a palmera, and other ornamentals that made the pit of my stomach churn with longing every time I remember them now. 
Enclosing the trough was the open-air window whose frame was carved with wood of various geometric shapes. 
On the nights that you would come by for a visit—you’d sit on this porch, your back to the plants, your whole frame of a lovely body directly facing us. The porch gave the full view of the insides of the small house, the living room opening to an adjoining dining room, the edge of the dining table directly on the line of your sight. 
What were you thinking back then? I was thinking of hiding somewhere but the house offered no extra space to hide! We used to be taking dinner every time you drop by for a visit but no matter how we prodded you, you'd refuse to join us. Instead, you stayed there where I could not see you, eating me with your eyes, tearing away my soul from my body.  How did it feel back then, to be feasted on by your eyes in the dark, in full view of Mother and Father? It was something I could have enjoyed sumptuously in private, but right then and there, it was such a discomfort. 
Now that I'm hearing your name again, I remember those secret feasting we had, and wondered when our feasting ended, replaced by long years of your absence? 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Pa's Story

Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to bring Pa and Ma to the shrine of the Infant of Prague, which has always been my favorite place, an airy place full of greenery overlooking the city. The place has a personal significance to me because it was here where, when Sean was still a toddler, and I was oftentimes left without a house help at home, I would go up here with Sean to light candles. Candles, I know, have their religious significance--but for me, at that time, a candle was not only the light of my own darkness, it was also the balm to my frayed nerves. The simple act of lighting candles and watching them melt seemed to melt away all my troubles (until I go back to the house again)!
It was this secret pleasure that I wanted to share with Ma and Pa. We spent the Saturday afternoon strolling about, doing nothing, staring at the greenery. Pa, as usual, was his grumpy self. Shortly after we arrived, I asked if he was tired. "Ngano gina-treat ko nimo parang bata? Bag-o pa ko naabot diri (Why are you treating me like a child? I just arrived here)," he replied. We went to an adjoining property, where I pointed to him the coal dome of the coal-fired power plant near the sea. "That is Binugao, Pa," I said, because Binugao held a special place for my Pa. The place always figured in his stories about his arrival in Mindanao. But he said,  "Ambot, kung motuo ba ko nimo (I don't know if I should believe you)."
I told sister, who was left at home, we should just be patient with Pa because of what he endured since he was nine years old. Sister replied, "Kay imo jud diay nang gisukitsukit (So, you really dug it up?!)" and I felt I was stealing Pa's history, as if Pa's story is not my own story; and Pa's story is not our story. As if it was not a story about Mambusao, as if it was not a story about Capiz, as if it was not a story about Davao, as if it was not a story about Binugao, as if it was not a story about B'la, as if it was not a story about Upper B'la. As if it was not a story of our people, as if it was not a story of our country.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Cassandra

In our family, I am a Cassandra. I can “see” but no one believes me, so I ran the risk of suffering the fate of being slaughtered, as Cassandra did after the Fall of Troy when she—along with the rest of the family—was taken by the winning army of Agamemnon as part of the war booty. Cassandra was the distraught woman standing with Agamemnon at the foot of the stairs, before Agamemnon took the red carpet welcome prepared for him by Clytemnestra upon his arrival home. The red carpet led directly to his death in the poisoned tub.
Unlike Cassandra, I did not wait for the total devastation to come. I escaped to tell the story. My Pa arrived in Mindanao from Capiz as a nine year old boy after the war, when people in the villages of Tum’lalud and Sinunduhan (just across the river), in the town of Mambusao, were talking of migrating to Mindanao to look for better life, or perhaps, a better land. Pa told me this story, sitting on his hospital bed, the dextrose on his left arm, as he emerged seventy years later, trying to make sense of the pain.
He was still a boy when they arrived. What prompted Grandma to bring her children to Mindanao was not really the need to look for better land, but that row between her and Grandpa over the eldest daughter Maria, who ran away with a man not of their choice and went to live with him in Iligan. [[This story seems to be lost now, because Maria died years ago and the only cousin who I knew can link me to her also died the following years.]] But according to Pa, Manang Maria ran off with a man. She was the eldest daughter in the family—engaged to someone important back in Mambusao. As a result of her elopement Grandma and Grandpa had a row, which ended up with Pedro (the name of Grandpa), already drunk, chopping off the leg of their table, which like the house, was made of logs, a sturdy material. As a result of this quarrel, Grandma rushed to migrate to Mindanao, where everybody was heading.  She was a tough, strong-willed woman, and as I imagine, high spirited. Women were not allowed to go to school during her time, so, she only reached up to Grade 2, while her brothers went to Manila to become a priest and a pilot. Yet, she was an intelligent and ingenuous woman, who, during the war, was able to feed some hungry souls straying to her house because she never ran out of supply of rice from her harvests. She immediately secured the money (sold their land? Borrowed? I’m no longer sure) for the trip to Mindanao, where they eventually landed in Davao and came to settle in Binugao, where Pa eventually worked as the encargador of the land of the Gods (Guinoo).
In Binugao, the teacher was distraught when all the Grade six pupils failed to solve the Math problems he had written on the board. When he came upon Pa during lunchtime solving all the problems on the blackboard with ease, he asked, “What grade is this?” and someone answered, “Grade 1V.” Pa suddenly basked at the attention of all those girls (dalaga), most of them Haponesa, regarding him with awe, which slightly embarrassed him, though, he said he felt assured to realize he was wearing his Boy Scout uniform on that day, with the matching shoes at that.  He was also amazed that the lessons in Binugao could be that easy compared to those in Mambusao.

