Friday, December 31, 2010

Incoherent Chaos

2010 copy
 
In fifty short minutes, the 2010 calendars hanging on the walls and sitting on bedside tables will have outlived their purpose. They will be rendered obsolete. It’s inevitable.
 
And like a vulture feeding on the carcass of a dead animal, 2011 will feed on the vestiges of 2010. That, too, is inevitable. For as much as I would hate to admit, I cannot begin the New Year with an entirely clean slate. Much thanks to a retentive mind and that piece of blooding-pumping muscle they call heart.
 
I’ve never actually described a year in my life in one single word (and no, that’s not redundancy, you bloody idiot—I’m emphasizing). But Twenty-ten, all in all, was a year of incoherence—mental and emotional. Now I shan’t attempt to detail Twenty-ten for it will prove futile.
 
I walked through the year with a buzzing in my head, which made me restless. I couldn’t find the will to do things that I wanted to do. I’d start working on things, but couldn’t find the focus to finish them. I was like a child who had attention deficit disorder. Like, I’d read a book and stop a few chapters before the story concluded, or watch a film but hit the ‘stop’ button even before the story could progress.

My temperament could put the weather to shame, as I was as moody as I had never been. But I was no longer throwing things or screaming at people. I was made aware of the value of being angry without acting angry. But I guess it only pampered my grudge-holding skills because I’d remembered offences as I would songs.

Instant gratification from revenge fed my core. And I’ve become accustomed to seeking revenge that I would not sleep until I had a definite plan of getting even. Fortunately for people, though, I’ve reduced my vengeful acts into non-violent ones. Karma just couldn’t give the instant gratification that a well-thought out retaliation could give me. Of course, not all plans of retaliation worked; it proved how sometimes some things don’t work out no matter how hard we try.

Sarcasm has always been my gun. And in Twenty-ten, it didn’t fail me. Every time I’d pull the trigger, someone always got hit, which always put a devilish smile on my face. Sarcasm, I realized, is a mind game. It pleased me to the bones when someone couldn’t strike back at my sarcasm.

Losing my grandfather, after barely six months of losing a great-grandmother (which happened on November 2009) had me thinking about life. It is quite a mystery—and that is an understatement, I say. It didn’t make sense that all our lives we strive to work for happiness, and yet as we grow old, we are slowly being dragged through life instead of being allowed to walk through it—you know, in the vein of what Alanis Morissette said. But I thought about it and realized that maybe—just maybe—life truly isn’t about the past or the future, but about the present. Death has taught me one sad truth—that sometimes, even though you are kind to a fault, people will eventually forget you. And when you die, all you’re left with are your family and friends. But that’s not a bad thing.

Alcohol has been a constant and great company this year. It reminded me of some truths as well, like: sometimes, all one needs after a long, pain-in-the-ass day is a set of good friends and a table full of libation. Conversations over a few buckets or so of beer can really take conversations on a different level. Alcohol has also offered aid in my attempts at poetic experimentation.
 
Family, I was reminded, is a part of one’s self that could not be stripped away even with the darkest of deeds, secrets, and the bloodiest of furies. Family will always be there, whether we like it or not. And in life, each of us is given two kinds of families: one is that family we were born into and the other is the family we choose—friends. Meredith Grey has once said that in a more coherent and classy way. Friends—they constantly teach us throughout are lives. My friends are a constant reminder that no matter how dark and ugly life can be, it is still worth living.

And about that department in life that gets even the brawniest of boys giddy, well, this year hasn’t been a good one. Well, it hasn’t even been existent, technically. I have come to accept that it isn’t for everyone. I may have had hopes. But like a match whose flame flickers off as it reaches the other end of the stick, each hope I had flickered off into darkness. I am not a complete cynic about love, though. Romantic love, that is. But I am wise enough to know it is not certain. Neither is it a fairy tale.

And now, before my mind spirals into a state of incoherence, I must state my thanks, apologies, and bitchiness.
 
I am thankful for the people who remain in my life despite my being venomous without provocation, mildly phobic, bitch, scheming, manipulative, irascible, and all the ugly things that I am not ashamed of.
 
I am thankful for the chances that came my way—even those that I did not take. See, not all chances come with bounty. Needless to say, some chances come not to gift us but to let us fall.
 
I apologize for the times I did not make the best of what I was given with.
 
And for those who’ve been unfortunate enough to experience my being a bitch: You most probably deserved it. See, I am not a bitch without a cause. You’ve earned my ire and so you had to pay for it.
 
To my Hallowell family: I will be succinct—words are not enough to express how much I value us. I love you muchly, dearies. Blessed be!
 
To my friends and (at the same time) drinking buddies: Inebriation has never been about being succinct, you know that. So here’s to more buckets for us, more deprecating moments, more laughter, more pseudo-intellectual discourses on love, politics, life, sex, and every random thing under the sky.

To the digital ghost: Thank you for sharing a special, albeit odd, friendship. I will always have your back, but you won’t know it.
 
When I think about it, really, New Year is just a matter of replacing our old calendars and planners with new ones.
 
Now, excuse me, for I still have a bottle of vodka to share with certain people who vowed, time and again, never to drink again.
 
Here’s to hoping each of us gets what we deserve.
 
And here’s to hoping each of us finds reasons to smile every day.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chasing Virginia




I cannot begin to express how much I love "The Hours." It is one of those films I can watch over and over again without any sense of being dragged through the entire time. I can't even remember how many times I've watched it. Sometimes at night, when sleep is as elusive as a poor man's luck, I watch it—OK, my favourite parts. It's like a visual lullaby that most of the time gets me watery-eyed.

Now, I don't know much about Virginia Woolf, or her works—except maybe for Mrs. Dalloway, which I did not even finish reading due to internal haemorrhage, if you catch my drift—but this film, in a deep and odd way, makes me feel like I know her personally.

This "train station" scene is one of the most—if not the most—poignant, gripping, and puissant scenes. Nicole Kidman's performance throughout the film is amazing, but in this scene, she's simply remarkable. And Stephen Dillane's performance was equally phenomenal, too.

