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Friday, November 7, 2014

Randy

A story was told about a land where the sun sparkles in the morning breeze, rising beneath the sprawling mounds of Earth as the gentle curl of the roaring seas carry men riding boards in delight. 

A year ago, a different story was told. 

The wind was there, only it was black. The seas roared and the men were swept to death. And then silence.

It was a story that is still being told over and over like no year has passed. It is a story with many names, depending on who you ask. It is a story of Yolanda. 

"Kawawa 'yung mag-iina ko."

A year after, these were still the words of Randy, 32 years old, who lost his wife and three children to the storm. He stood behind a makeshift home with walls made of plywoods and tarpaulins. Half of his roof is the open skies, around him are unfamiliar stuff picked from the rubble of his former world.

He tells the same story of any person you'll meet in Tacloban now about how the seas came to them one day. As the water rose and people were caught hiding in their homes, they fled. He kicked and kicked, shouted for the name of his wife and his kids, trying to breathe his way up from the heavy surge of waves. He grabbed anything he could - twigs, grass, a head of another person. In the chaos of the raging storm, he lost his wife's hand, his children shouted no more, and everything went dark. The next day, as the sun rises again, the world Randy knew had ended. 

He found his children. They were dead lying in the dirt. Daniel, Carol, and Dindo. All dead. Their clothes ripped, their body blue. He looked for his wife, Cilia. He searched in every pile of dead bodies, fought his way through feasting flies, walked miles and miles around pictures of devastation, but the face of the woman he fell in love with was nowhere in sight. 

"Tinatanong ko pa rin kung bakit hindi ko sila nailigtas. Para kang mababaliw. Gusto ko nga ako na lang ang mamatay. Bakit sila pa."

It was the same regret for the other men of Tacloban who survived the storm. So that every night, even after a year ago, when the wind is calm and the moon is up, they imagine ghosts and apparitions appearing in the darkness, making sense of the tragedy that claimed their family, their dreams, their world. All gone in a swift of a violent wind.

Now Randy is at a stand-still, like all the clocks in Tacloban stopped exactly at 7:42, the time the typhoon struck back on November 8, 2013, unsure whether to wind them up again. He knew that doing so will confirm the death of his wife and three children. That they're really gone, gone in his life.

"Minsan iniisip ko na babalik pa rin sila. Na uuwi pa rin sila. Kaya dito lang ako. Hindi ako umaalis." 

_____________

For Randy, Cilia, Daniel, Carol, and Dindo. To those who perished in that storm. And above all, to those who survived. 

This is my entry for November's Round Table Challenge 
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Monday, October 13, 2014

The sorry boy
























It was still dark, but with a faint hint of the coming dawn. A slight mist was hovering all over the surrounding, and the early calls of the roosters were heard from a distant farm. I stepped out of the porch and in a corner I saw my nephew's bike. I went back inside, picked up my phone, a white towel, and a bottle of water from the fridge. I tucked them all in a small bag, heaved it on my back, and quickly mounted the bike. 

The breeze was hitting my face fiercely as I sped up along the deserted road. I looked up and saw dark clouds swirling as the last remaining stars slowly fade into the threatening morning. My head was pounding, the way it has been since the day before, and the day before that, and the other one, and the previous one. The pain in my legs shot up as an uphill drive made it difficult to pedal. 

After a stretch of fishponds and trees lining up the roadsides, the entrance to the cemetery came to view. A few meters of bend with overgrown grass and you can already see the mausoleums, the arches containing family names, white crosses, and empty faced angels in a sprawling land of graves. 

My destination was a bit further in. But even from afar, I can already see the familiar white tomb. Once there, I dismounted the bike and left it standing on its own. 

Softly, I ran my fingers at the surface of the white tomb and felt the dusts and the cold bitter night that went through it. I sat flat in the pavement in front of the gravestone. I couldn't remember how long it has been - three minutes, ten, or twelve - I was staring at the name inked in a golden thread until my eyes went blurry. I couldn't breathe. My chest felt like it was going to explode. I realized I was crying very hard, so hard that the entire cemetery sat in silence to listen. 

He was my best friend, my grandfather. When I was a kid, he was superman to me. He would make me anything, anything I desire: a swing, a wooden train, a sling, drums, a tree-house. I remember how he would always tie my shoe laces, how his gentle hands would put a towel at my back as I ran around that small church in Pasay where we used to live. His crisp commanding voice, the smell of his pomade, and that golden tooth that peers whenever he smiles encouragingly at me.

When my cousins would not let me in their games [because I was the youngest and I always destroy whatever they were doing], I would run into him, crying. He would scold them, sometimes beat them up, and he would carry me away in his arms telling me not to cry and that everything will be fine. Afterwards he would buy me any candy I would fancy. He would play with me for hours and hours while patiently answering every stupid childish question I throw at him. 

In the afternoon, he would force me to sleep. And despite my relentless protest, he would carefully run his fingers in my hair while singing his familiar Igorot folk songs. At night, when I'm too scared to go to the bathroom, he would patiently come with me and wait until I'm finished. Whenever I see large spiders, or flying cockroaches, he would kill them, smashing them in his old slippers. 

I remember how he always told me that I have nothing to be afraid of the dark. That I'm brave. That I have to be brave. Because brave runs in the family. 

Fifteen years after and I'm still running towards him as helpless as that kid I used to be. Fifteen years and, still, I can't muster the brave boy he wanted me to be. 

