Monday, August 27, 2012

So you think you can love me and leave me to die

"So free we seem, so fettered fast we are." Self portrait. Puerto Galera, Summer of 2012

In the middle of the battle of political words, artsy collects, sugar-coated rants, spite and nonsensical stuff flooding my Facebook timeline, I found a gem of words that made me contemplate real hard and I thought it is genuinely worth sharing. So allow me to share it although I will paraphrase. And yes, the idea is entirely not mine and this is not in any way an attempt to plagiarize:

Once there was a well-known speaker who started his talk by holding up a $20.00 bill and asked “who would like this $20 bill?” Hands started going up. He then said, “I’m going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this.” And he proceeded to crumple up the bill and spoke once more. “Who still wants it?” Still, hands were up in the air. The speaker then replied, “what if I do this?” And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. “Now who still wants it?”  Still, hands went into the air. “My friends,” the speaker said. “We learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We may feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless.

The past days have been quiet agony for me. I was suffering from depression attacks in the least conducive timing of all. Although to be honest, I think there could never be a fitting time to feel severe depression, but everything that happened the past three to four days required me to be in my sanest form. And yet I wasn’t.

I wish I could explain how and why. But I could only apologize to people who became wary, insulted maybe, or I hope, misunderstood, my behavior.

Depression could be anything. One triggering factor and it would come down rushing like an avalanche. One of the creeping thought during this time is the feeling of worthlessness. It is an effect of recollections of dejections, mostly failures that came like ghouls tearing your flesh for supper.

I’m glad to say I’m better now. And what perfect timing for I will be celebrating my second year of feat against death this September 8. Two years ago, I almost died of dengue fever. But after days of terrible hospitalization, exactly the day of the Holy Mother’s birthday, I was miraculously saved.

Often times I would forget this. Often times I would feel my life is so insignificant especially for those who rejected me countless times. But then, days of reckoning would also pop out of nowhere like my depression and I would feel well and realize it did not and will not matter if my heart is broken into million pieces, or I’m beaten up and would fall on my knees like always. That for as long as I have my hands to extend for others, I will be just fine and there I’ll have my worth.

I remember this poem I’ve written almost two years ago and for some of you who have remained with me, it would sound very familiar. It goes like this:

I survived the war but I did not win the battle
The guns no longer in anger, the canons now tamed
The air is silent, the deceased scattered
Look! A mighty soul standing.
He is not alone.

I’ve been to many battles since the day I wrote this and often times I found myself on the losing side. Curiously, the former Great Soltero replied to this post back in 2010 and asked, “isn’t surviving winning in itself already?” Indeed, he was right. And to add to that, I learned that it doesn’t matter losing or winning, what matters is how you fought your battles and how willing you are to take the next leap onto the next ones. 

To freedom! 

So you think you can stop me and spit in my eye from Freddie Mercury's Bohemian Rhapsody 

Désolé Boy | Year 1, Seq 1
Désolé Boy - Indeed | Year 1, Seq 2
Désolé Boy - Nothing really matters | Year 1, Seq 3
Désolé Boy - Anywhere the wind blows | Year 2, Seq 4
Désolé Boy - We beheld the stars once again | Year 2, Seq 5
Désolé Boy - No escape from reality | Year 2, Seq 6
Désolé Boy - I just gotta get out of this prison cell | Year 3, Seq 7
Désolé Boy - So you think you can stop me and spit in my eye | Year 3, Seq 8

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

When a renegade prays

Dance like no one is watching you. Love like you've never been hurt before. Self portrait. circa 2011

Recently, I was asked by a very close friend if I’m praying for “the one” to finally “step forward” and finally “enter my life.” By the slight twitch in his mouth, I understand immediately we are to talk about my seemingly endless singlehood. Yet again. Of course, he was asking if I’m pleading to the heavens above for a partner to come. In all honesty, I answered a plain no.

