"For remember"

It was my second year in UP. While I was walking to the jeepney stop after a late afternoon class, two Korean men stopped me and talked to me, with a hint of urgency and desperation, in Korean. They'd been trying to catch the attention of other UP students, and none had given them the time of day until I came along, looking, at least in their eyes, all Korean-like.

Seriously, for some reason, they thought I was Korean. I know this because they kept saying, "You Korean? You Korean?"

They were disappointed to find out I wasn't. I felt bad for them, and my messianic complex kicked in, so I stayed to talk, even if it was getting dark. They barely spoke English, but I somehow understood they had gone straight to UP Diliman from the airport, left their bags at the kiosk across CAL, and started looking for somebody to help them find a place to stay. They were in UP to take English classes.

I couldn't get any more information beyond that, so I brought them to the College of Education, where they said the classes would be held. I had also seen posters in both Korean and English looking for Korean boarders. There was a name of a contact person at Educ and the phone number of the boarding house.

When we got to Educ, the person wasn't there or was busy, so I asked to use the phone instead. I called the boarding house, asked for any Korean available to come to phone, then handed the phone to the two men. They were so relieved to be able to explain their predicament to someone who could understand, and they were given directions to the boarding house. Good thing, too, because by the time we were done, it was dark.

I quickly walked them back to the kiosk, where, to my relief, I discovered that several students (either members of the UP Mountaineers or a frat) had watched over their things without having been asked. The Koreans and I exchanged names, and they asked for my contact details. We didn't have cellphones back then, but I gave them my home number.

They wrote down their names and home addresses in my notebook, all in Korean. Then, they gave me Korean coins. I didn't want to accept their money, but they were insistent. "For remember," one of them said, as the other tried to explain to me the conversion rates.

I thought that was the end of that.

A few months later, I heard from them--specifically from the guy who said "for remember." It probably wasn't the first time he called, but it was the first time he managed to leave me a message asking me to call their boarding house.

At first I didn't want to--I was shy--but then Filipino hospitality kicked in, and so I did. His English was better. He said they wanted to meet me and treat me to dinner.

It was quite a stretch for me, but I agreed to meet them outside the UP Film Center. I was expecting to have a quick catch-up at The Chocolate Kiss, but they wanted to go to SM North, eat at McDonald's, and watch a movie. Before I could explain that I actually wasn't very familiar with SM North, they flagged a taxi, and off we went.

They reintroduced themselves to me with their English names, names they'd chosen for their English class. The one who had invited me out said his new name was Rocky. When I asked him why, he acted out shooting a machine gun like Sylvester Stallone. The other guy was simply Michael.

We had a fun dinner, during which they told me their ages (if I remember correctly, Rocky was 24 and Michael was 27). They were studying again. Michael was taking up mechanical engineering; Rocky, business. They'd just completed mandatory military service. They didn't have wives or girlfriends.

Watching the movie, on the other hand, was kind of awkward. They didn't understand most of it. We watched Disney's "Peter Pan," if I'm not mistaken, and I can't remember why it was showing; it wasn't even new. We entered the cinema halfway through the movie, and they didn't know that we could stay to watch the first half. As soon as credits rolled, they stood up to leave, and I was too late to tell them we could stay.

As we walked outside SM North, Rocky asked if I could give him English lessons. I said I couldn't, because I had no idea how to teach English and I felt that I would be a terrible English teacher. You'll find a much better teacher in UP, I told him. Then I said goodbye.

I think I heard from him at least one more time, before I was swallowed into an organization called UP Quill. After that, I never saw or talked to them again. I didn't think about them much either, but for years I kept their coins, wrapped in a piece of paper with their real names in Korean and their addresses in Seoul.

Funny, because I didn't think anything of him then, but thinking about Rocky now, I feel like I missed something worth exploring, something that may or may not have been love.

Dream: The one that probably got away

I dreamt that I was at an old house that we'd converted into some sort of headquarters for work, and an English man dropped by with his five-year-old adopted son. The man was Neil Gaiman, maybe 10 to 15 years younger. He was also single.

The little boy was cute and playful, and I watched over him as Neil and my colleagues did some work together. I overheard interesting bits and pieces of their conversation, and I joined in.

Soon the two of us were bantering, and I was being extra witty (and also very cute, since this is my dream after all) despite his very English humor (and Aussie accent; I realize I don't know what the real Neil Gaiman sounds like).

"You guys should start dating," one of my colleagues said, "You seem to have amazing chemistry."

I said no way, but only because I was mortified. I mean, this was still work and hello, this was Neil Gaiman.

He grinned at me and said, "Do you want to bet that it won't work out between us?" I was confused, so I responded with a laugh. "Let's make a bet--give me your number," he said.