To say that I can relate to the character's sentiment in this 6-minute clip is an understatement. I feel like I'm vicariously "living" this scene, or rather the emotion in it, every single day.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hell In A Hole

Where in hell is the baking soda?

I ransacked the cupboard, even my mum’s toiletry cabinet, in search for that old familiar Arm and Hammer box I swore I had seen days ago. Or was I just hallucinating having seen it while my tongue hurt like it was cut and burned at the same time. Wait. Baking soda? Don’t I used baking soda for some of my pastry recipes? I do! So I searched the plastic boxes that held baking ingredients. Baking powder, cream of tartar — Wait! Why is the third container empty? Damn it. Of all the times to run out of baking soda.

Yes, I am suffering from an aphthous ulcer, more commonly known as canker sore. I woke up this morning with that burning in my tongue, not that I was the slightest bit surprised. I had known I was going to get a canker sore two days ago, when my teeth started feeling weird—like they were growing or something. I knew it was going to be torture when my teeth felt sharp—a tell-tale sign that my mouth was in for a sore or two. Luckily, I only have one ulcer, not that it’s any less painful than if I had two, trust me.

The open sore is conveniently located on the side of my tongue, where a tooth can happily rub its edges to it every time I speak or eat. The slightest tongue movement agitates the pain.  I hardly ate anything today. I hardly spoke. All I wanted to do was pull my tongue out and replace it with a new one. Discomfort is an understatement. The pain is unbearable enough that I wouldn’t wish it to my worst enemy. OK, that may be untrue. I would so like this pain inflicted on a few people, if only to satiate my craving for revenge. But that’s another thing.

I gargled saline solution and mouthwash countless times already. I’ve tried to appeased my tongue with cold—no! freezing—water, and yes it worked but only for a very short period. As soon as the cold wears off, the pain comes back.

I can’t think clearly. I haven’t had a canker sore in a long time that I completely forgot how it feels.

A teaspoon of baking soda would be so helpful right now. It’s for making a paste that I could dab on the ulcer to prevent it from getting worse, and to alleviate the pain. Oh the pain! I’m taking Decilone Forte first thing in the morning if my tongue doesn’t feel any better.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Soda Man

dennis

There comes a time when a boy will brave all hurdles to satisfy his thirst—or his visual thirst, at least. I thought that tonight would be that time for me. I had it all planned days ago when I learned that Dennis Trillo would be in the city for a particular event as part of the Sandugo Festival. I was in for a surprise. Really, who was I kidding? It seemed the cosmic universe would not allow me to see him in person.

I spent the whole afternoon texting my friends, asking if they would kindly accompany me to the event. Two replied with promise, but I knew better than to expect for reasons that would eventually play a vital part in my choice. Someone to go with me was out of the question. But I had a contingency plan at hand: I was going to the event by myself.

One glimpse would be enough. I just wanted to see him in the flesh, regardless of the proximity. I wondered if he looked anything like he did in pictures. I was going to bring my camera, who knows I might be able to sneak backstage for some photo-op. I would scream his name aloud till my lungs gave out. The thought—the whole plan, really—seemed primitive and out of character. But it was Dennis Trillo for crying out loud; being primitive was excusable.

I had my mind made up. Until a friend texted me saying I probably could get stabbed at the boulevard where the event would be held. I was adamant at first, thinking it seemed far-fetched. But as I was picking out a shirt that I would pair with my favourite jeans, a thought occurred to me: what if I actually get stabbed?

The venue would be packed for sure. Suddenly I couldn’t imagine myself making through crowds of people scattered practically on every inch of the place. I couldn’t possibly bring myself to being surrounded by delinquents on the prowl for someone to rob, or—if things took out of their control—kill. I didn’t want to be on the news the next morning; I didn't want to be on the list of the casualties that unfortunately is becoming part of the festival each year. But really, don't all festivals have their casualties? And besides, I was certain a lot people smelled during those kinds of events. Past experiences may have taught me how to hold my breath for long periods of time, but I wasn’t going to try it this time.

I went out on our lawn and saw two searchlights that screamed Dennis’ name. I was terribly disappointed. But I knew better than to risk getting hurt for seeing my ultimate local celebrity boy crush. But I wasn’t going to wallow in disappointment; I went on-line and searched for pictures of Dennis. Sure, I already had a folder full of his pictures, but the act of typing his name on the search bar actually served as therapy.

At around 9 in the evening, two hours after the event supposedly started—and most probably the time, after all the inconsequential opening acts have performed, when Dennis would have come out into the stage—my friends texted me, asking if I did go by myself. The only response I gave was of disregard, not that I blamed anyone for the night's disappointment. Not completely, that is.

Yes, I may not have gone to the event to see him in person but I did get my fair share of Dennis tonight; I have already gratified my visual thirst. And that's all there is about Dennis, really. He's just a visual treat that I fancy. Because, after all, I'm just like any boy—and every person, really—who enjoys a damn good visual indulgence.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Scorch

plaza

I blame the scorching temperature for the splitting headache that’s been tormenting me for two days now. It feels as if my head could crack if I stayed outside for more than five minutes. And it’s too hot that one has to squint his eyes to be able to look straight at the road. Staring at the sky is definitely out of the question. Even with a good pair of sunglasses, looking at the sky would prove to be difficult—and stupid.

My nasal hypersensitivity—triggered by extreme temperatures, dusts, and foul smell—has also started to inflict me discomfort. Going out of the house these days can be a health risk, so I avoid doing so as much as I can.

It’s days like this when I long for the relief of being surrounded by trees—and nature in general, and breathing and feeling fresh cool air. A place with lots of trees would be sanctuary on days like this. I can’t help but think of the beach, too. Even a pool where I can stay for as long as I liked seems inviting. I can imagine how scalding it must be in places where there isn’t a single tree.

I wish people planted more trees than built more buildings. But since most of the time it seems inevitable to build buildings, I wish people also planted trees around them. I also wish our park here in the city were a real park where trees are abundant, instead of being an excuse-for-a-park as it is now with its bare and ungenerous ground, and unfitting location.