Edward, my friend, said that maybe I should start praying for it. Sensing a topic to argue about, I retaliated and said I don’t think it’s a proper thing to ask God. I mean, how would a gay man like myself pray for a boyfriend to come, right? I added that whenever I pray, it is mostly that I try listen to God than me dictating what I want. Edward then said what I’m doing is not entirely wrong.

“My rabii told me that God, as our Father, wants to hear us telling Him the things we want despite knowing them already,” he said. “He wants you to open up to Him. And asking for that person who will make you happy, to be honest, is something you shouldn’t be ashamed off to ask from God.”

I smiled. It was almost the same thing my favorite priest, Fr. Nick, said in one of his sermons at the Cathedral. “Talk to Him,” he said. “Talk to Him the same way you would talk to your friends about the greatest desires of your heart. Your ambitions, the things that bother you, your pains, He wants to hear them straight from you. You are His child.”

In one of Kuya Joms’ blog entries before he left the “single men’s club,” he recounted how he would light a candle in a church, praying for that unknown special person that lies in the same unknown future. Praying not only for him to finally arrive, but for his safety and well-being. And then one day, JC arrives at his door.

Years ago, I thought my JC finally arrived. He left though for he couldn’t love me the way I wanted him. He went and chose the handsome Viscounts leaving a heavily scarred Phantom as myself. As I make my way then in the altar of Quiapo Church, dragging my knees in the cold granite aisle, I swore an oath to God that I will never ever ask for a JC anymore.

I am a renegade of love. Not that I don’t believe in it. I just left its battlefield. It’s a fight where I lost too many a times. And why not? It’s the noble thing to do for the defeated. After all, the winner takes it all, yes?

But even for the most wounded ones, sometimes, at times when you least expect it, hope would come knocking down your walls. Sometimes you get very lonely and would realize how tragically, no one stood up for you. That nobody fought for you, or at the very least, realize your best intentions. When lovers parade in front of you, you smile because you feel their happiness. But then you bleed inside. Because by then, you feel your loneliness. Sometimes you get very lonely. This is one of those.

I don’t want to pray for it. But not because I’m ashamed of God, or that I don’t know how to tell Him my desires, or tell Him “Lord malungkot na ‘ko at pagod na rin ako.”  It’s just that I’m afraid even God would answer me “no.”

But in case that He changes His mind, I hope He’ll heed my call. That finally, He will give me the one for me I’ve waited for so long. I pray it’s soon.  

My apologies for dragging Kuya Joms and JC's name in this whole literally farce (or to be honest, a sugar coated rant to God)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

His final lesson

Today is my lolo’s birthday. However, it’s been years since he passed away. Thirteen years to be exact.

I’m not writing this in a manner that would employ a thousand words and a pile of metaphors to deliver what I feel right now. I miss him, as simple as that. I miss him so much. I wish I could still sit on his lap. I wish I could still lay beside him during afternoon naps. I wish I could still see his face, walk with him, laugh with him.

But during moments like this when I would cry and long for his presence, I would remember his words like it was only yesterday.

You see, I was the youngest among us cousins. Because of this, they would often bully me, tease me and would not allow me join whatever games and plans they hatch. I would cry and run to my lolo. He would then chase my cousins and spank their little butts with a stick.

To more proof of my wimpy childhood, I was scared of the dark, of cockroaches, of large spiders lurking in the bathroom, lizards and crickets at night. With all these, lolo would come to my rescue. And I will finally feel safe, protected from whatever harm and forces imagined by my youth.

He never scolded me for being afraid, for being weak or wimpy. Instead, what he gently told me was this: “Dapat maging matapang ka. Hindi ako laging nandito para samahan ka. Wala ka namang dapat ikatakot. Kaya mo ‘yan.” (You have to be brave for yourself for I cannot stay here with you forever. You don’t have to be afraid.)

He’s the bravest man I know. That’s why it was always hard for me to accept that he could just leave like that. I thought because he was always the strongest in my eyes, not even death could defeat him.