I laughed again, still confused. When I didn't budge, he asked for it again. "Oh, you were serious?" I asked. He smiled flirtatiously, and I was a little dizzy as I entered my number in his phone.

Then he and his son said goodbye to us, because they needed to get breakfast. He gave me one last look and signaled that he'd call me. As they walked away, I was thinking, "Oh my god, is Neil Gaiman going to be my boyfriend?"

My colleague told me to go after them. I said no. I had work, and I didn't want to rush things. But we did watch them walk away.

Outside the old house was a movie theater. A long queue had already formed for some big Hollywood movie. A beautiful woman in the middle of the line recognized Neil and ran after them to introduce herself.

She asked how he was finding the Philippines, then asked him where he was going next. He said he and his son were off to look for breakfast. She said she knew the perfect place and described how to get there and how good the food was.

"Would you care to join us?" Neil asked.

The woman did, never mind that she already had a movie ticket. I watched them walk away.

"This is why you are single," the narrator in my dream said.

Grass does not strain to grow

Ginger and turmeric from our urban garden

I was chatting with a dear old friend yesterday, and he pointed out that he could feel I was "in resistance mode." In life coaching terms, it means that I am going against whatever good that flows.

I do get my moments. Sometimes, it's whole stretches of time. I could beat myself up over the time I've wasted--and I would too--but I need to shift, pronto.

Perhaps it's because I've turned 40. I'd never been one of those women who felt the need to hide their age. I thought I'd never really care about growing older--I know so many women 40 and above who just got even more amazing as they put on the years--and to some extent, I still don't, but I'm suddenly hit by this existential anxiety.

I keep wondering: Am I doing what I was meant to do? What verse do I contribute to this powerful play? Is there a point to all this? And if there isn't, why do I feel like I need to contribute nevertheless?

I still have no answers. But I don't want to overthink it anymore.

The other day, I went out to our small garden, overflowing with plants because of the rains, and I was reminded again that "grass does not strain to grow."

We'd planted some turmeric and ginger rhizomes a couple of months ago, and there they were, full-grown plants, bulging out of their pots. From a store-bought ginger that we planted because it had started to sprout, we now have a several ginger roots, waiting to be harvested.

I planted an additional two dozen or more turmeric rhizomes. They had been our harvest from a few months ago, and they'd just stayed in a basket, almost forgotten. One day, they decided to sprout.

I am not the world's best gardener, but gardening appeals to me because it reminds me all the time of how little effort--and by this, I mean resistance--there should be in what one does.

If the space is right, the plant will grow. That is all there is to it. That is all I need to know.

Why bother?

On a whim, I decided to tinker with this blog's template once again. I ended up not changing much, preferring the old look. I still think I have nothing much to say, but I consider it a sign that I came across this quote on Facebook.


A love story

This would've been okay as a tweet, but I prefer to put it here, on this day that perhaps someone else's beautiful love story has officially begun.

In Starbucks, a chatty little girl, maybe four, nags her mother. "Mommy, tell me a story. Tell me the happiest story. What's your happiest story?"

The mother says, "Look at daddy."

Goodbye, it was nice to know you

Looking through my old blog posts (the ones I've decided to keep) and scrolling down my Facebook timeline (as I debate whether to delete my account or not), I saw interactions with people I no longer interact with, either by choice or by chance.

I didn't even know then that that would be the last time I'd be interacting with them or posting about being with them.

It makes me feel sad, actually, how people come into your life and make you happy, and then you somehow hurt each other, and then all you have left is evidence that at one point in life, it was good between the two of you.

Still, it is what it is. I have these happy memories that don't make a monster out of me and a monster out of you.

Two (blogs) become one

I suppose it requires some amount of courage to face the failed parts of yourself. And then it takes even more courage to accept those parts.

This is my dramatic way of saying I've decided to merge my old blog with this relatively new one, partly because I am tired of searching for stuff I remember writing but feared I'd deleted and partly because I'm sick of hiding what feels like a dirty past but is really a dreary one.

There's a lot to clean up, like cryptic posts to lost loves, dead links, embedded flash videos, and announcements to my Multiply (+) friends. 

There's a lot that makes me cringe. The earliest posts date from 2007 and I was naive and (more) dramatic and had a (higher) tendency towards self-reflection and self-analysis-paralysis.

I want to kick myself for the many times I swore I'd finally finish my MFA throughout the years!

But I also regret many of the entries I lost, partly because I didn't back up my Multiply properly and partly because every so often I'd feel like erasing my life and the personal blog, started in the late 1990s, was always the first to go. 

Anyway, no promises, but here we are.