"Sorry," I said. Sorry because I still fail at many things. I still get rejected the way my cousins did then. And I'm still scared of monsters, of spiders, and of the dark. 

"I'm sorry," I said. Because I was crying. Because I'm weak. And because I couldn't be like him.

I always wanted to be like him, my grandfather. He was a warrior. He survived the Japanese war as a guerilla. He always held his head high, chin always up, chest beaming with confidence. Even in sickness, he went through it gallantly, staring into my eyes like putting up a final lesson on how to handle pain with pride and honor. 

As the morning broke, in between hiccups and tears, I finished telling my grandfather what happened. I stared more into his quiet tomb as if waiting for it to give me words of comfort, or maybe any sign that he could be listening. Nothing came.

I crawled above the white tomb and lay there for I don't know how long. It was only until the sun was up in full flight that I decided to get up. I kissed the white tomb one last time, walked towards the bike, kicked its stand, and sped along the narrow bends of the cemetery. 

Before I emerged myself in the main road, I took a quick drink from the water I brought in my bag. For a while I watched the morning as it further unfolds around me. It was beautiful. Nowhere the dark clouds can be found. The air was blue and patches of fluffy-cotton white clouds strewn the sight. 

I kicked the pedal once more and sped along. Against the wind. Against the world.
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Monday, August 11, 2014

Dreams and nightmares

I remember my father and I were watching a PBA game then seated in front of our old 14-inch television set one evening after a small family dinner. Mobiline, the predecessor of the current Talk N' Text Tropang Texters, was playing an opposing team I no longer remember. There were Andy Siegle and Jefrey Cariaso, and, of course, Asi Taulava - the beginning of his popular era in the Philippine basketball league. I remember it a little well because it was one of those very few moments that I would spend time with my father as I'd have to live most of my life without him. He was a n avid fan of basketball, a trait I inherited from him.

It was a point in my young life when my interest in basketball begun. Like any other boy, I wanted to learn how to play basketball. Without a father or a brother to teach me, I tried it all by myself. I spent afternoons throwing balls in this makeshift ring fashioned out of some rusty construction steal hoisted in our backyard. I never got the hang of it. After thousands of failed attempts, I gave up my dream of becoming a basketball player.

Instead, I contended myself in watching the league until I became an ardent fan of Barangay Ginebra. Then followed NBA where I marveled at those legends: Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. Then I thought, if I can't become a basketball player, maybe I can become a court side reporter. 

I wanted to study in UP, but I didn't pass Diliman, and was instead referred to Los Banos which was never a choice for my parents. My father insisted that I go to Mapua and take up Engineering. Of course, I refused. I would've been very glad to enter Ateneo, but we are very poor, and so even if we sell the house and everything we had then, it still wouldn't have sufficed for my education. 

You see, I thought entering a UAAP school would kick off this dream. It was the year 2000 when Bobby Yan became very popular as La Salle's courtside reporter. Throughout the years after that, there were very few male court side reporters the likes of Aaron Atayde, Job De Leon and Victor Lopez. Sadly, I never made it. 

For the next years, it will be a succession of failed dreams. Contrary to my plans, I wasn't able to finish college with honors, no immediate job offers, and with no idea of what to do next. 

I thought I'd be a documentary producer, a field reporter, or a filmmaker. There was a time when I seriously thought of becoming a musician despite my mother's clear warning then that my piano can never feed me. 

Bad luck seems to haunt me even in aspects of love. While in college, I thought the prospect of romance will be easy once I started working. After all, I had some admirers back then. Not too many, but few enough to realize that I was not a goner. 

And yet here we are. 

I already lost counts on how much failure and rejections I've met in pursuit of romance. Alas, once more, I was forced to abandon another failed dream. 

Suprisingly, twenty seven years of dreaming and planning, I found myself as this noob writer. It was life's joke that I still ponder on about from time to time. 

I never thought I'll be a writer. Never had the talent, never had the patience. It was an odd profession. Maybe in other countries writers or journalists earn a decent amount or at the very least adored and respected, but definitely not here in the Philippines. Oh, and did I say I detest writing?

I wonder who's fault is it that the whims of a boy can't be a reality while it can for other kids. Of course it was a rant. And a senseless one at that. 

But life is probably like it. It is a senseless world, after all. One that inhabits a man who's dream is to grant his daughter's wish of a crispy chicken from that fat red-and-white bee. "Just one," she said, as they stood beside the store's glass pane watching hungry souls devour their meals in packs of cartons. In Tondo, Manila a woman was screaming in the streets, tears etched in her contorted face. His husband was gunned in the head while belting it out in a videoke machine by an annoyed neighbor.

Dreams come and dreams die. And only a fool will believe that hard work pays off, because if it had been, the world by now would've rid itself of slaves. 

Around 20 years after that little scene, I sit in a packed arena with howling colors of blue, red, green and whirls of others, clutching my pen, a notepad on my lap. A look into the score board, and another scribble. The game ended. 

There's Derrick Pumaren. In another bench there was Kenneth Duremdes. Not far from him were Marlou Aquino and Vince Hizon. I readied my phone, tapped the "record" button, and fired away my questions. 

Indeed, John Green was right when he said that the world is not a wish-granting factory. I've said it many times and I'll never stop saying it: life is unfair and never will. 

This is what I want to say. The only way to live is to be alive. 
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Monday, June 16, 2014

Someone else's story






















"How do you do it?"

