May 23, 2017 § 2 Comments
It was the eighth day in a row that I turned to my side to the aroma of freshly roasted coffee. The slick from my sweat made being in bed with the persistent heat unbearable, but surprisingly the warm scent soothed me. Someone several floors down must have finally pursued an old flame, that burning passion. The blinds right beside my bed afforded me shadows to the lives below – mostly through the sounds I heard and the redolence I smelled. Strange voices, strange noises, charcoal burning, and curries stewing. Animated conversations in foreign tongues would sometimes keep me up at night, usually annoying but not as much as that rogue mosquito intent on whispering his tiny tales directly to my ear. Like most people where I came from, I had lived in a house most of my life. With my room always on the second floor, the view from the window carried different memories as I grew up. When I was six, one evening in Sampaloc, I looked out and felt the overwhelming distance that separated me from my parents. The black car that they were in was leaving. When I was 12, I looked out to the life in the streets of Pio del Pilar that I was not allowed to participate in: barefoot kids running, shouting profanities and giddy laughter, as vehicles skillfully navigated bike tracks and balls. Not that I wanted to. When I was 16, I pulled down all my curtains nightly to escape the view of the large mango tree that stood guard right in front of me. I always saw it as ominous, though not once did it bring me any particular trouble. Every morning, I’d wake up to my curtains neatly bundled and my windows wide open, enough to give me a chill. “The breeze is wonderful”, my dad would repeatedly keep on exclaiming. Only on bright weekend mornings would I look out through my windows. We left before the sun rose on Mondays, as we lived in the suburbs of Dasmarinas only during the weekend. The rest, we spent in Makati. Now at 28, I look out from the tenth floor into the sight of concrete buildings. Lighted windows in random patterns block the skyline, yet they magnetize my eyes to a strange sight that hold conflicting feelings. They remind me of how far I’ve come, but also of how far I’ve gone. It’s strange that I’ve been recently having these spells of suddenly realizing my reality. As if I usually wasn’t living in it, something not impossible. I’d be walking down the street clutching my groceries, or sometimes in the middle of transferring fluid between two flasks in the laboratory. And it would hit me like the first splash of a numbing cold shower. Simple as three-worded sentences. “Inay is gone.” “I’m in Singapore.” “I’m turning 30.” Undeniable facts, common knowledge, disclosed to most if not to everyone, yet they somehow still surprise me. A brief rinse of clarity from the everyday drudgery. But it doesn’t happen when I look out the window. In that gaze, they come in run-on sentences, lacking punctuation and still, a conclusion.
May 16, 2017 § 3 Comments
What details are left out when we remember? Doesn’t omission hold the hand of inclusion? The silver lining in the clouds that day remains vivid, but the way you smiled has been forgotten. Like a faded old receipt blurred out from friction and time, all the details once printed neatly but will never be made out. Emotions wield power over our memories. Just as anger doesn’t allow you to forget the shrug of her shoulders as she brushed away your question. Or just as nostalgia makes you forget how you hated most of your mother’s Christmas day presents. Instead, it paves the way for memories with her of rolling with the waves on fine black sand in a waning sunset. You choose what you remember. You willingly forget. The details in between get carried along, lost when you’re searching and present at the most inappropriate moments. Sometimes, it isn’t simply a burial of a hodgepodge of folded letters. Sometimes, you handpick a select few to keep you going. The rest, you tear into smithereens and set ablaze in the glorious sun.