When Mr. Espanol and Mr. Buenaluz, the teachers from Luzon, realized Pa was already tilling the land and planting corn in it, they asked with concern, “Why, where is your father?” Pa blurted out, just like a nine-year-old child, “They kept fighting with each other so they agreed to separate. Mother left him in Mambusao.”  His teachers never let him work in school after this. “Parang Luzon (like Luzon),” they said to describe his farm because they were Ilocanos, and might have missed the land where they came from.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Reading the Paris Review

...and loving the feel of it while mulling over the fact that they took Father and Mother away from the rented apartment in Nova Tierra only to move them in a poorly-ventilated one-room apartment in a seedy area not easily reached by taxi, where they were in constant threat of floods when it rains; and how about leptospirosis and other water-borne diseases? Why can't they think about these things when they consider Father or Mother and why did they not tell me about the whole idea in the first place, as if I were a woman from Outer Space? Is it because they hate my penchant to say the things I had to say; which they they equate with creating trouble?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

To the Best Beloved

March 18, 2015. Fourteen years ago today, when everyone else was preparing to leave graduate school, I entered Silliman University Medical Center at 1 pm, gladly and fearfully, expecting your birth. I was glad because finally I would be meeting you, not just any other child any mother can give birth to, but the special subject of the personal essay, “Letter to the Womb: Writing and re-Writing Woman in the Literary Text,” I submitted for the final exams of our Contemporary Criticism class under Dr. Ceres Pioquinto. The idea came to me out of the blue, after the realization that on the verge of childbirth, I could no longer think in a clear, linear and logical way but in swirling, maddeningly spiraling fashion; and so, to suit this particular frame of mind, I abandoned the methodical way most scholars used to write their “scholarly” texts and wrote instead a personal essay addressed to you, Best Beloved, applying the critical literary theories I learned by heart.
And so, in a gist, this was how you came into this world, Gloria Steinem spewing words on the TV screen in between my throes of labor, making the pain slightly bearable, Kuya Karl watching at the hospital lobby, as my stretcher rolled by; and Ja, your Dad, trading jokes with the nurses in a voice grating to my ears.
Now, I can’t believe it’s been 14 years; and I'm slightly disoriented. Where is that toddler who used to grab my books every time I attempted to read? Where is the one who tirelessly climbed over my body? Where is the tireless watcher, who used to monitor the hands of the clock inside the newsroom, who used to tell me, Ma, the sky has turned black outside, are we not going home?! What a delight to have you! Happy 14th year, Sean!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Dear Tea

I remember some years ago as I sat in a veranda facing the road towards Genting Highlands, and someone said, “Good morning, how was your sleep, shall I make you tea? Right, I'll make the right tea for you,” and he disappeared into the charming little kitchen of the hut in Kuala Kubu Baru. That was how I got  introduced to Teh Tarik, so sweet, so heady, I thought I could never get over it, in fact, I was crying uncontrollably on the airplane weeks later when it was time to go. I called the Teh Tarik the Malaysian counterpart of the Filipino coffee, which is sweet and creamy, and speaks something about our relationship with either Spain or America; the Malaysians, of course, had their British; and that explains their right-hand-drive cars on the road. I said, we, Filipinos, are coffee drinkers; we rarely drink tea, except when we're sick; and that explains why, traveling by land from Davao to other parts of Mindanao, I always find myself asking the stores in every bus stop for tea, a cup of hot, bitter, sugarless tea, preferably piping hot; because when I travel I endure some discomfort that only the taste of hot bitter tea can ease. But to my dismay, not one of the sarisari stores at the terminals is selling tea. I said, Filipinos are coffee drinkers; some want their coffees pitch black and very strong; some style themselves as real coffee connoisseurs, buying their coffee beans on e-bay from as far as Yemen and developing appropriate drinking rituals to heighten the effect of their every sip. But others like me, want our coffee sweet and creamy, to make us dream and forget the bitterness of life, which in one way or the other is brought about by the convoluted history of its arrival to our shores. But back to you, Tea, you are the love of my life, your benign flavor, your soothing effect, even the sound of the tinkling silver spoon against the dainty cups. I love the shape of teapots, reminding me of some rich godmothers forcing us to take the obligatory afternoon naps. “I have fallen in love with Malaysia,” I once told our Malaysian professor as we inched our way into the jungle called Quiapo, years after Kuala Kubu Baru, hunting for pirated rare DVDs. “I thought you said you fell in love with a Malaysian,” he said. I said, I love the sound of the Malaysian names, it gives me the feeling of deja vu.  But it was you, Tea, that I was talking about. I love you, Tea.