"What?"

"This. While the world is busy falling in and out of love, you're sulking here basking in your own solitude."

"First of all I am not sulking. And second, I have no choice."

"Yes you do."

"You don't know me."

"And you do?"

_____

My five-year old niece, Miel, had those birds she bought during our last barrio fiesta. The two were just ordinary mayas, but were cruelly painted in colors of red and yellow to look extraordinary. 

My uncle built this small cage for them because my niece adored them so much. The two birds live together for a few months, three if I remembered it correctly.  

At some point, one of them died. The one left behind went gloomy and so we convinced my niece to set it free before it suffers the same fate as its partner. It took us days to convince her before she finally gave in.

So we opened the small cage anticipating for the bird's glorious flight to freedom. But the bird just stood there watching curiously, confuse of what was happening. Slowly it approaches the exit, still unsure, before it took its flight straight to the blinding brightness of the sun without looking back. 

It's always a curious thing for anyone who's been held captive for so long. Free him/her from those locks and he/she will get baffled of that freedom. Is it a trick? Hallucination perhaps? The new found freedom is just too overwhelming to embrace. 

There is another thing. After years of incarceration, one can learn to love those chains. The cold metal cuffs can turn into warm armours, a comforting nest away from the madness of chaos. 

It is not difficult to embrace, solitude. Of course, I'm talking about a certain kind of solitude, the one, as Murakami told us, of different variety, the one that can swallow you whole. It is not difficult especially when you have no choice. To ask about it is the same as asking a family of five living in a make-shift home of a wooden push cart under the open night sky why they chose to stay like that. Not only it is cruel, but it just doesn't make any sense. 

______

Am I happy? Sometimes I ask that myself. When I'm surrounded by my impoverished dysfunctional family, or my retard best friends, I always feel content. There I no longer feel the need to go out, search or welcome the proverbial love. Did I give up this early? Too scared to take another leap? I still don't know. But sadness is so comforting, I wonder if this is my place to be. 

You know how the sages would often say there is a place for everyone. It used to bother me. It used to scare me, not having my place to be, or that my place to be is this infinite edge of nothingness. 

Last night, coming from the gym, I was having a hard time carrying all my things: my huge bag, jacket, and some stuff I bought. As I was heading for the escalator, two guys, obviously a couple, went ahead of me. They too were carrying loads of stuff. The other one was obviously having a hard time, limping, almost dragging his bags. His partner, he himself carrying a lot, seeing what was happening took one of his partner's bags and walk along. He looked back at his partner and smiled sweetly.

It was a very beautiful scene I had the fortune of witnessing. So surreal, so heartwarming it left me teary-eyed, nodding absentmindedly

I used to envy such kind of scene, despair myself to bitterness for never getting that. But I am old. And now I feel nothing but genuine happiness to see that the world, after all, is still ruled by love. That in someone else's story love is not absent, love thrives, and love is kind. That someone else's story need not be broken like mine. 
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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Counting years

A young lady once wrote that you can be whatever you want in this life. Just don't be bitter. 

In a few weeks I will turn 27. It is nerve wracking, to be honest, especially that the past 26 years were never kind. If you've been in what you think are the lowest points in your life, there's always that fear of being submerged into something lower than that. Like hell. 

Going back a few days, I marked the fourth year since I put up this blog. It amazes me since I never thought I will last this long. I retraced the previous strings of words I threaded, much to my shame. But then it amazes me even more how far I've come and how things are just the same only in different contexts. 

For example, there were entries dealing with my dilemmas at work. Four years after and I'm still on the same boat. Recently, I filed my resignation but was "partially" rejected. My boss asked me to think about it more, giving me a vacation which happens to begin right at this point that I'm writing this. 

Then there's depression. Three weeks ago, I became very sick due to a severe case of "madness." Panic attacks and anxiety were very frequent. I was not eating for days, and, as a result, I suffered from a series of heartburn. I was diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and had to be medicated. I am better now, thank God, but still recovering. 

On matters of love, well, I guess you could say that I'm still unlucky. I'm still rejected, still unpretty, and still brokenhearted. 

Once I believed in the same mythology. The hero needs to get beaten up first. Then slowly he rises. He slays dragons and saves his princess. Ultimately, he triumphs in the end. 

In the 26 years that I had lived, and in four years that I've been writing about miseries, I learned that there are stories that doesn't make any sense. That not all people who sit side-by-side in a lonely evening bus ride home would fall in love with each other. Or that when you slouch in some corner of a bar, someone would offer you a drink and then you'll live happily ever after. 

The dragons do exist, yes, but slaying one doesn't guarantee you a princess or a prince, more so a castle. 

That's the curious thing about counting years. In an instant, past, present and future align in a rare phenomenon. You take the good, learn from the bad, draw your conclusion, and decide where to go from that point. 

I decided long ago that I will be both happy and sad. But definitely not bitter. I decided to believe in stars and the moon. I decided to have faith in my own eyes and the way they always see through the tears. 

I will not try for people to love me. I will not try to be pretty. I'll just live through this and hope for something a little extraordinary.

Post script:

I just want to say how sincerely thankful I am for the people I've met through this blog and those who continue to patronize my words. No words will be enough to convey my gratitude.