These days, a man’s best friend isn’t a furry animal that wags its tail as you’re approaching but a good air conditioner. Fortunately, I have one in my room. And this afternoon, as I take forty winks, I shall dream a place full of tall trees. With some birds perched on the branches, chirping. And a stream with crystalline water perhaps.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Slumber

slumber
 
Sleep. I have been having too much lately. Not because I choose to be idle, but because I can no longer take what daylight gives me.

I sleep. It makes me forget the things that pollute my consciousness. It brings me to an alternate world where I am free from the things I desperately try to run from in my waking days.

Running. I’ve been running away from myself. From the world. From people. I’ve been running not because I am afraid of it all. But because I am unable. After all this time, I still am unable. I’m tired of running, and so I sleep.

And although sleep only serves as temporary freedom, it does provide sanctuary. Sanctuary I’ve tried to find from people. Sanctuary people can’t give me. So I sleep.

And sleep becomes me. And I become sleep. We become one that I oftentimes forget how it is to sleep. I lay in bed motionless, mind blank, but not sleeping. I sometimes catch myself dreaming with eyes open. Dreaming of monsters, knights, a city full of zombies, vampire-infested night, endless oceans, roasted turkey, Amsterdamn, India, Greece, London, Toronto, princes in jeans and semi-fitting shirts, and witches. They make me happy. They give me childlike glee, so do full-moon nights, sounds of nightly creatures unseen from the bushes they hide behind. But these things, I no longer dream of them. They’re elusive no matter how hard I try to find them. So I sleep and sleep, in hope of dreaming of monsters, knights, princes, witches, zombies, full moon nights, sounds of nightly creatures, places, and vampire-infested nights.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

That Old Man

that old man

I walk up to a man sitting on the pavement with his legs crossed, a Styrofoam box beside him. This is the man I see every time I’d go home or go out at night. He sits on the same spot—a few steps from the huge neon sign that reads the name of the gasoline station. He’d sit like a statue—steady. Sometimes I pass by him sleeping, with his hands on the Styrofoam box as if afraid someone would steal his source of income. Sometimes, I’d see him shifting his gaze from all directions, as if counting the cars and tricycles that pass by. He wears a cap; hanging around his neck is a white towel I am certain bears the words “Good Morning.”  He is old, and this I say with deference.

I smile at him and say I would care for one the night. He opens the box, and hands me one warm fertilized duck egg. It isn’t warm, actually. It’s hot. I almost curse; instead I hold my tongue. I crack one end of the egg with my knuckle, not wanting to hit it against the pavement. He offers a plastic bottle of salt, and I take a pinch and sprinkle it on the cracked end of the egg. He asks if I’d care for some vinegar, I shake my head no.

As I tilt my head to drink the broth, I notice his indifference. Or is it exhaustion? As I peel off the shell of the egg, I can’t help but pay close attention to the man. Yes, it is more like observing. In the dimness of night, despite the incandescent lights of the posts nearby and the neon illuminations of the gas station’s signage, I can see his tired, if not weary, face. The lines on his forehead, the bags under his eyes. Certain features that cannot hide his age. He looks around and yawns, and I wonder what runs through his mind. I see weariness in his eyes, this I am sure of—it isn’t exhaustion.

I want to ask him questions after I devour the balot, but I think he isn’t the type to entertain questions. After all, we should only maintain our relations as buyer and vendor. He doesn’t care if I’m curious about him. He doesn’t care if I feel a tinge of pity for him. He doesn’t like it when people pity him. He’s trying to make a living for Christ’s sake. And it should be just that. Some people sell cars, he sells balot. That should be it. Period.

The wind gets a little chilly. I wipe my hands with my handkerchief, and check the time on my mobile. It’s twenty-seven past nine; the streets are starting to grow empty. A couple more hours and the streets will completely be empty, except for some speed maniacs who’ll drive around in their motorbikes like they have nine lives. A couple more hours and this man will be bored as shit; he may as well count the stars. A couple more hours and I’ll probably be tipsy somewhere with my friends or by my lonesome, if I'm unlucky. I wonder if he gets the chills.

I pay him twenty pesos, and as he fishes the change from his belt bag, I feel a tug in my chest. Does he have a family? Or is he living by himself? If he does live with his family, can’t someone else do this for him? He hands me a five-peso coin. I smile. He doesn’t return my smile, instead he looks at me with those weary eyes. Sad eyes. He looks at me for a second or so and then he looks away. He places his gaze on a distance. My throat dries. I turn my back.

I cross the other side of the street. He sits still, shifting his gaze everywhere. I feel the tug in my chest again. I look up at the sky. It’s a star-filled sky tonight. I avoid looking at his direction. I wait for a ride, and to my luck, I see a tricycle approaching.

I wave a hand briskly to call the driver’s attention. It stops right in front of me. I say my destination and the driver nods. I get in the tricycle, stealing one last look at the old man. His legs are crossed once again, and two men approach him. As my ride speeds off, I shake off the image of the old man away. I don’t need it. Tonight, while he sits on the pavement, I will sit on a chair or a bench somewhere. As he shifts his gaze from all directions, I will puff cigarette smoke into the air. As he sleeps waiting for a customer, I will drink bottles of beer. That should be it. There’s nothing I can do about it—no one can. Besides, does he even wonder why I’m drinking tonight? He doesn’t know if I am celebrating or I simply want to get wasted. He doesn’t care. And that should be it. Period.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cold Malfunction

Cold Malfunction

It has been two weeks since our fridge went kaput. The culprit was the intermittent power failure that fried some wiring, thereby rendering the compressor powerless. One can only imagine the anguish our family had to bear. We had our individual concerns (mom was worried about food getting stale and having to buy fresh items every other day, I was irritated that there wasn’t cold water to quench the thirst caused by the unbearable high temperature, my sister was disappointed at not having ice for when she wanted to indulge in some libation) that, on my part, ranted on me annoyingly every time I looked at the appliance that just stood on that same spot for three years now, minus the almost-inaudible hum it gave telling us it was still alive.

We had to use a makeshift storage for our food using a cooler that we had to put ice on every day. And it seemed the neighbourhood was in some sort of ice shortage, finding ice was next to finding a Grey’s Anatomy DVD at the mall. Two weeks seemed forever. We kept doing a follow-up at the service centre, in hope our misery would not last any longer.

