Saturday, October 24, 2009

Memory of A Bubble


Out of boredom, my cousins and I decided to play Jose Mari Chan’s Christmas album this morning. I know— way too early, right? We reckoned it was a perfect time to play Christmas songs since we were also talking about the party we’d be having. We sang along to the songs, poking fun at each other’s weak attempt at a vibrato. And before my mind could drift into a complete holiday overdrive—oh the thoughts of Christmas shopping, gifts, Noche Buena, and the like- track six exploded through the speakers, pulling me, if for a moment, from reality. ‘A Perfect Christmas’ sent me on a trip to memory lane faster than I could eat a whole banana.

I was in my freshman year in college, second semester. And it was my class in Filipino I, and my fifty-something professor could not have been any funnier with her futile effort at sounding like a true-blue Tagalog, stifling a laugh during class was as difficult as getting the highest possible grade in Algebra. So, not wanting to humiliate myself—and the professor—should I be unable to control my amusement, I sat at the back of the class. There, I was able to take no notice of the self-inflicted mess the professor brought upon herself. But it didn’t help that I aced every exam she had given, thereby etching my face and my name into her memory, because she frequently took glances at me as if awaiting for a nod or something. I maintained a poker-face in response, pretending to be all-ears when all the while my mind was wandering on an alternate universe. Ah, college!

The seat I occupied through the rest of the course was next to the door, giving me sufficient distraction from the droning class discussions, and escape from having no choice but hearing my classmates gab about their favourite local celebrities. The horror! I thought I was going to rely on looking out the door to keep myself from falling asleep in the middle of the class, but one day I just found him sitting next to me.


I had noticed him during the first few meetings. He was kind of hard to miss, you see; blame it on the deep-set eyes, floppy hair, cinnamon skin, and great teeth. Of course I immediately fell in-lust, but was quick enough to dismiss it. But then it just happened.

I must have either been daydreaming of yet another random faceless guy or silently singing to myself (like, what else could I have been doing) when he first said ‘hello’. I was not the one to neither complain nor question why he was suddenly beside me—and I don’t think I would have been able or wanted to with palpitations at the sight of him- so I responded with a ‘hi’ and a smile. Before I knew it, the excitement of having him sit next to me—to talk, smile, and laugh with- had changed into familiarity. Count on me to unlike someone once he starts opening up. Weird.

I liked the way he talked; he kept a sincere amount of eye contact, he spoke fluent English (of course!), he seemed to listen sympathetically. He shared about his life in the seminary (he dropped out on his second year, saying he realized he didn’t belong there), his love for songs (he was a fan of the Beetles), political views (like me then, he was politically passive), frustrations and dreams. His openness bowled me over that I felt at-ease in reciprocating.

We were in a bubble.

He had an infectious laugh which he tried to suppress each time I pointed out our professor’s mistakes. And I also found myself laughing at his rather witty remarks. There were times when he’d sing to me his favourite songs, and I would feel little butterflies in my stomach. He asked me to sing, too, but I never did solo; I argued that unlike him, I wasn’t born with a good set of pipes. So he sang with me. One November afternoon, we talked about Christmas songs that we liked, and Jose Mari Chan’s ‘A Perfect Christmas’ sparked some four-minute fireworks between us. What caused the spark? When out of the blue, without any prior agreement, just by looking at each other, we changed the line “In the cool breeze of December” to “In the cool breeze of November”. After finishing the song, we giggled silently, feeling somewhat amazed at the fluke. Since then, when we found ourselves unable to escape the dullness of the class, and we seem to have run out of things to talk about, we sing ‘A Perfect Christmas’.

Olsen and I met outside of class many times. We spent time at the gym, canteen, and practically everywhere we went. We’d text each other and meet at the top floor of the school building, where students rarely stayed to kill the time. There we’d sing our lungs out, talk, laugh, and play. And by play, I meant we’d pull each other’s ears, I’d mess up his hair (which he liked a lot), we’d squeeze other’s nose, and nudge each other’s side. He’d put his arms around my shoulder and I’d pinch him under his arms. I’d feel little butterflies from time to time when we were together, but it was all chummy fun for me. Of course, at the back of my mind I’d ask myself if he ever feels the butterflies, too. But all in all, it was just two guys being very pally.

Then, he started asking me out for dinner at his house. A persistent, although not irritating, invitation which I had to turn down because I knew how dinner-at-home could end, especially with his family not being around that time. And besides, when I asked him why it had to be at his house, when it could be somewhere else, he replied that so we could get to know each other deeper. Like all the time we spent together wasn’t enough.

I kept turning his invite down each time that I thought he’d distance himself from me, but he didn’t. Unfortunately though, when the course ended, our bubble burst. The last time we were together was after our final exam. He hurried after me as I went out of the room, and said we'd be seeing each other the following semester. But we never did see each other again. Just like our bubble, he disappeared. Poof.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Temper Overdrive


Just when I thought I had fully kept my anger management issues securely tucked in a closet, I burst into a silent fit of rage, proving that what once was hidden will eventually come out.