Friday, February 27, 2015

How I once endured the flight back home

What flashed before me was our last day at Esteban Abada, after I discarded my poetry notes and Seng took to our room the weighing scale he borrowed from Lyn, to help us find out if the books we were carrying would already exceed our baggage allowance for our flight back home. No, I told Seng in an unbending voice we used to assume when we were dead set at doing something they did not want us to do. I don’t want to pay for an extra baggage, I told Sengthong, everything that would exceed 10 kilos, I would have to hand carry, I said. So, we were taking out things from our baggage, even as we were weighing them. But we hoarded such an overwhelming volume of  books that summer that I ended up with what I thought must be some 12 kilos of books in my hands.  I put them inside a canvass bag, printed with a reproduction of an Amorsolo painting, and carried it to the airport like a rucksack. If Bryant had only seen me carrying that rucksack of books, maybe he would laugh. The load was so heavy, I couldn’t breathe after every six steps. It felt like all my internal organs would explode. I was already sweating all over. But I was very proud to let anybody notice, so, I made it a point to look natural, prevented my tongue from sticking out of my mouth, because I could hardly breathe.  If you had seen me, you would think I was only taking a leisurely walk as I boarded the plane, you’d never think I was only pretending, taking the easy stride, with a bit of rest every six steps of the way. 
That's how I knew how hard it must have been for you. 

Let me tell you about Eponine, the Grey

You never told me you had a little girl, so, when I heard about it, I was happy and surprised, even as I castigated myself for missing that particular part of your life, which must have been such a landmark. This was before I saw the picture of you and your little girl in my inbox. I used to have three very big girls, too; and I knew how big they have become when last Saturday, faced by a big Cat that suddenly appeared at our doorway, two of my girls expanded to twice their size, eager to prove themselves they were ready to defend their homeland.  I still remember how Eponine, the Grey, stood there, making herself as big as she can get; although the biggest that she can get at that moment was only up to the shoulder of the Cat. But Eponine was the most intelligent and the most brilliant of them all; the type who gets what she wants without even trying. I saw her last Saturday trying to scare the Cat; and I called my boy Sean inside the bathroom to come out fast because he will miss the action.  It was Eponine, the Grey and Oreo, the Black, who stood their ground against the Cat; while Henri Matisse, the Yellow One, shielded herself in the corner ready to duck and dart, if worse came to worst. But after a while of sabre-rattling without any actual action, I finally decided to call Oreo to my lap, leaving Eponine at the door alone to confront the intruder. Although she was able to maintain her size, I can faintly see her legs shaking at the effort. This makes me very sad every time I remember it now, the image of her standing bravely at the door. This was Saturday. The following day, a windy Sunday, Eponine got hit by a slamming door when I was coming out to get something.  What followed must have been 48 hours of terrible pain and suffering that only Eponine knew and I can only imagine with remorse.  In the morning of Tuesday, Eponine still attempted to join the boodle fight that characterized our feeding time with her two sisters but she could no longer make herself stand up.  I went to her to comfort her, telling her she did not have to move about because she was a very Special One, I prepared a special food for her.  Her mouth would no longer open when I tried.  Between 8 to 9 am on Tuesday, February 24, 2005, on the eve of the 29th year of the Edsa people power, I lost an intelligent, brave and loving girl of a cat. Her leaving fills us with sorrow so deep, it will take a very long time to heal.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Dear Prateehba