Today, two men from the service centre came to our house bringing good news. Apparently, the compressor they had ordered finally arrived. To my disappointment though, the service personnel I was expecting was not one of the men who came. I was expecting to see that friendly face that had once been in my house to repair the same fridge with a different problem. See, we had been told that the same service personnel who fixed our fridge’s Freon problem last year, would be the ones to attend to our fridge this time.

Well, our fridge has been fixed. It’s alive again; I can hear that familiar hum it gives when I’d press my ear on its side. As a little celebration, we’re making desserts tonight.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Inked and Counted

inked and counted

I used to be politically apathetic. I did not care what happened to the government because I thought it had nothing to do with me, and that I had nothing to do with it. It could crumble down or rise for all I cared. I didn’t complain about the rampant political bullshit that was happening before me because I thought I was totally free from it. But that was then, when all I cared about was whether I met my 1-litre caffeine intake a day and making sure my shirts and jeans were pressed before I wore them.

Needless to say, I had a change of heart. Or mind, if you catch my drift. I realized that although I rarely watched Filipino movies and TV shows, and that I couldn’t name the Philippine presidents in chronological order if my life depended on it, I will always be a Filipino. And being a Filipino, I have a responsibility in being politically aware and involved.

Although I had been a registered voter for the past elections, I have not once exercised it. And having been a passive citizen of the country, I felt uncharacteristically embarrassed for not having done my duty in the past. So last year, I made a personal vow to take part in this year’s national elections—to be counted, to have a say in choosing the next leader to lead this country into development or downfall. And yes, on the 10th of May, I fulfilled my promise to myself, and my responsibility to my country.

The night before the election, I couldn’t sleep. Something in me kept ringing. It didn’t help that I had months and months of rumination before finally choosing my candidate. Nor did it help that I have had some debates of kind with cousins, friends, and relatives (most of which happened during drinking sessions) regarding choices for the most-coveted position of President of the Republic. Uneasiness invaded me as I tried to sleep on a bamboo bed outside our ancestral house, and as I tried to swat every mosquito that wanted a taste of my blood. What if my ballot got rejected by the PCOS machine? What if I had chosen the wrong candidates?

Monday morning came. I was excited and nervous at the same time. It was like driving a car out on a busy street by myself for the first time. Together with my family, I walked to the school with childlike eagerness. But what greeted me was a sight that I’ve always dreaded. There was a gaggle of equally eager voters littered at the gates of the voting precinct. The sun was beginning to scorch. After I found the room I was assigned in, I got it line.

The noise was deafening, literally. People who had been in queue even before the sun had finally risen to the sky were already complaining about the unsystematic flow of election. The line I was in was barely moving. Every inch of my body was sweating. And by every inch, I meant that I could feel sweat trickle down my nape, my chest, and my butt crack.

After an hour with the queue moving at snail’s pace, I called the attention of an election officer. I suggested that the other officers who were then just standing like tools outside the precinct be guided as to what they should be doing, and that the queue be free from flyblown creatures who try to get ahead of other people by getting into the middle of the line. The woman in her purple shirt didn’t fail me as the line finally moved smoothly and fast after she called the other officers for a quick meeting. I smiled and thanked her.

When my time came, I gleefully recited my number to the officer in-charge at the huge table beside the PCOS machine. After some verification, I was passed on to another officer who gave me the ballot covered with the secrecy folder. I immediately took an empty seat and started to cast my vote. It took me eight minutes, give or take, to accomplish the ballot. After which, I went to have the PCOS machine verify and count my vote. And after the machine registered my vote, I proceeded to sign some papers and had my finger marked with an indelible ink.

The second I got out of the room, I felt utterly delighted. My sister pointed out that I looked really happy. And I was. More than the feeling of relief from finally being out of that sauna-like room, I was pleased that I could officially say I took part in the 2010 elections. I know, tough, that having cast my vote is not the end of my responsibility. It was just the beginning, for a Filipino’s responsibility to his country doesn’t end in having the PCOS machine print “Congratulations! Your vote has been registered.” on its tiny screen.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cottage

cottage

I hear the pitter-patter of the rain on the roof of my small cottage. It is located, almost cinematically, in the middle of a vast area of land that’s almost isolated from the face of the earth. Or so I think. This piece of land that I inherited from my grandparents is the only real possession I have, along with the trees and other plants that grow on it, and of course, my small cottage. This place is my paradise. I don’t really believe in the idea of heaven, but well, I could say this is my heaven. I wake up each day to the chirping of the birds perched on the branches of an unknown tree that stands just beside my bedroom windows—almost cinematically again—and I tell myself not everyone is given the luxury of birds chirping for an alarm clock.

I had wanted to go out; I was all wrapped up in my thick grey sweater, cream white jogging pants, and a brown knitted bonnet. I was going for a run this morning. I was going to check if any stray animals had been unfortunate enough to fall into the tens of traps that I scattered across the area. I had always hoped of one day catching a wolf with its leg caught in one of the traps. But wolves? I knew I was dreaming. Wolves didn’t come to this place. Aside from my dog Greener, no other four-legged creature has ever stepped into this property of mine. Not once have I ever seen any other kind of animal visit this place. Just the birds, and they leave anyway when the sun starts to set.

I was ready to go out when the rain started to pour, gently at first. Then it started to gain force, and it poured heavily for a few moments before it went back to a drizzle. I waited for it to completely cease, but once again it gained force. The branches of the unknown tree swayed as wind blew quite hard, manoeuvring drops of water into the room through the small French windows that I keep opened day and night. So I closed the windows, and peered through one of its square portions. A fog had started to hover above the ground. The tiny grasses that served like carpet over the soil looked greener than they did when it wasn’t raining. The tree, as I scanned its bark, looked darker.