And to those who still believe in me, I owe you all this life I have. 
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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Stand still

It was Holy Wednesday and Metro Manila was howling in urgency. The streets are packed with vehicles moving up north and down south. The pavements are being hammered with a torturous echo. Terminals are packed with anxious people sweating under the sweltering heat of the night, waiting to get a ride that will bring them to their respective province. The lights are slowly going out one by one like the candles in churches during the solemn Tenaebre. It was almost midnight. 

I stood in a line that stretches a few meters along with fellow commuters waiting to get a ride. People are growing impatient, and so am I. I wanted to escape Metro Manila and hopefully find a few days rest away from everything reminding me of the rat race I'm in. I was not alone. I look at the people around and saw the same hunger in their eyes. Even in their bulging baggages. 

In a faint light ruling the night, I saw a minute, seemingly insignificant scene in a "Mang Inasal" across the line of people I was in. A young guy probably in his early twenties, thin, wearing white shirt and a hairnet, was carefully mopping the floor. In a table near him were two guys, about the same age as the guy mopping the floor, cleaning small bottles of condiments. They were using a small tube brush. They were having a small banter. Occassionaly they would laugh at each other. They look pristinely happy. In the counter, a girl was wiping the stainless area where hungry costumers recite their orders taking cue from the menu board posted above. In a corner a guy was carefully examining some sort of a log book. 

From afar I watched this scene curiously. Occassionaly, one of the guys washing the bottles would take notice of me to which I would respond by shyly moving my gaze away, only to be back right after I see them busy again with their work. 

Minutes passed and they huddled in a small table, the same one used by customers. They set the plates and utensils. There were rice and chicken, and a towering bottle of Coca Cola in the middle. Althroughout they were smiling and laughing and talking. I thought they looked genuinely happy. Some of the guys are comfortably eating in their bare hands. The last one to join the table was the guy who was mopping the floor. 

Until they leave the store one by one, still smiling and laughing talking at one another, I observed them carefully. Only at that point I noticed I was smiling the whole time. I was still standing in line then and still no sighn of any UV Express that will bring me home. 

This small scene made me realized how fast life is in the middle of this concrete jungle I'm in, in the very eye of it, sucked in a dark vortex violently swirling in an endless beat of a deafening humdrum. Until you get addicted. And then you convince yourself that you're doing something significant. That you're saving the world nobly despite the world not asking. 

That moment was a moment of peace for me. I wanted to be the Coca Cola in the middle of those people. I wanted to eat with them. To sit with those uncomfortable wooden benches while munching those rubbery chicken bathed in soy sauce. It brought me back in the time when I was still in college, when life was simple and my dreams were real, valid. During then I would order two packs of pancit canton in a makeshift store in one of those illegal settlers at the back of the school. I would put it on top of a hot rice, and that's it! That will be my lunch. Sometimes it's a can of sizzling hot Century Tuna which I shared with my bestfriend. You will find us in a corner along the corridor munching our simple meal joking, laughing.

The time was tough then, the same way that the time right now is tough. But then I have the conviction, the will to go forward. Now I seemed to have lost it. All I have is fear, an empty map, and a broken compass. 

I envy those people who have the guts to still try despite the times being hard, their conviction to live, their smiles despite the world going against them. They don't rant. All they do is joke and laugh about the misseries they have. The next day, they're ready again. 

I want a simple life. A quiet one. But then I admit I'm addicted to all that glitters, the limelight and being involved with things. I want to be "there" if not the "it." I despise the superficial, and yet I think I'm no more real. I want to leave, but I can't. I just can't. And then there's the nagging fear of the future. 

The great Nelson Mandela used to say that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. So how do you put fear behind you? How do you conquer fear?

Author's note:

This is an unedited copy. Apologies if there's any typo or grammar errors.
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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Chapter three: Chaos

It's not that I'm scared of dying. I'm just terribly scared of people leaving.

I don't know how to put this anymore. I have deleted more words than the ones I've retained. There are no more coherence to this train of contemplation. The way ahead is not just blurry, but on the verge of demise, gnawed upon by the monsters I created.

It's madness isn't it? That the very same suicidal person fears death. The very same creature inhabiting the darkness is afraid of the devils.

Time is another monster. Cunning, self-possessed, deceitful - a friend to the young, an enemy to the old. I heard it screaming profanities on me. It's on me. And I cannot persuade it to be kind, or beg even for an ounce of mercy.

The days are counted. The Earth bleeding. One by one the stars are dying. The scarlet sky weeping.

Where do we go from now? Where are we headed?

Previously

Chapter one: Grief

"I know no more of words that would suffice to imprint the deep sorrow I have now. My very inside was pierced, twisted in agonizing grip. I searched for reprieve but none came except endless fear." 

Chapter two: Fear

"I am terrified. I am terrified of myself. I am terrified of what will come. I am terrified of making another decision because it could be another mistake." 
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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Chapter two: Fear

"If I'm too cowardly
to life my life
at least I am brave
enough to take it."

-reprised from Maria's Notebook, 2007


It was the second time I seriously thought of committing suicide. 

For the past decade, I am very much certain of where my life will lead me. I was sure that I will stay as a journalist. Maybe a little work for the television entertainment scene or write features or anything relevant, but journalism, definitely is the vocation for me. The pay sucks. The stress level always beyond imaginable. But here is where I found my worth and since then, it gave me comfort in moments of doubt. 

I live with my family a region away from where I work. It was tiring, I admit, travelling at least two hours a day. But I became used to it and I don't mind anymore. Yes, the plan is to get a place of my own within the Metro, but only for inevitable instances like typhoons or monsoon floodings, which is slowly becoming the norm, or anything that would prevent me from coming home. Nevertheless I will always come home no matter. I have to. And I want to.