 I thought I was going to implode when I learned that our driver moved the car from the mall’s main parking lot to the parking area outside the mall’s compound—to that side of the street where tricycles were parked rather irresponsibly at the mall entrance. I hated parking at that area during the day, because for someone who’s just started driving for two months (ergo the need for a driver by the passenger seat to keep me ‘company’, especially since my license has yet been released), manoeuvring through the tricycles that were parked before our car was extremely difficult. The drivers just stood there, not moving their tricycles out of the way, as if expecting me to drive with hairline clearances from either side. I cursed beneath my breath as I minded the wheel and the brake. Eventually I got through it without a scratch on the paint.

Seething, I asked our driver why he moved the car. And he replied that it was for me to be able to learn faster. Hell, blood shot through my head for the reason that I had already told him not to force the ‘hairline clearance’ on me, it was just too soon. I mean, come on! It's not fair of him to expect me to be as good of a driver as he is; he basically grew up driving tractors. I, on the other hand, grew up... well, I grew up doing many things but driving!

I didn’t know what came over me, and so I stepped on the pedal, and the car shot like a bullet on the street. Good thing there weren’t many vehicles. As I stopped for the red light, we noticed thick white smoke coming out of the tailpipe. The smoke was so thick it looked like someone was burning dried leaves under the vehicle.

After some checking, research, and with a help from my uncle, I learned that it was probably because I cranked the engine up too soon. Or the ‘dirt’ that the diesel had accumulated. Still, I was worried hell I even posted at Yahoo! Answers. I re-read the manual, visited countless forums, and asked from people. I got the same answers. But just to be safe, we’re taking the car to the dealer tomorrow to have it checked.

I was seething the whole afternoon that I didn’t talk to anyone. My mum, who was with me during the smoke incident surprisingly did not give a lecture but instead told me to have my temper under control.

I was a bit surprised and troubled at how anger got the better of me. It now seems like that ‘volcanic temperament’ I had in college, the one my friends feared, is back. Clearly, I have some self-assessing to do. I can’t let that side of me resurface. I can’t go back to throwing things and yelling at people. I can’t let anger take residence in my core again.

I guess I’ve had too much anger bottled up for months now. I haven’t been able to vent my negativity, and so apparently the lid has been knocked over. Yes, I have always believed that anger is a part of everyday emotions, that it is a vital sensation. I’ve always had anger in me, but the anger that took hold of my consciousness today, that anger I had tried to maim for years… it’s just… I don’t want it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Heart Attack at 25


There are many ways to define quarter-life crisis. There are many ways but experiences vary from one person to another. I would like to copy-paste every definition I’ve found on the Internet, but hell knows it’s going to be a mile long. And I’m not entirely amused at the thought of digressing, so I guess it’s better speaking for myself.

I’ve read numerous articles/blogs of people experiencing this so-called plague. It’s pandemic, you see. It’s part of life. I don’t think there is one single person in the world that has not gone through, or is going through, or will be going through it. There’s just no escaping, so might as well face it. Yes, it’s hard. Hell, that’s an understatement.

So what is quarter-life crisis for me, you ask?

It’s waking up in the morning, realizing that the day will be the same as yesterday. Not having a stable job sure has something to do with it, but my situation is a catch-22 kind wherein I am hindered from getting a permanent job until things are ironed out to my benefit. It doesn’t help that people—especially those who don’t know my situation—hammer me rhetorical questions like, “You still don’t have a job?” with rather belittling stares. I used to retort with something like, “Yeah, the beauty of having a trust fund is I get to enjoy life without having to go through shit like you do,” and some people would either shut up looking uneasy, or give a blank face, which all the time makes me wonder if they even understood what I said. Lately I just plaster a half-baked smile and roll my eyes, which thankfully most people take as a hint to keep their nose out of my case. What people don’t know is that I would, in a snap, trade opulent time watching Discovery Travel and Living for a job, thank you very much.

Whatever time a person needs in a lifetime to think, to contemplate, about his existence, I’m sure I must have used up all of mine—some in advance. Part of the crisis is thinking too much, which is roughly relative to how much free time one has.

It’s questioning every relationship I have, grilling every intention people have concerning me, and re-evaluating people’s worth in my life. Sometimes there’s a sudden and overpowering sense of loneliness that makes me want to just be surrounded by friends. Some days I feel like floating in the middle of the Pacific without a vest to keep me afloat, and those are the days when not a single friend is in reach. I guess it’s being needy, and it is brought about by wanting to feel sympathy especially from people who are going through the same sort of thing.

It’s wanting to go back to school, and take up a course that I actually like and know I can be really good at. It’s like a consuming hunger that weakens me from the inside. My head is itching to take up Psychology. I know, spare me the “then you should’ve taken Psychology back in college” speech. I didn’t know any better, I didn’t know what I wanted.