Greener barked, and I was caught off admiring the wet scenery outside. My gaze shifted from my furry pet to the bed. The white blanket moved, as if a tiny wave on the ocean. It moved again, this time the blanket rose up like huge waves about to wash the shore. Just as quickly as the blanket fluttered up and went down, a face greeted me with a smile. I smiled back. Yes, I don’t believe in the idea of heaven, but this must be how angels feel.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Discourse

Everyone, it seemed, had been drained of every iota of energy from the day’s doleful event that was my grandfather’s burial under the blistering heat of the sun. Add to that a week of sleeplessness and you get what gadgets call ‘empty battery’. And so, except for four male cousins and I, the rest of the household surrendered to their respective sleeping stations just a little after 8 o’clock. While the three boys stayed outside, rambunctiously playing cards, I and my other cousin Jefferson stayed in the living room. We were both buried deep into our mobiles;I was browsing through Facebook.

The night had just completely taken over, and I was brimming awake with restlessness—being a nocturnal creature. So while I tried to busy myself with Facebook, and all the while trying to satiate my growing hunger with instant noodles in a cup (immediately after I gulped down a cup of coffee, much to my Jefferson's amusement), I started asking him questions. It seemed oh-so trivial at first, as we tried to fill the ten-year gap of no communication; we exchanged questions and replies to update each other on what has happened in his life all these years.

It turned out he pursued his passion for art, finishing a degree in fine arts from one of the country’s reputable universities. I gathered he has held a few exhibits to showcase his paintings; has just resigned from his job as a graphic artist from a company that, based on his description, was abusive of its employees’ skills; and has three job interviews that he had rescheduled for the following week.

I suppose he found that I grew up to be a sociable person (back when we visited his place ten years ago, I kept to myself, and spoke only when spoken to) who drinks beer like water, and keeps himself busy by stuffing food into his mouth. Well, that’s partly true.

It was Facebook that turned our trivial conversation into a discussion. I had picked on Facebook for its gaming applications, most especially FarmVille. I later found out that we shared the same sentiment. We shared the similar views on certain things, even sharing similar vocabularies, although his was more instructional and mine was more colloquial. I found myself engrossed in our discussion. The following is a précis of our similar approximate on things, in my own words:

FarmVille farmvilleFarmVille, among other games Facebook has incorporated into its system ,was created solely for profit. It’s an anti-social medium in which people allegedly get rid of boredom. But in fact, it is an utter waste of time and energy.

OK, we get it: you’re bored, and you have copious time and money to use the Internet. But there are other (other being better and meaningful compared to playing FarmVille) things to do than park your ass on a chair, and click the mouse at an estimated 300 times per minute. Doing what exactly? Planting? Harvesting? Give me a fucking break.

Grab a book and read. Better yet, since you’re online, go to informative sites that actually teach you something. Inform yourself. Give your brain a workout. What’s there in FarmVille that makes use of your brain anyway? It’s a monotonous interaction between you and an application which might as well have been designed for mentally incapacitated individuals.

What’s alarming is that these people who play FarmVille, who can aptly be called ‘farmers’, spend so much time, energy, and (ultimately) money doing something that they absolutely cannot benefit from. I, for one, find it galling and downright hopeless that these farmers can also talk about their ‘farms’ relentlessly. Try having a conversation with someone whose mind has been side-tracked with Farmville, and see where it gets you. It’s as if they’ll actually die if they couldn’t plant or harvest in time. So they irk you by whining about it? That’s not fair. More importantly, that’s just dense.

Do these so-called farmers even know what their plants look like in the real farming world? Do they really think gloating about their “beautiful farm” makes them better people? It’s bad enough that they supposedly kill their boredom with such vapid game, they even pester those non-farming individuals by sending invites to join their cult, and flooding the wall with their FarmVille updates. Who cares if you’ve advanced levels? That doesn’t add to your intelligence quotient.

People who play FarmVille (regardless of the extent) have been found to have mental retardation, a survey I once read said. Now, if only I could remember the URL of that article.

PoliticspalacePhilippine politics is a filthy business. If that wasn’t bad enough, politicians find it vital to lie to our faces, making empty promises, and talking crap. They make us look like fools, but of course that only applies to those who buy the same political rubbish every time election comes. Yes, our political system is one—if not the—of the worst in the world. But let us not forget that it always takes two to tango. What we fail to realize is that we, the very people who elect our leaders, are also to blame for the continued existence of a debased government.

We elect the same kind of people to lead us. And we also fail to realize that our duty as citizens of this republic doesn’t end in casting our vote. It continues until it is again time to elect a new leader to power.

It is our political abandonment that breathes life into our scrawny government. What we do is complain. Complain without doing anything. We are too passive to even make ourselves aware of what is truly happening to our nation. We criticize those in power of not doing their job, and yet we don’t even do our part. We can’t even abide by the laws our constitution has laid out for us to follow.

Fulfilling our responsibility to our country doesn’t really require too much, and yet it seems too arduous for us to obey our laws. We can start by following simple laws. Like, how about waiting for the walk sign to glow before crossing the street? Or not throwing your rubbish anywhere and everywhere?

Education System
classroomOur education system doesn’t have the quality it claims to have. Unless, quality education means loading the curriculum with deliberate redundancy. Our schools spend too much time and attention on teaching students things that are rather worthless. Learners are taught the same things from elementary till high school (even till college). Why do class discussions have to tackle the same subject matter each time? Load the elementary students with History and Religious Education, that’s acceptable. But to have it in high school again?

There should be a curriculum that would enhance students where they’re good at. There should also be an assessment process of some sort to identify what field a student would excel in, so in college he doesn’t have to squeeze his guts out taking a course he doesn’t even like.

Our education focuses excessively on academic excellence, thereby putting the practical side of teaching behind. So a student knows how to solve every Mathematical equation you throw at him, can that actually be of use to him if he decides to be social worker?

The institutions claim of holistic building, when in fact it’s not. A lot of academically exceptional people don’t even do well in their lives, because they’ve been moulded to go through life as if it were a frog to be dissected. They know theories, but do they actually know application?

One of the reasons for the increasing rate of unemployment is the mismatched careers of the graduates and their field of proficiency. And the very education system that’s supposed to shape us into triumphant individuals in our chosen fields has failed to equip us with the real tools we need to succeed.

We are given knowledge, when it’s wisdom that would fuel us to real success. And it’s the same system that brought us into thinking that money, fame, and title tantamount to success. Like our government, our education system is corrupt.