Once you told me you’ve been reading Toni Morrison’s Love but can’t get to what she was saying, you decided to discard it, tucked it away somewhere out of sight.  Did I get you right about this, or is my memory messing up again, mixing up a bit of something with other snippets of past conversations?  I bring this up because I wanted to tell you about that particular man in Toni Morrison’s fiction; how he reminded me of a real person, someone I interview every day, sometimes at the dead of night, when everyone else—except for power-starved reporters—is already sound asleep. I think about this man, this Toni Morrison man, whose magic has caught everyone in his spell, so that, just like any other writer who came close to him, I, too, was overwhelmed by the desire to write his memoir; until it struck me one day that he was a Toni Morrison man, whose memoir I wouldn’t dream of writing, if I’d continue to love and honor Toni Morrison, unless I’d do it from the point of view of those who loved and suffered under his spell; the women.  Dear Prateeh, is there a way for writers to unravel the spell of an exemplary magician able to enthral his audience with the strength of his personality and magic?  Is there a way for us to span the growing distance between Davao and Kathmandu before it grows even bigger than the nautical miles in which it is usually being measured? Is there a way to reduce time and space and matter into pulp so that we can finally travel beyond walls, our minds soaring free of our bodies? It’s a Sunday morning here at my desk, where I face the growing clutter of wires, cables, chargers, keys, which I never had the luxury to set in order, as I was in a constant rush, just like the way we were in that dorm at Esteban Abada.  From my desk, I keep hearing the soothing sound of running water in the kitchen, where Sean is washing the dishes I abandoned, and somewhere in another corner of the house, Ja deep into his writing, quiet as a mouse. Outside my window, the three cats bask in the sunlight. Both soles of my feet keep brushing the top of the magazine pile growing fast under my table. We always dream of writing memoirs, though, we know no one else can write a memoir but the owner of the life we want to write. Unlike a biography, a memoir dwells only at a particular moment of a life, projecting it to eternity so as to render that particular life some meaning. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Magick "R"

[written when Sean was six, and never finished!]
After Ja first made me see what light does to the shape of an object, I began to be an avid student of light.  I fell in love with lights and shadows, closely studying them every time I get the chance.  Then, I introduced Sean to the “magic hour,” as the hour when unbelievable things happen.  Like most other six-year-olds, he mistook my “magic hour” for the “magic R,” perhaps, because of the way I pronounced it, pointing to the marks the sunlight makes on the wall when the sun starts to slant in the horizon. 
Then, I made him pose, midway between the rays of the four o’clock sun slowly sinking in the west and the white wall of the house directly facing the glass window.  The photo showed the soft face of Sean, half illuminated and suffused with the sun’s orange glow, occupying the first third of the frame.  On the frame’s remaining two thirds was the shadow that Sean’s face cast on the wall. 
It could probably be one of the most striking pictures I’ve taken of him, so full of irony and rich in metaphors; a photograph of life, itself; a revealing moment captured by a click of the shutter, etched on the mind for eternity. But remembering the power of metaphors; and the cruelty that ironies can assume at the most unexpected moments, I took one look at it and decided to erase the photo.
I finally realized that that love you have as a mother could only be measured by how much you could sacrifice your love and lust as a photographer.
For photography demands on its altar the same sacrifice that God once demanded of Abraham, who made an offering out of his son Isaac, a sacrifice that I, a mother, could never probably make of my boy.  This reminded me of what my mother told me one day when I happened to ask her why she remained a public school teacher handling Grade Six all her life.  “Didn’t it ever occur to you that you can be something else?” I asked.  “How come you never chose to defy Fate?”
I asked her this question at the most crucial point of my life; when we were packing my things because I was moving out again from a failed relationship.  For I was the kind of person who has always been defying fate and as a result, ending up in all sorts of trouble. There and then, it suddenly crossed my mind that my mother had never moved and never packed her belongings the way that I usually did in every five years.  She never ended her relationship and never made any life-threatening decisions. She had married and never left my father, never questioned the conventions and simply took, unquestioningly, what life has laid down for her.  It dawned upon me that, perhaps, she never really followed where her heart wanted her to go.   My mother’s answer almost made me choke.  “You were still very young when beautiful things began to happen to me,” she said.  “I was terrified of having to set you aside if I accepted new responsibilities.” 
From what my mother said, I had a sudden illumination about the nature of women’s lives.  Every woman is condemned by the choice she makes of that magic hour, that crucial moment when she can either choose to reveal herself before the light; or stay in mediocrity forever, lurking in the shadows, unnoticed for life.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Thank you, 2014; Welcome 2015!

Welcome and help me make sense of my room happily cluttered with books, photographs, cables, wires, chargers, dirty shoes, slippers, old magazines mixing with the new, soiled clothes piling up to high heavens; old newspapers gathering dust in every corner, discarded schoolbooks that I failed to throw away, more piles of discarded tickets, useless receipts of past travel. Welcome to the life heavily cluttered with people, dreams, meetings and some affairs of the heart.