As for friends, the closest ones are those I rarely talk with. We don't put comments in each other's Facebook status regularly or like every IG post or anything in social media. We rarely text each other or meet regularly for a quick coffee despite the three of us in the group working in the same building and for the same company. It is not our thing and never will be. But we understand each other so much that even in the smallest gestures or great silence, we know. Always.

All these about my life were certain until this month. No one among the closests to me died, but somewhere in the deepest core of my being, a part of me is gone. Dead. Then fear came. 

When I was younger, success is always easier. I was top of the class. I am friends with many. I compete in  academic and art exhibitions where most of the time I emerged victorious. When I aspire for something, as long as I work hard, I always get it. There are rough times, yes, but they were minor setbacks. It was not generally smooth, but at least it was bearable.

Now they were all but distant memories, distant figures of my former self. Gone were the certainty in my gaze, the commanding posture my underclassmen used to fear as I walk down the alleys of our school. The thunderous voice began to squeak, the tears now free flowing, my hands undeniably trembling.

I no longer know which path to take. I stand in a dark crossroad gasping for breath, bloodied and dying. The monstrous shame, terrible low self-esteem, doubt, like venomous snakes clasped their fangs within my soul sucking out the life out of me to oblivion. 

Sleep is my glimpse of both heaven and hell. In sleep I rest my mind from conjuring demons. But there, sometimes, they come haunting. There are nights when I'll wake in the middle of the night crying, sweat dripping only to find out I cannot move even a single muscle in my body. I lay there n my bed petrified, thinking I will die anytime soon. I hope I did.

I am terrified. I am terrified of myself. I am terrified of what will come. I am terrified of making another decision because it could be another mistake. 

Fear already consumed me. It was the unknown, the darkness which I used to inhabit that turned its back on me. I cannot find myself anymore. I can hear the Earth moving in agony, even the stars dying slowly in a distant universe. Everything is dying in a torturous slow motion. 

I am a coward, I admit. That's why I wanted to just die. I was not eating for days. I was almost catatonic. I am currently on leave from work. And whilst I can say that whatever this "thing" I'm going through is getting better, the truth is I am not better. I lost everything - confidence, trust, perception, logic - a lot of me taken away. The sound of the clock ticking is deafening and I know my time is almost up. Almost.
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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Chapter one: Grief

I'm on the edge of my sanity. Recent defeats were just too much to bear and a lot of things are riding on the decision I am about to make within the next two to four months. To be honest, I'm hoping I'll have my choices in a month or two as I can no longer bear the grief I am carrying staying in this organization. 

Truth is I am decided. I will leave the organization. I am about to turn my back from this profession which served my purpose for the past years. This very profession which defined my core and has been the constant source of agony and joy of my life, I could no longer tolerate. But that is not the whole truth. Yes, it serves as a factor for this hastened decision that I do not agree anymore with the system on play and the people pulling the strings. Therefore, I thought what remaining honorable thing to do but plan my quiet exit and return to nothingness before I can no longer distinguish myself within the haze of anguish and doubt. 

Some would say it was bruised ego that brought this. I wish it is that simple. An ego which can easly bend to favors and illusionary compliment. But I feel betrayed. That all my hardwork, all our hardwork all those years were scrapped in a snap, is a plain mockery, an insult to us who brought the competition onto the next level, distingushed even by men and women from outside the organization. And for what? Only to be preyed by self centeredness, irrationality, superficiality, and worse, politics. 

My heart bleeds for this injustice. Here I am again, swallowed by such tremendous grief that even sleep could not ease the pain. I lost my purpose. I'm no longer sure of my direction. Everyday since the day I was told of this mockery, I walk like a dead man, constantly gnawing at images of humiliation and torment as I slowly drift into the pit of depression. 

I know no more of words that would suffice to imprint the deep sorrow I have now. My very inside was pierced, twisted in agonizing grip. I searched for reprieve but none came except endless fear. 
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Monday, March 3, 2014

Galindafied

























I finally had the chance to catch "Wicked's" run here in Manila. Filipinos with no chance of flying to Broadway or Singapore waited ten years to be Galindafied. Finally it's here and it's worth all the wait!

To be honest, I was not as excited as I was when we were about to watch the Phantom of the Opera's run in Manila two years ago. I was not a fan of "Wicked." My friend said it's for the shallow reason that Fiyero actually loves Elphaba and acted on it and that in the end they managed to find a way to be together, which obviously went astray with my obsession for unrequited love plot. And he is probably right because, well, let's face it, "Phantom" is my lifestory. But after watching "Wicked" for the first time, I guess you can call me "converted." And yes I was officially Galindafied (toss, toss...waves).

I remember how the producers then promised the Filipino fans that we will get to see exactly what the audience in Broadway and West End have been enjoying. From what I've seen in pictures and videos from New York and London, I think they managed to fulfill that promise.

I don't know if it's a good thing or what that the actresses playing Elphaba and Galinda looked and sounded like Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, but nevertheless they were both amazing. Steve Danielsen as Fiyero was also amazing not to mention how tragically handsome he is (those blue eyes and buttle butt are to die for). I was able to get a glimpse of him at the backstage, but too bad I didn't get the chance to have a picture taken with him.