Love
loveLove is not as black-and-white as it is painted. Love doesn’t conquer all. It’s not always a fairy-tale, and it doesn’t always end in bliss. Carbon based as we are, we were made to believe that “all we need is love”.

Just because you’ve been in a relationship for so many years, doesn’t mean it’s going to culminate in a wedding. And when it does culminate in a wedding, it doesn’t mean it’s going to last until you breathe your last breath.

Love has its own perverse way of pairing two individuals. It is oftentimes a cliché. You must use your mind, too, when you love, but you must not use it too critically.

PeoplepeopleThe easiest way isn’t always the right way. Sometimes a person must go against the flow to do the right thing. Standing up for what you believe is right will not gain everyone’s praise.

Just because you’re doing it differently doesn’t mean you’re defiant.

Older people don’t always know what’s right. Wisdom is not dependent on age. Older people can not only teach the younger ones, they can also learn from them.

Stereotyping is inevitable.

Some people have too shallow a mind that it’s futile to even explain your side of things to them. What they don’t get is that just because you’re trying to express your opinion doesn’t mean you want to change theirs. Indeed, with these kind of people, it is better to shut up.

Being intelligent and full of ideas doesn’t entitle you to a brainstorming session. More than intelligence and creativity, brainstorming demands that a person is audacious. For in brainstorming, you will turn every angle upside-down, criticize every bit of information, and share all the juice you could squeeze out of your brain even if it meant offending other people and defying what society has deemed acceptable.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Over Coffee and Doughnuts

over coffee and donuts

Walking around the city one afternoon from work, I decided to have a cup of coffee and a few doughnuts. As I was waiting for my order—in between casting glances at an appealing customer sitting by his lonesome on a corner, and pretending to admire the array of colourful doughnuts behind the counter—I remembered copying some questions from a magazine that I read at work. I had thought of answering them because they struck impressive and intellectual—a breather from the common and, most of the time, nonsensical questions people often ask.

As soon as I got my order, I chose a table next to the glass-panel windows. From that spot, I could see the busy streets—the vehicles, pedestrians, and some birds. Like I always did when I felt like interrogating myself, I stared for a moment into nothingness. After a doughnut, a half-full paper cup of coffee, and a plethora of irrelevant thoughts that polluted my consciousness, I was able to start; I took out my green notebook and read.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Apathy. It has to go away, or at least be lessened. I think it’s the one thing that divides us. There’s just too much going on around us, and it’s sickening how, most of the time, we choose to not do anything.

What do you believe in?
I believe in many things. But right now, what I believe in the most is revenge; in not waiting for ‘divine intervention’, for karma, to take its course. It’s a harsh world, and sometimes you have to strike back because if you wait, if you play the willing victim, then you’re only feeding the cycle of injustice. Does that make sense?

Ten years from now, you will be?
I will be where I’m supposed to be. It’s hard to be quite specific about the future, it ruins everything. What I know now is that, it’s not certain where I’m headed in the future. What’s certain is that, I will not allow things to happen if they’re not supposed to happen, if I don’t want them to happen. In ten years, I will be the person I’m working on becoming.

What have you done to make the world a better place?
I’m very concerned about pollution, so I don’t throw my trash anywhere. Cigarette butts, candy wrappers, plastic bottles- when I can’t find a trash bin, I put it in my bag or in my pocket and wait till I get home before disposing. As much as possible, I try to support brands that support environmental causes.

When I read articles about helping save the environment, I share it to people I know, especially those whom I’m certain aren’t the slightest bit aware of what’s happening to our planet.

I took part in Earth Hour.

I have EcoGuru and Green Charging applications on my phone. EcoGuru is an application that assesses how one’s lifestyle affects the environment. And Green Charging is an application that helps save power and therefore helps control global warming by monitoring the time one charges his phone. When the battery is full, it notifies the owner by emitting a sound.

Is your life now everything you ever wanted?
Haven’t you heard? No one ever gets everything he wants.

How do you deal with pressure?
I stall. I think. Then I face it. Sometimes I face it head-on, but that doesn’t usually work out for me. So most of the time, yeah, it’s stall, think, and face.

What was the best advice you were ever given?
You mean one? There’s a list of best advices I’ve received in my life, but one that comes to mind now is, “ You must learn to control your anger because if you let it get the better of you, you might regret it,” which was given to me by my dad. He used to have a volcanic temper, but he was able to have it under control. I don't know if he paid a shrink to help him do that. I guess he noticed how easily I go on a rampage when I lose my temper.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The X-File

x-file
It is not something I like to talk about- even to friends. And certainly, it is not a smart choice for a topic when you want to converse with someone you’ve just met. Sure it’s interesting, but if he can’t relate to it—which is the case most of the time— you’ll be thought of as a loony.


I see dead people.

Well, nah, not really. I just said that to get the feel of having said such infamous (do I hear weird?) line from Sixth Sense. Anyway, I do see entities from a different plane. An alternate universe, if you must. In the vernacular, it’s aptly called dili ingon nato or engkanto. And how, you ask, do I know they’re not actually dead people unable to pass through that famous blinding white light? I just know. It’s a gut feeling, I should say. And well, by now, thanks to movies and books, I should already know how ghosts and engkantos differ in appearance.

Some people I know are amazed and shocked about it, while some dismiss it as mere figment of my rather restless and peculiar imagination. I, for one, cannot understand it sometimes. Not that I ever tried. See, I’m the kind of person who believes in ‘What you don’t know can’t hurt you’—well, most of the time.

They say each one of us has the gift of ESP (it’s extrasensory perception, just in case you’re on the wrong page). And that it is only up to us how we can open it. In most cases, it is triggered by trauma or tremendous stress. Well, I never asked for anyone to open it. And as far as I know, I didn’t smack my head too hard on any surface whatsoever to experience trauma. The stress? Well, I don’t know, but I’m positive I have it under control.

I have no first-hand accounts of the early manifestations of my seeing ‘other entities’ as I was still too young then. According to my grandmother, when I was about three or four years old, I started talking about a lady who was carrying a girl, hiding behind some banana plant. Or is it banana tree? Oh, you get the point.