Like this blog entry, there was no way to end the feeling of missing him, of wishing for more moments with him, more comforting words and memories. So allow me to end this with the excellent words of Joan Didion in her book “Year of Magical Thinking.”

“I know why we try keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us. I also know that if we are to live ourselves, there comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead.”

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ground zero

“It’s part of our psyche as journalists. You go the extra mile when the going gets tough. Crisis is your job. You head into war zones as civilians are fleeing. You walk into the storm while others are looking for sanctuary. It’s your job. Why? Because the stories you tell may save a life.”Maria Ressa, former ABS-CBN News Head, former CNN Manila and Jakarta Bureau Chief and presently Rappler CEO

As I stepped inside the office, I was greeted with questions of the state of the place I’ve left, our house in Bulacan. I told them the living room and the bathroom was flooded and that we evacuated and carry stuff upstairs. A few more exchange of banter and everybody went back to work and got serious once more. A few more and I would find myself inside a crew cab making our way around Quezon City to check out the flood situation. And then back at the base, calls from local government officials would pile up announcing class suspensions, reports on how their constituents are faring with the bad weather, and declarations of state of calamity.

The truth is I did not just leave a flooded house. I left my family inside a flooded house.

It all begun Tuesday, August 7. I woke up to a pandemonium. Downstairs, flood was rising faster than any of us in Malolos could’ve expected. A few inches away that time and the water would come surging inside our house. A few minutes more and we’re done readying for the worst. We waited.

After securing everything, I planned my way to work. I knew I have to. Calamities waiting to unfold send shiver, a twinge of anticipation to any journalist. The first thought is always “I have to be on it.” So despite my family’s usual protest, I packed my things, everything I thought I’d need, then called the office to inform them I’m coming and I’m on my way.

But then, ABS-CBN’s Ron Gagalac appeared on television giving a picture of what was happening at North Luzon Expressway. The water level reached as high as half of a bus and vehicles are stranded in the middle of it. People are trailing the concrete barrier dividing the northbound and southbound of the highway as the torrential rain kept pounding on everybody’s head. People watch in awe and helplessness as water kept rising and rising, gushing down from everywhere. I couldn’t leave anymore.

So imagine my frustration. I knew I needed to be at work. I knew what I had to do. I was ready to leave my family despite knowing they needed me during that time of uncertainty. 

Early next day, as soon as NLEX became passable to motorists, I braved the flooded streets of Malolos with a definite thinking on my mind: I need to do my job. But as I submerge myself in flood, as I watch families trapped in their roofs, as I interview fathers and mothers who lost their sons and daughters, I couldn’t help but see my mother, my lola and my sister’s face in them.

My family is a victim of the recent flooding that displaced thousands of families in Luzon. Eight provinces, four municipalities and twelve cities are currently under state of calamity, including my hometown. Since the house was reconstructed back in 1999, flood never came even in 2009 when thousands as well were displaced by Ondoy.

I wanted to call home from time to time, but I can’t. My job requires my full attention. I remember my poor mother. I knew she's more worried for me than the state of our home. Now, not only her husband left her to work far away, even her son did, and is doing the same.

It’s the silly thing about being a journalist. When most people would rush to their family during times of calamity, we do the opposite. We run towards the danger. We run against the current. You try and help a distressed family while you seem to neglect your own. Most would say you’ll get used to it as the time goes, but in all honesty, I don’t think I will.

The night I stayed in a hotel provided by the company, I didn’t sleep at all. Outside the rain was still pounding and we just delivered the news that Angat Dam started spilling. Finally I called home.

Today, August 12, is my day off. Cleaning started Friday. The screen door is broken. Magazines, newspapers and few important files got wet and the refrigerator is still upstairs. The image of the Inmaculate Concepcion, which I acquired three years ago, is in my room because the stool where she used to stand also got broken. All in all, still, life is good.

In the future, there will be more intense rain, devastating storms, war and other catastrophes. And if the gods are merciful and I’d still be here, I would still have to leave my family doing my job as a journalist. By then, still, all I can do is pray, hope for the best like the rest of us all. 