Anyway, before I totally digress, with the successful runs of "Cats", "Phantom", and now "Wicked", I am hoping that more musicals like this would find their way to the Philippines. But to backtrack previous interviews, the producers admitted how bringing in these epic shows were definitely not a walk in the yellow brick road. The "Phantom" was already hard enough but "Wicked" is way harder.

They had to to ship 24 40 containers carrying lights, sets, props and costumes. Head electrician L'arge Wilson said so himself that "Wicked" has one of the biggest lighting rigs with 360 fixtures, 96 moving lights, LED, sidelights etc. Then there's Glinda's 25 kilo bubble dress, over 300 Tony Award-winning costumes, and of course, the casts and crew. Also they had to make some tweaking of the Tanghalang Nicanor to make it "Oz ready". All these to fulfill a promise to Filipino fans who a year ago or something started a petition online, desperate to convince the producers, to stage what can be considered as the musical of our generation.

Quite the opposite after watching "Phantom" where I was sobbing shamelessly during the final curtain call, with "Wicked" my jaw literally dropped in awe. Indeed, the word "magical" says it all. Loud cheers and standing ovation greeted the actors. At the theater's lobby, fans are buying souvenirs left and right. All the way outside people can't stop talking and singing about the show.

After soaking up the Oz-someness of it all, you're left with only one feeling: you want more. And while I made a mental note of pulling every string I can to watch the final show, the question now is what's next? For now, if you love theater especially musicals and you're not able to catch "Wicked", you should be green with envy (toss, toss...waves). 
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Monday, February 24, 2014

There are worse things I could do

"Hey what's happening. Bakit di ka nagrereply?"

Five days before this text, for the first time, I ventured into the world of Grindr. But whether you believe me or not, hook-up is the farthest from my mind when I signed up for this, neither was the delusional intention of finding friends nor an acquiantance. On the contrary I was looking for an enemy. 

Sometimes when my mind wanders too far, like the hours before that instance, I thought about how it would feel being on the other end of the spectrum. I wondered how would I feel being a heartbreaker? But then I asked: how to be a heartbreaker?

From my experience it's easy. Get to know someone. Be the fairy-tale-fashioned guy everyone secretly dreams of. Tell him what exactly he wants to hear. After all, everyone is a little broken inside. Find your way through that crack and tickle that silent damsel in distress sulking in it. The moment he took the bait, then that's the time to disappear. From here on, there are options a heartbreaker can do: silently drifts away or pound more on that shattered heart of your victim. 

This was my plan five days ago. Why Grindr? Because believe it or not, fantacizing homos are flocking the harem in search of love in a seemingly hopeless place. Alas, thanks to romance pocket books this plot never goes out of trend. 

In an instant I found four candidates to my sojourn. I picked "Henry" because he seemed to be the most fragile of all. I sent him a picture of me tailored for the fishing: half-naked, my hands sliding down under my crotch revealing my smooth chest with, of course, my face almost unrecognizable. Contrary to this, he was hesitant in giving me his picture. He said he's chubby and not even average looking. 

It took a lot of convincing for him to give in to my request. I said that it doesn't matter how he looks like for I look into one's heart, not into one's face, that I'm not after hook-ups that I'm not looking for something temporal but for a gem that is eternal. And so he gave up. 

He was telling the truth. Henry is far from beauty. He is obviously overweight, pimple marks are all over his saggy face and he's sporting a long greasy hair. He used some filter, probably a 360 camera because he seemed to be glowing. It didn't make much of a difference to be honest. 

As the exchange of messages went on, I got a hint of his personality. He's timid, shy, and a bookworm. He loves comics and a graduate of engineering from one of the top universities of the country. We talked about Haruki Murakami's "Kafka On The Shore", incidentally a favorite of mine. He was fascinated by my passion for sports, one of my real traits I shared with him. He seemed interested. He asked me a lot about the technicalities of basketball and my opinion on the country's much awaited return to FIBA World Cup. 

I was starting to enjoy the conversation. He seemed smart and fun to be with. I also learned that he's a breadwinner and that he has three siblings. He told me his dreams. He told me how frustrated he is because he can't seem to find love and that no guy ever notices him. 

I couldn't explain what I felt when the conversation suddenly went there. And as I was staring at his picture, to my horror, I saw myself in it. 

I am that chubby guy with pimple marks all over his face. I am that guy with saggy face and greasy hair. I am that breadwinner, that timid and shy guy who's frustrated because no guy seems to care for how he feels. I was Henry - brokenhearted, a fantasizing homo still looking for love despite the seemingly endless charade of hopelessness. 

I immediately uninstalled Grindr from my phone. I removed the simcard I was using with my other phone where he used to send me morning greetings and meal reminders. 

Yes I feel guilt. Even worse, I feel stupid. I prayed hard, went to confession. The Sunday gospel about loving even those who have wronged us left me in tears.

Breaking Henry's heart will not give me the love I was looking for, I so realized. Maybe revenge was the thing I was seeking, I am not sure. But it's wrong for me to even think about hurting someone. Because whether the rejection I suffered from the previous men in my life were intentional or not, no one needs to suffer the same pain as I did. Nobody. 

Two days after I deleted the app, I inserted the simcard once again. There I read Henry's messages. Even out of frustration from my dead silence, a faint hint of care is still there. Before I finally throw away it away, I composed a message and sent it to him:

"Henry. The world is unkind and unfair to our likes. No guy may ever love you for what are you, but don't be like them. Never let failure extinguish the love you have in you. It's not you who have a problem, it's the world who has a problem. I am terribly sorry. Please take care of yourself."