According to the quack doctors my grandparents consulted, the huge mango tree in our backyard was home to a family of, well, engkantos. And that girl the lady was carrying was of my age. And that the mother apparently wanted me to be her daughter’s playmate. I still find it creepy until now.

So what happened after that? Of course, ‘they’ were unable to get me because of some ritual the quack doctors did. And well, I spent good 15 or so years not seeing unworldly entities. All I can remember is that back in high school, I could always sense unseen beings around the house. I could sometimes feel a pair of eyes watching me from a corner. I could easily sense if a house had inhabitants other than the humans occupying it. But then again, we all get that feeling, don’t we? We all ‘claim’ to sense something in a house or a place.

It wasn’t until we moved into our current house that I started seeing things again. Now, this may refute what I previously said about not actually seeing dead people, but the first unworldly being I saw after so many years was a white lady. Or was she just wearing white? And besides, engkantos are known to wear white clothes too, right? Anyway, it was around three in the morning, while I was finishing the last set of the chiffon cakes I was baking. You can argue that it could have been just borne out of fatigue or sleepiness, but I have to say it was that incident that opened my eyes (again) to the others around us.

Since then, I’ve been seeing this tall guy who always appeared in silhouette, among other figures. As it turned out, other members of the household have always been made aware of their presence, although most of the time they couldn’t see them. Frequent sighting of this tall silhouette guy prompted me to give a name. What—I couldn’t just refer to him as the “taas nga laki, dako, murag foreigner ang built” every time I told my family about the supernatural visits. I named him James, for no apparent reason. Another female being of frequent appearance in our house, passing by the hallway from my bedroom to the comfort room, was named Samantha, for no apparent reason again.

All my ‘sightings’ have been confirmed when we held a party, and a friend of my sister saw the exact being that is James. She had no prior information that ‘others’ were living in our house. Her description was the same as mine. It was confirmed, I wasn’t hallucinating, and to my mom’s relief, I wasn’t on drugs.

A neighbour's maid came by the house a few months after that (and again she had no prior knowledge whatsoever about the supernatural things in our house) and asked if we’ve been experiencing some unusual things. When asked why, she straightforwardly said that other entities were living in our house, and it was a family- a husband, a wife, and a kid.

The rest of the household was shaken, although temporarily, but I wasn't. I don’t know, maybe because I was used to it. It didn’t really bother me (still doesn’t) that we are sharing a house with beings from another place. For many years, we’ve lived in harmony with these beings. They sometimes make their presence known via visual manifestations—hey, even neighbours comment about seeing ‘people’ in our house. Strangers in motors or tricycles sometimes slow down and look at the house in a perplexed kind of way. One time, our house help heard a stranger commented, “Kagwapa sa baye ui,” while looking at a certain place on the lawn. And no one else was there.

There are also shape shifters in our house, unless of course James and Samantha, and their kid, could actually shape shift- in which case, I wouldn’t be surprised at all. They sometimes copy someone’s appearance and voice. Once, I waited minutes after minutes to pee because I saw my cousin enter the comfort room, only to find out that he was outside doing the laundry.

Recently, the manifestations sort of had an upgrade. The TV suddenly turns on or off. Doors and cabinets close (and no, there isn’t a gust of wind), the faucet opens. A five-gallon mineral water is mysteriously emptied halfway hours after it has been refilled (and no, we can’t drink that much water in a matter of hours).

Should one think all of this is an excuse to write a post or that I am really insane and hallucinating—I dare you to come to our house. Who knows, James or Samantha, or someone else might appear before you and even offer you coffee in my behalf.

Missing

missing

So this is how it feels. A drill making its way into your core, boring through flesh of memories and familiar emotions. You wince at the pain; you ebb into nothingness as if it were sanctuary. You feel every muscle tighten at the thought of days gone past. Like history shaping the foundation of the present, and memories molding emotions.

You stare blankly into nowhere; feeling parts of you chip away with every second of silence. And that security you once held, it’s gone now. You wonder if it’s ever going to come back; if that smile on your face would ever be complete again.

Maybe you should start gathering the pieces. But gluing them together won’t patch the hole in your heart. It’s useless to even consider it. You know the only glue that could hold those pieces back again. But it seems too late now. They say it’s never too late, but why do you feel like a crust of your earth has fallen off the universe, and the ground you’re standing on is as unsteady as the beating of your heart. So this is how it feels to miss someone. This is how it feels to lose someone so dear to you.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Decay

decay 2

Now, this may sound uncharacteristic of me—being that I am often perceived as a frivolous creature—but I really think my generation is headed on a downward spiral of moral dissolution. No, I don’t think everyone in my age group is superficial, shallow, or desultory (and yes, those three words do have similar meaning, but they define the same subject differently), but most of today’s twenty-somethings are too concerned—or rather gripped—with money, sex, and other superficial things.

These days, success is defined solely by the salary one earns; the brand of clothes one wears; the car one drives; the number of seemingly important people he’s affiliated with.

Happiness is dependent on how many orgasms one has attained in a single night; the number of Cuervo and Red Horse bottles that pollute the table and our otherwise sober minds.

Self-esteem is represented by how one is able to move from one relationship—lust-driven at that—to another in a matter of days.

Today, respect is not given because one has earned it, but because one is merely a prominent figure in society, and one has a title before or after his name.

Beauty is beauty only when one is a photogenic cam-whore whose facial features resemble those models you see on TV. Handsome means having a six-pack, leaning-on worthy biceps, and great hair. Beautiful means having a svelte figure with a 36C bra size and a Jennifer Lopez ass to boot.

A person is no longer someone who needs to be known, but someone who must be appraised. When one has passed pop-society’s qualifications, one is beautiful. Otherwise, one is dismissed as someone who belongs to the lower end of the gene pool, and therefore is not worthy of knowing. Talk about giving ‘face value’ a new meaning.

Maybe it’s not our fault after all. Maybe we are indeed products of our media-influenced environment. The same media that etched in our minds the idea that good always triumphs over evil, and that after the storm, there is always a rainbow.