Monday, August 6, 2012


"I wish I could tie you up in my shoes make you feel unpretty, too." 
Self portrait. (Note: DB has coulrophobia) 

I wasn’t always aware that I am no good looking. Growing up, I noticed how people would hail my older cousin, my kuya who’s a year older than me, and people would end up saying he’s “gwapo.” I was very jealous of him. I wanted to be called “gwapo” as well. But no matter what I do, no matter how I rubbed those cottons dipped in facial cleansers, no matter how many of those over-the-counter night creams I put on my garish face at that young age, still, nobody bothered calling me “gwapo.”

Unlike my cousin and the many other good looking guys that you’ll spot nowadays gracing divine ledges among countless bars, I don’t have the necessary qualities to pass one. For one, I am not a mestizo. My skin is burned brown; a combination of genetics and early prowling under the glaring high noon sun. You see, when I was a kid, I was part of a marching band that played music on fiestas, parades and the likes. Naturally, the heat of those afternoons didn’t fare well with my young skin.

My eyes aren’t anywhere near dazzling. They’re black; the other one slightly disproportionate to the other with dark circles around due to lack of decent sleep. I don’t have those red tempting lips, or a sparkling teeth or an inviting face. During the height of my puberty, I was cursed by those nasty pimples; the ghosts of them remaining visible to present. Also, I only stand 5’7, with a short torso and a slightly problematic belly.

God knows how hard I prayed. I thought if I please Him well, talked Him into making me good looking, I’ll have my one great wish come true. That I would wake up one day, look straight in the mirror and find a face that would command the world. But after twenty five years, God still is not merciful enough to grant me that prayer.

It’s unfair how the world conspires for the good looking ones. Imagine the rejection you get just because you don’t have a face of a god. Imagine being ignored. Imagine the disappointment after seeing what lies behind your mask. Countless, people will come and tell me I’m ugly. Now tell me how beauty becomes skin deep?

I tried being the best with those areas I’m good at. There’s music, dancing, acting, speech, making friends, arrogance. Some would even say I have my own charm. But it’s never enough and truth is, they will never be in this world slave to physical traits and worships the pre-determined call of beauty.

No matter how honest your intentions, no matter how good your insides, people couldn’t care. Have you experienced bargaining for love? I did. Wasn’t the worst moment of my life but standing there, giving out all the cards you got yet still not being enough, you just want to die. Why live in a world where you couldn’t be loved for how you look? Tell me, is this what God meant when He said He created me in His own image? That I’m special?

There is this song sung by the world’s most famous frog, Kermit, and it’s called “Bein’ Green.” It goes like this:

It’s not that easy being green
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold
Or something much more colorful like that
It’s not that easy being green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over ‘cause you’re
Not standing our like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky

It’s not easy being ugly, or unpretty, or fugly – whatever the mean boys and girls of this society call us nowadays. But at some point, I accepted the fact that I could never pass as “gwapo.” I’ll never be good looking for this world.

And so I’ve learned to shun myself away from time to time; away from people who can’t accept me. I went with the vagabonds, the scavengers, thieves. Those people you see every day, but ignored, forgotten by a world obsessed with sparkles and gems. To them, it don’t matter how I look, if I have the right haircut or the right proportion of nose to my face. That’s why I fight with them. That’s why sometimes I disappear from the universe. To talk to them, to be with them and share that neglect this world cursed us with.

With that I find my worth, I find my beauty amidst all ugliness and harshness. I no longer want to be beautiful, good looking or “gwapo.” I think I’m going to be just fine even most of you are not. I know and now I am aware I am not "gwapo" and that I will never be. But like what the song says, even if the world will never agree, I think it's beautiful enough, and this is what I want to be. 

But green’s the color of Spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean, or important
Like a mountain, or tall like a tree
When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful
And I think it’s what I want to be. 