Note: This is an unedited copy. Apologies if there are typos or wrong grammar. 
Title "There are worse things I could do" is from the musical "Grease" by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
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Friday, February 14, 2014

Letter to a superhero

My dear Superhero,

This is the first, and probably the last time, I shall name you and speak to you directly through this. It is in the reason that I already ran out of ways to reach you that I am writing this. You see, I've tried countless times, devising schemes to snatch your attention even for a teensiest ounce of time, but, still, I failed miserably. And despite my pre-conclusion that a difference is not of much, and that in the same way you repeatedly ignored me, this will suffer the same fate in your hands, one can always pray. And if so that by the end fate shall prove me right, then for my own indulgence please allow me to continue.

In William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night", Orison, the romantic Duke of Illyria, fell lovesick for the beautiful Olivia. Now if you had the fortune of reading this comedy, please skip the part which revolves around the confusion on the characters' identity. My point being that Duke Orison fell in love. But Olivia, mourning the death of his brother and father, swore not to fall in love within seven years and so dismisses the duke's profession of love.

In the opening scene of Act 1, we hear Duke Orsino laments:

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:

Within a period of a year that I believe I came to know you, I guess I cannot count the number of times that you dismissed me. But then in the beginning of our fateful encounter, I can still remember how you confessed that you "like" me. Whatever that meant, I guess I'll never know. But that moment I took for a moment of bliss. Countless times I clinged to it, drawing hope that a fateful day would come and I will be blessed with the pleasure of being in your company.

But pray tell, until when a mortal shall wait? In a languor of melancholy, I indulge further into the depths of missery brought by your cold reception. I do this, like Duke Orison, believing that due to the excess of it all, I may grow sickened and this feeling I have for you may finally die and I will be at peace again.

And yet my own concocted potion, in the hopes of curing such obsession with you, in overloading myself with my patethic litle passions, draws me further, buries me deeper under your spell. The days of imaginings, of writing silent poems in honor of you went on. And so were you. "Without me, your world went on turning." Unlike Neruda, my love feeds on your neglect.

I told myself: if only he knows how much I can love him; if only he can get a feel of being buried in my arms; if only he can hear the music I've written for him. But I can't make you see, feel or hear. In fact, my dear superhero, and alas I admit this: I don't know how to love you.

I confess a pauper such as me can't take you to high places. Neither that I can promise you the stars and the moon, nor the ocean or any worldly treasures. I can never fit your portraiture of handsome and knew nothing about the language of love. What I can only promise, and this I say kneeling, is that I will never hurt you and forever I am devoutly in love with you.

Let your lips
be temple
of my
existence;
your eyes
the stars
I gaze
upon each night.
Let me
be your
night wind,
the silence
of your
rest.

But am I really so arrogant as to claim to be the key to your happiness? In darkness I wait for you the way dusk waits for dawn. But will this make you feel different? Perhaps it goes with the saying that one cannot give what one cannot possess. And it so happen, my dear superhero, that the things you desire are the things I am deprived of.

As those days went by, I saw the writings on the wall. Only I chose to ignore them, or have them twisted to suit my illusions of you.

Perhaps I can only love you from afar, never getting any nearer. Perhaps I can only watch you desire someone, love someone but me. I hope he writes you songs and poems, and serenade you again and again under the endless sky. With that I shall be the envious clouds, drifting afar, occassionally showering rains heavy with grief. "What does it matter that you did not know that I loved you? The night is shattered and you are not with me."

As closing, allow me to share here the closing song of this 1968 romantic musical film, an English translation of a French piece written by Jacques Charles and company, Mon Homme:

Oh my man I love him so
He'll never know
All my life is just despair
But I don't care
When he takes me in his arms
The world is bright
Alright
What's the difference if I say?
I'll go away
When I know I'll come back
on my knees someday
For whatever my man is
I am his
Forevermore


Indeed, yours forever,

The Desole Boy

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Monday, January 13, 2014

The loneliest whale
























At the end of 1980s, William Atkins of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution noticed something peculiar among the US Navy's recordings from hydrophone of the haunting moans of whales in the North Pacific. He noticed that while most of the male fin and blue whales vocalize at a range of about 17 to 18 Hertz, one whale was consistently vocalizing at a much higher range of 52 Hz. Atkins' team was set to publish the journal detailing the ease of tracking this unfamiliar whale. But the media picked this up and gave birth to what we call now "the loneliest whale in the world."

They say this whale has no one but himself. Because his calls are in different frequency, he never had a mate, a lover. They say he roams the ocean all by himself calling out for a possible companion, but his desperate calls remain unanswered, some even go far as to saying ignored. That "with every lonely song, he becomes sadder and more frustrated, his notes going deeper in despair as the years go by."

This whole tale can get sappier than this. But setting aside the mutation of all the write-ups (not knowing which are reputable anymore or worthy of using as reference), the whale's story was indeed a spot on. I was immediately moved. And then I laughed. Apparently, even in the animal kingdom, there is a space where I can identify this seemingly endless solitude I've been carrying with me.

Many are romanticizing the idea of this whale desperate to find his life companion in that vast stretches of the open ocean. Artworks were created. Poems and songs were written fixating on the suffering the whale must've endured with all those years of being alone. Many have written e-mails to marine scientists pleading for help, that this lonely whale may finally find someone to be with. 