One attribute of quarter-life crisis is feeling that everyone you know seems to be going somewhere while you’re stuck in that pit hole, regardless of whether you’re sitting behind a desk, facing a computer draining your wits on Excel. Or making inventory. Or holding a scalpel in the operating room. Or, like me, lying in bed contemplating about a possible life in Mars should our planet collapse from tremendous abuse. My friends seem to be having something going on in their life: others have stable jobs, others have already started a family, while some have gone back to school. At barkada events, someone gets to say “I have to go home, got work tomorrow” or “I have to go, boyfriend and I are going out for dinner”. Me, I get to say “OK, I’ll see when I see you.” And most of the time it’s a one-man show for obvious reasons.

Waking up has become a belaboured task; some days I just want to curl up in bed, praying silently for my plaid mattress to swallow me whole. One word: monotonous, that’s how my days are sometimes. Most of the time. And for people who think it’s an easy life to live, they’re badly mistaken.

People look at me and they see that big smile stretched from ear to ear. They take notice of how I am able to see the lighter side of things, finding reasons to laugh at almost anything. They must think I am utterly happy (and yes, happiness is a state of mind), but they don’t really know what goes through my mind. They don’t seem to get that beneath the happy disposition I have these days, I am just a boy looking for his place under the sun.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

It's Not All Ondoy

Ondoy. Now where do I begin?

Those who were ill-fated enough to have suffered from the typhoon Ondoy are probably asking the same thing except that while I am asking myself where to start with this post (which I have obviously answered, thank you), the victims of the typhoon are asking where, or rather ‘how’, to begin with their lives. Again. It’s a question that’s difficult to ask, and even more difficult to answer.

I was not fond of watching news on TV for I have always found it sickening, watching too much depressing reports. At this age, I think roughly 75 per cent of the news being broadcast on prime time—especially on prime time—is ‘bad’ news. But the past week, I found myself waiting for the hourly news update. I just had to know. I felt that it was my responsibility to at least be aware of what some of us Filipinos were going through. It was like hurricane Katrina in New Orleans—Filipino version. I can’t begin to express how sad I was—still am—for all the people who have gone through such an ordeal.

And yes, it was still sickening. It was depressing seeing the damage Ondoy caused. I thought I was going to shed tears watching people fighting for their lives against nature’s wrath. I especially felt extremely awful seeing how miserable the survivors were at the evacuation areas. Aren’t those places supposed to be refuge? I couldn’t help but cringe at the sight of (no, not the dead bodies scattered across an ocean of mud) people blaring and falling in line, waiting for relief goods (some help, if you must) to be given to them. It was too much. It was like watching a grim movie, only that it was real, and the thought of it made me cringe even more.


The disaster is a wake-up call to us, not just to the victims but to every one of us. I’d like to paraphrase a conclusion that a man in authority pointed out: the typhoon was an act of God, but the damage was an act of man. Yes, indeed. The typhoon was not brewed in some factory and unleashed for some experimentation; it was beyond anyone’s control. The damage, however, could have at least been lessened had we been concerned and willing enough to care for our environment. Ondoy was trying to teach us that no one is invincible. See, even the rich got their share of misfortune; nature’s wrath does not discriminate according to economic or social status.

Filipinos know very well how to laugh amidst crisis, and it was still evident even during Ondoy’s aftermath. But really, I don’t think our buoyancy is enough to save us. It sure helps, but it’s never enough. Is buoyancy helping those who have lost their houses and loved ones? Those who are stuck in classrooms among fourteen other families who don’t have anything to eat? Those who line for hours and hours to get a plastic bag of food? Oh, and I’m sure buoyancy did not help those who died in the flash floods.

We must understand, like everyone else in the world, that our planet is not an eternal place. We must stop abusing nature, and start treating it as if it were some fragile glass that need extra care in handling. And surely it is a fragile planet we have. And why am I ranting this environmental issue? Because we abuse our world too much. Because no one can deny that the rubbish that has clogged up the waterways is one of the reasons why Marikina, among other places, was swamped. Because I hate it when people throw trash everywhere. Hello, garbage bins, anyone?! Because the government can’t find time to resolve the waste control and disposal problem of our country, but was able to find time to discuss some video scandal. It’s been decades and still collected garbage isn’t properly attended to. How about the government spending some time—and budget- informing, creating a system, helping people dispose rubbish properly. What, the government can pay for a pricey dinner but can’t afford a good sewage system and equipment to scoop out trash from rivers?

It’s not just the government. It’s us individuals, too. Is it too much to ask for beachgoers to take their junk home and dispose it there rather than leave it scattered on the shore? Are smokers really that lazy to just throw cigarette butts on the streets? They’re called ‘streets’ not ashtray!

I really think more and more people should start watching global warming specials on Discovery Channel than some stale themed afternoon and prime time TV shows. Or say, rent global warming documentaries from video exchange shops rather than low-budget vampire movies. That way, they will be aware of what exactly is happening to our planet.

We all play a role in the development of our world; we also play a role in its destruction. And at the rate we’re abusing nature, it’s only a matter of time before something like Ondoy happens again.