Désolé Boy, en route to Laguna, 01 July 2012

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Magic, they say, is a product of fraud, a trick of the eye, an illusion. I went up to Baguio last weekend with little expectation of fun. It was raining the past days and the piles of work I had to endure before leaving were such intense, I no longer had the energy and enthusiasm to explore the old city I’ve never been to. But there behind the cold mist, the jagged mountain peaks and the sprawling shades of green, there I'm telling you, I saw and experienced magic.

There was a feeling of home when I stepped inside our rented place. Must be the sight of our landlady’s small dog at her gates, or the smell of pine trees around. It could be the quiet neighborhood. Or most likely, the six other men that went with me.

I’ll tell you about Bino, who orchestrated a mini birthday celebration with a cake and a candle that says I’m 25, a gallon of ice cream and a bowl of spaghetti with a cheese that gave it an extra kick. There was Carlo, my co-celebrant. At the age of 26, he prides himself the sturdy “suplado;” the small boy ripping his muscles in a journey he calls “road to hotness.”

And then there was Leo and Nimmy who changed my view on relationships, even marriage. It’s just that it was hard to believe in something that caused you so much pain, destruction, something that was never real to me. You see them en sync with their actions, sweet but subtle, so that something beyond the goofiness and puns there I saw a simple truth, even hope springing beyond their clasped hands.

I never knew Mar neither Theo. But I know that Mar is a gentleman and that Theo is not as quiet as people perceived him to be after spending days with them.

Like those two, I never knew Baguio before. The quiet hillside, those towering pine trees, lustful flowers tempting you to pick them, the sun peaking behind the threatening clouds, the morning mist, the crisp sound of the sing-song melody of Ilocano words – all are but foreign before.

In Tam-Awan Village, a little far from the main city, lies a pinch of the splendor of the Igorot culture. It rained on our way up the mountain, mud gushing down beneath our wet feet as countless Northern birds taunt us with their surreal chirpings. You look up and you notice how closer you are to heaven, to the gods and goddesses to whom my forefathers once prayed mightily for good harvest, for sons and wives and other worldly graces. I said “forefathers” because my dear lolo was an Igorot from the Mountain Province. 

The locals danced their ritual in colorful bahag and tapis, black feathers gleaming as their hands swayed in rhythm of two. There was a fertility hut, a house with three rice guardians in it and a maiden goddess hidden behind the bushes watching our every move.

The Baguio I heard is home to many people I know. They would say it is magical. That magic lies within a university where they completed four years of education. Some calls the magic by ghostly stories; tales of apparition and ladies in white picking on the tourists. Others found magic in rows of strawberry beds, the many ritual dances, with those cheap sumptuous meals and the cry of bamboo flute.

But Baguio indeed to me is magical. I don’t know but I don’t think it’s the horses pretending to be unicorns in their pink skins and flowers and rainbows attached to their heads. There was neither delusion nor illusion in its thick fog hovering around its fields.

When Carlo cooked dinner of daing na bangus, tuyo, salted eggs mixed with tomatoes and we feasted on them with our bare hands, there I saw the works of magic. There was magic when I blew that candle on top of our birthday cake. There was magic as we heave, catching our breath as we hike over that hillside with no cab in sight to take us home. There was magic when Theo slammed my arm laughing at my jokes. There was magic when Mar took that picture of me with mountains and trees and clouds and laughter.

Magic. It’s a cliché, of course. But clichés tell us what we experienced, what we went through is something that others already walked upon and that we are not alone after all.

As we bid goodbye in that cold dank bus terminal, there was the usual fear of separation. This is something silly about me, what they call SAD (separation anxiety disorder) although I’d like to think of it as normal, the human side of me as opposed to treating it as a disorder. I thought as we part ways that night, I’d lose the magic. But as I browse on our countless photos, the neverending jokes in Twitter and BBM and future plans of more adventure, I think, and I hope, that the magical stories I’m about to tell are only beginning.

"A vacation spot out of season always has a very special magic."
Max von Sydow

For Bino, Carlo, Leo, Nimmy, Theo and Mar

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