I almost added a thing to this vast collection of lonesome tributes to what has become the monumental figure of desolation in the ocean. But to break the tear-jerker sentiments, the story's cynics blame the anthropomorphizing of this to the media. The journal, they said, was twisted to serve a dramatized plot for some virtual soap-opera. 

Atkins, the head researcher, succumbed to cancer right after the publishing of his journal, and was not able to shed light on the matter when the subject spread in mainstream media like wildfire. The researchers are not even sure if the 52 Hz whale is a new specie, a hybrid perhaps, or the last remaining kind of its own. Mary-Ann Daher, a member of the team who wrote the paper, admitted they never saw the whale. Whether it is indeed sad or alone remains a subject of debate. Since 1992, scientists were only able to track it through its calls, never having any visual. 

But since the world is already fascinated, a team is now headed to find this so-called "loneliest whale in the world." A documentary is also being shot as of this writing. 

With all the confusion, agenda setting, and drama aside, I think this very reaction to such undoubtedly sad tale of a whale highly speaks a lot for us as a society. Are most of us identifying ourselves with this whale? Do we see ourselves as this solitary creature roaming this world in our desperate call for companion yet nobody seems to understand or at least hear us? Are we feeling more alone than ever despite the technology bridging us more than we could imagine?

I must admit I am tired of saying this, and I know a lot of people are also tired of hearing this from me, but I've been single since...well, eversince. And when I look around, I see people perfectly happy with their companions. I always see myself in a scenario like this: alone in a restaurant packed with lovely couples canoodling under the muted light of the night and table candles while I eat alone in a corner, shunned away for everybody for the fear of me destroying this whole perfectly crafted picture. So it baffles me, the way a lot of people are affected with this whale that I have to ask: is the case of my singlehood not so isolated, after all?

Despite all the theories, and even with some experts saying he might be a deformed creature, I think this 52 Hz whale is perfectly fine. And how can he not be? He survived all those years without a mate. He is a strong creature of this world. He should be admired for just the mere fact of surviving such harsh environment all by himself while others miserably failed instead of being pitied upon. He maybe lonely, or alone, or depressed with his solitude, but he already proved that he can live with it. 

And, yes, to add more to this seemingly neverending over-anthropomorphizing, I think it is unfair to conclude that he is lonely, even alone. Who knows, even though he's still having a hard time finding his mate, he has his friends, or families he's sharing the ocean with from time to time. And maybe he's sad from time to time, but maybe he also enjoys his solitude. 

Here's another theory: maybe he's singing and dancing to his own carefully written song. That other creatures are woefully unaware of the fun and excitement his music brings because they are just stupidly focused on cliches and societal dictates. He could be the happiest whale in the world for all we know, carving his own path, blissfully in love with travelling and totally cool with hanging out with anyone who comes his way. 

Or maybe, he's happy just existing. 
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Monday, January 6, 2014

2013

I guess 2013 was an "okay" year for me. 

I came to that conclusion after several days of attempting to write something for the year that was, an ode perhaps, a monumental piece that would attest to the world that I was able to live beyond all those promises of doom set before that year. But as I try to sharpen my recollection, I found myself struggling to find words, even pictures that would jumpstart the whole thing. 

I remember I'm only good at expressing myself when I'm in pain, or when sadness and depression are biting me whole. And of course, when I'm in love. So I thought, that's probably the reason why I'm having such a hard time writing for 2013. I was neither in pain, nor sad and depressed. The whole year was "okay." That's it. 

But how about love?

For the past years, many would agree if I say that I've been obsessing with the idea of me being in love. This whole blog is a breathing testament to that. And from that sprang another obsession of mine: being broken hearted. 

This 2013, all of a sudden, without realizing, it just came to me that I was no longer in those obsessions. But it's not like I didn't care at all. Although I'm afraid to admit it, this, I'm afraid, is maturity finally kicking in. 

Because even if it was indeed a blur, the year was far from easy. Our family was victimized by Habagat back in August. The promotion promised by the management did not come. The competition I worked hard for last September was still one of my biggest disappointments and shame. Some relatives died. I got robbed (although I was lucky enough to get my valuables back). I witnessed more deaths and sufferings. And of course, I'm still single. 

I'm sure all these bad things that happened took a blow on me, although I can't remember anymore how exactly I felt about them. And I can honestly say that from time to time, solitude still brings me intense longing, even frustration. But 2013 was the year that made the difference in terms of my dealings, my reactions navigating to those key points of my life. 

That's why 2013, for me, is more of a transition. Nothing exceptional, but all the same just as important as any year. 

I will always remember fondly how I enjoyed surfing in La Union, how my friends and I got lost in the mountains with no food and water, the midterm elections, and all the basketball games I covered throughout the year. There was also my 26th birthday, a simple renewal of my mission in this world. And of course, the different people I've met, those who turned friends, even foes, all of them who brought such incredible lessons I'll try to never forget.

So there we were, in an upscale bar somewhere in the south of the metropolis, high atop a glass building, taking swigs of alcohol to the beat of the deafening thumpa thumpa punctuated with yells and shrills of laughter echoing from all corners days before the start of the new year. I watched my friends enjoying the dance floor, friends of almost a decade who are just as crazy as ever, living reminders that good or bad, just okay or exceptional, every year can be a fantastic one if you have people who will stand with you no matter what. 

To a new year!
 

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