May 15, 2017 § Leave a comment
There was a time I lived for instant cup noodles. My parents initially refrained from buying them and I would only get to eat them on airplanes. So among my favorite childhood memories were all the long haul flights I took with my mom. I have this one lucid memory where the cabin lights were already dimmed and I was wrapped up in the airline blanket. I told her I was still hungry even if we had just eaten the served dinner. She rang the button for the attendant, and moments later the beautiful lady set down in front of me a cup of hot noodles. I loved eating the corn kernels in those instant cup noodles then. Apart from that treat, I always looked forward to the activity kit airlines give to children to keep them preoccupied. That aside from peering through the window the entire duration of the flight. I was careful of everything inside those kits, making sure my brother didn’t accidentally pack into his kit one of the contents from mine during those times that we were already flying together. I didn’t hand those to my mom for safekeeping unlike the other things that I didn’t care keeping. I stashed them in my own bag and worked on them even when we were at our destination already. I also remember how during those flights, my mom would at one point ask me if I wanted to sleep on her lap. And I always did say yes, until the time my height didn’t allow any comfortable position to be found. At that point, I leaned on her shoulder instead. And eventually, I didn’t dare lean on her fragile frame anymore, settling with just clutching her hand.
I thought about these memories on the flight back home, while looking on a mother with her child seated on her lap. I was initially seated beside them but as the flight was barely full, I decided to move into another seat when they were served food. I no longer like ordering food on the plane because of how the smell seems to cling on my clothes. And that was the same reason I moved into the opposite row when I discovered she had ordered her own. She naively thought I moved to allow her to set down her child as she ate dinner and thanked me after. I suppose she had hoped I would move after all. When I was granted the pass to take whatever I wanted in the grocery, my brother and I did at some point always take in cup noodles for our study nights. Nowadays, I don’t look forward to corn being mixed in my noodles, and in fact it’s been ages since I ate an instant one. I now buy seats not by the window but right beside the aisle. I think about the ease of evacuating during an emergency and the convenience when I need to go to the loo. Though I still occasionally steal glances of the window as the view still has the ability to mesmerize me. I don’t remember personally throwing away those activity kits from the plane, but I guess I did at some point. Save for letters and some objects worth keeping, it’s easy for me to dispose of unnecessary things now. That clinical disposal has even crept into my once stubborn sentimentality.
And as for the lap that will never be beside me, my best chance would now be an empty seat behind as I freely recline mine and rest my head in the groove in between.
Things have changed. But never the memories worth keeping. Happy mother’s day to you in heaven, Inay.
May 7, 2017 § Leave a comment
April 6, 2017 § Leave a comment
One rolls down my cheek.
I didn’t make an effort to stop the others from following. The tears somehow quenched my soul, though it was never enough and I wanted them to keep on going. My heart was pillaged by the vultures of fate, but I didn’t want to forget. I wanted to remember the pain because it was a consequence of a happiness worth keeping. Unlike how I dealt with the others in the past, this time I was willing to walk with it. Like an old shirt I’d never bother changing out from. Like a scar from a battle that left an impression. Like that extra ear pierce I’ve always been planning. If someone finds me along the way, in that unlikely event, then I can only hope they’ll be able to accept the decrepit state I will be in. For underneath will always be the hope that I run into the same oasis. Not a kind Samaritan.
March 26, 2017 § Leave a comment
I was looking for something today.
Last night I finished a late night 10km run and in spite of that I still went to the gym this morning. I thought it was the expended calories, but it struck me that beyond an expected higher than usual appetite, I was satiated and yet the feeling lingered. I tried to look for it at Netflix, thinking it was entertainment. I found myself crying in some random father-and-son scene but I somehow knew the tears were not falling for the movie. In fact I was just intermittently paying attention to it, shifting between reading random articles I plucked from the usual harvest grounds. I went to Swati’s room for awhile, perhaps I just needed some company. It was good, but we both knew we both had work to do. Aside from that, Sunday is the worse day to hang out because of the weighted feeling of Monday. We talked a bit, yet still the vacuum gnawed at me. I finally decided to take a walk, and ended up calling my dad midway. The conversation helped, it’s true home is one of the things I miss, and him. I missed my mom too. We talked for a good hour, and I decided to go back to the dorm instead of walking further as I had originally planned. I doubted I’d find it anyway even if I exceeded last night’s running distance. When I got off the lift to our floor, I walked towards the balcony. I swallowed my pride and admitted that I was feeling thoroughly lonely. I could not understand for who it was that my soul was yearning. I held back the tears as I made my way to my room. It’s probably just PhD. I am sure in a couple of months, the travails of doing a doctorate will be something I just look back to.