Yes, I belong to the same generation. And yes, I still dream of one day becoming a filthy rich son-of-a-bitch (regardless of my intentions). But excuse me, I don’t believe in the rainbow after every storm. Believing in such is a major bullock, and is therefore likened to believing in fairy tales. And well, I don’t believe in fairy tales. Fairy tales, in my opinion, only delude us.

For me, success is not measured by how fat one’s bank account is. It is not measured by how many cars one drives. I agree to the almost unheard-of saying that “Success is found is smaller packages than most people realize.” Happiness must not be dependent on worldly things, but on the simpler things in life. Self-esteem should be evident on how one stands by his principles. Respect is given to someone who actually deserves it. Beauty is the totality of a person- inside and out.

I am not losing hope, though. I still believe we can fight this faulty mentality. And I’m not even saying we should rid ourselves of all worldly possessions. Am just saying let’s not be consumed by too much superficiality. We must not forget the more important things in life- things that truly matter. After all, when we reach the end of the line, none of those trivial things will matter.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Programmable

programmable

Half-awake—and needless to say, half-dreaming—you sense the dawning of a new day. Another day. You open your eyes unhurriedly, despite the exhaustion that you know would be appeased by a few more minutes in bed, as you reach for your mobile to check for received and missed calls during slumber. The fallen angel carrying a naked man in his arms is the first sight to greet your bloodshot eyes, being your mobile’s wallpaper.

3 new messages: Forwarded. Rhetorical. Bullshit.

1 missed call. You wonder what the caller wanted, trying to call you up past midnight. You had set your phone to ignore calls on wee hours from unimportant contacts, and so you can’t give a fig about it now.

You grab your phone and your portable mp3 player, and scurry out of bed. As you head to the living room to turn on the audio equipment, a housemate greets you “good morning,” as she walks behind. You ignore her and her feeble attempt at mollifying you for her complete defiance of your authority in the house the other day. You’re not that easy. But more importantly, you ignore her because you are not a morning person. You hate morning greetings. But only when it comes from the people you’re living with.

Your favourite artist, your life teacher, addresses you about expectations—facing them, meeting them, defying them, and eventually leaving them—after you have turned on the DVD player. You head to the kitchen and fix yourself a cup of coffee, your first for the day. In the dining area, you take your seat at the table, yawning. It has already been set. Just a little rice, you remind yourself, so you make up for it with mouthfuls of ham, and a hard-boiled egg. You hate your tummy that seems to have a life of its own, growing ever oh-so colossal compared to the one you had just a year ago. You eat, but as soon as fifteen minutes has passed, you stop eating and gulp up what’s left of your coffee. You hit the shower, and after yet another fifteen minutes, after all the scrubbing, lathering, face massages (and yes, singing), you’re done.

Back in your room, with cabinets and drawers open, you choose your clothes randomly yet fiercely. Minutes later, you face the mirror. You stare at the face you’ve known for years. You don’t exactly look like a poster boy for that brand you like, but you look at your reflection and you are reminded of the many admiration and indecent proposals you’ve had over the years. You smile. You smile at the narcissistic thoughts that add to your confidence.

In the car, you scoff at your driver’s stupid remarks. You watch the streets as you are driven to your workplace, rock songs through the speakers. The cars, the trees, the houses, the pedestrians. The sky, the clouds, the birds. You feel a sense of belongingness in the world, and you smile again.

In the workplace, your voice echoes in every corner. Your mind races with thoughts as you try to drive some language instructions into someone whose only worry is if his hometown would ever escape the shadow of its neighbouring city, and eventually be worthy of worldwide attention. You have been saying the same things for the past three years. You have been repeating the same discussions that sometimes it chokes you like verbal diarrhoea. But you find amusement in the thoughts that occupy your consciousness. You’re doing fine, you tell yourself. And maybe you are.

At the end of the day, you go home, and drop the weight of your body on the bed. You close your eyes for a few minutes, as if the day’s fatigue would be magically lifted off your body. You get up, and indulge yourself half an hour of channel surfing, and another half an hour of checking your account on the seemingly ad-driven networking site.

Dinnertime. And unlike breakfast, when you have the whole table to yourself, you eat with the rest of the household. You listen to their daily ranting about politics, neighbourhood gossip, rhetorical questions, laughter at seemingly nonsensical yet really funny stories. Another sense of belongingness engulfs you; you pitch your rather sarcastic comments, your thoughts on global warming, your political views. You leave the table and claim your usual spot in the living room, in front of the television. After an hour of watching the leisure channel, you take a bath and contemplate on the day’s this-and-that.

After praying the rosary, you once again claim your throne in the living room, clutching the huge remote control-cum-drum stick that you sometimes pound on your palm. After yet another channel surfing indulgence, you leave your throne and head to your room to harass your cousin about playing that infamous java-based game too much. You wait after he logs out of the system, then you crank up the volume of the speakers. You hop from one random website to another, bookmarking the ones that you think might be of some use in the future. You check your networking account to see if any of your friends are online. Offline. And so you, too, decide to log out.

You head back to the living room and harass, once again, your cousin and rest of the household. You reclaim your throne in glee. You fix yourself your second cup of coffee, then your third, your fourth, in between commercial breaks. After an hour or so watching television, you raid the fridge and munch on some cookies and bread. Now that you’ve had your fill of the boob tube and your stomach has been rewarded with pre-midnight snack, you brush your teeth, wash your face, and go to bed. Before you close your eyes, you set your phone again to ignore calls from unimportant contacts. You stick the earphones in your ears and press play on the portable mp3 player. You set the mp3 player to automatically shut off after half an hour of playing. And like the mp3 player, your consciousness surrenders to an alternate universe after half an hour. You twist and turn, your eyes shake, you let out a light snore as sleep completely takes over.

Yes, tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jeans and Chocolates

jeans and chocolates

 

in the dark, browsing through pictures
friends and strangers
jeans and chocolates
and the smile on my face divides the room
from the light and the cold
and am not sure if you can see between
because you've always been scraping on the surface
and this relief tucked under my lips
hopes to live until it's time to hit bottom
and what good are dreams when
there's only faces i can't touch and have not before seen
i feel love i feel anger
and in my paper i can run miles from you
and i can swim into you
and it does not matter if you
can pick the thorns from the roses