But the truth is, I’m not sure if this consuming sensation will ever leave me.
February 26, 2017 § Leave a comment
As always, this woman always comes up with the craziest ideas – and I love her for it. We bought a voucher for 2 rolls down in a zorb ball, but ended up passing off the 2nd roll (I had motion sickness quickly). I thought it would feel like an easy and fun roll down the low incline, but I was wrong. At least now we know how it feels like to be rolling down a hill while trapped in a barrel. Some peculiar questions can be answered after all.
February 5, 2017 § Leave a comment
“The nun Wu Jincang asked the Sixth Patriarch Huineng, “I have studied the Mahaparinirvana sutra for many years, yet there are many areas I do not quite understand. Please enlighten me.”
The patriarch responded, “I am illiterate. Please read out the characters to me and perhaps I will be able to explain the meaning.”
Said the nun, “You cannot even recognize the characters. How are you able then to understand the meaning?”
“Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon’s location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger, right?””
January 18, 2017 § 2 Comments
There is a sight I love seeing. In school, inside the engineering building. In the afternoons, around half past 3. Along the corridors or around the benches, I see them preparing to leave. Decked in their pressed shirts and blouses, with fine patterned prints. With their bags and gold watches, looking like they’re going to see no less than the mister or the missus. Perfumed subtly and styled in pomade, they wait for each other at that certain hour. The familiar faces of the uncles and the aunties who take care of the dust, litter and green patches. It’s a sight that puts a smile because I also see the hard work they put in the mornings – dressed with the same uniform and going about their cleaning. Without much of a chatter, but maybe a tune or some lyrics. Even a nod or greeting from their well-aged faces can easily change the mood of my musings. To some, it may be a sad reality that someone’s grandparent is still working. But to them, it may be everything, knowing that they’re still contributing to something.
They gather their belongings and hail the next bus that will bring them. Til the next morning.
A tribute to the elderly people who keep this city-state clean.
January 3, 2017 § Leave a comment
There was a time that I wrote letters.
The thoughts seemed to flow out willingly then. I was generous in words but never superfluous. I committed myself to a thought before I wrote it down. I never fawned, but neither was I curt. I was definitely verbose, yet how could I not be? I didn’t want to regret not being able to say what should have been said. And to me at that point in time, most things should be.
Then I grew up, faced the impermanence of relationships, and witnessed reality like they never used to write of. Or perhaps I just had never read of before. Suddenly, some things didn’t seem to matter. I love you at this moment, but I’m aware of the possibility that I might not on the next. Should you still know how I feel right now? I wasn’t sure anymore. I was hurt by disappointments and let down by people I loved. People I wrote to. And eventually, they just became people I would have written to. Would it matter to them if I bothered? Does it matter to me? One day, I just started taking the easy route of answering “no”.
Other things occupied my time as well. I could rarely afford the clarity that helped me reach my thoughts in the past. One could argue that I made less effort to have that. I start paragraphs, and end them in drafts. Or the trash.
I have also reached greater depths in my ruminations about life, humanity, love and spirituality. Some are too uncomfortable to be written and the idealist in me tries to shut them down. At least not write it down. It affects my ability to write, as I disdain the idea of me writing fodder.
But time and again, I am gripped by the desire to write to people who profoundly, or even just gently, affect my life. Not just because I need to tell them, but because I’ve always believed that some people actually need them. I’ve always fancied being an instrument to a person’s realization about themselves. To help them see the goodness that they’re not aware of. Not all letters are easy to write though. Some fill you up, but some drain your soul. I guess it’s writing enough happy ones to have enough heart to write the hard ones.
This year will be a time I write letters.