Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dream: Falling from the sky

I dreamt that I was at the beach with some friends. One of them saw a "comet" and we were all so excited until we saw it crash into the water and make a small fiery explosion. We saw people running from the water, but because there was a hailstorm all of a sudden. Then we watched TV to catch the news, and we saw a report on how crocodiles suddenly fell from the sky.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Meet Bartender Jhun

We had stopped by for a couple of drinks -- a mojito for me, a margarita for Marchie -- before we called it a night, but we ended up hanging out at the bar, chatting up the bartender. What started out as a request for a shorter straw soon became a telling of his life story. He was happy to serve it to us, too, in between his bartending tasks. He wasn't actually that busy anymore; it was around 11 p.m. on a Saturday night in Taguig City, where curfew closes establishments at 2 a.m., and the bar was already close to empty.

The first thing Jhun confessed was that he used to have an office job: He worked as a collector for Vintage Sports when it still owned the rights to broadcast PBA games. He would collect hundreds of thousands of pesos a week for the company, he said, and he was handling the smallest accounts.

Jhun told us that he was a hard worker, but more than that, he was an eager learner. Once, he broke a computer keyboard in his desire to learn how to use the damn machine -- and it wasn't out of frustration too; he was seriously practicing.

When Vintage Sports aired its last PBA game in 1999, Jhun found himself switching careers: He became personal butler to his boss. He liked that it was something new, and he was really up to the challenge. He learned what he could on the job; he taught himself the art of butlering as he served meals and drinks in his boss' steady stream of meetings.

When his boss decided to open a bar and restaurant in Greenbelt 2, Makati, Jhun was assigned there to be his boss' "eyes and ears." He started out as server and, fascinated by the art of mixing drinks, soon asked to be trained as bartender. Happily, his boss approved his request.

This career shift put him under the mentoring of an expert bartender, he said, one who had had real training, had worked all over the world, and had tended bar for international personalities. One of the names Jhun mentioned was Arnold Schwarzenegger, in perhaps, his Planet Hollywood.

And we come to the part of the story that I like best.

Jhun, ever the eager learner, wasn't content with just learning on the job. He brought home empty bottles to familiarize himself with all the alcohol beverages that would go into the drinks. He put them on a shelf and practiced grabbing bottles and pretend-cocktail mixing. He would also rotate several bottles on top of his television so he would have them in sight when watching TV and commit them to memory.

Black Tasha
Complimentary shots of Black Tasha

A few months and a TESDA course later, Jhun was already quite adept at mixing drinks. He was already experimenting, and, if I remember the story correctly, he already had a couple of originals to his name. He shared the recipes and some related anecdotes with us, but I wasn't really taking down notes.
Jhun's mentor soon moved to another bar called Brava, in Serendra. A few months later, he asked Jhun to join him and, after much consideration and partly out of gratitude and largely because he wanted to learn more, Jhun did.

Brava had a more extensive bar list, so Jhun was soon adding more drinks to his repertoire. The Italian bar and restaurant was eventually sold to the owner of the bar that took over, the American bar and restaurant Murray & D'Vine. Jhun was among the staff members that were retained.

He is head bartender there now, and he can mix a mean mojito.

Jhun told us that bartending was his passion. He said he doesn't feel right when he's away for two days from behind the bar. He spoke with a father's pride when he talked about concocting his own cocktails.

He said he used to be very quiet, but he also taught himself the arts of socializing and conversation, and now chatting with strangers comes easily.

I asked Jhun if he ever wanted to open his own bar, and he said that he was more into mobile bars. He has done a couple of gigs with his son, who is now 18 and also getting into bartending. He's done bridal showers and private parties. He said he can do costing, he can source drinks, and he can adjust to clients' budgets. If you want to make sure everyone's drunk at the end of the party, he can factor that in too.

In case we ever needed a mobile bar, Marchie and I asked for his card.

Jhun handed each of us a business card, holding the card with both hands. I saw his hands were clean and manicured; his fingernails were shiny with clear polish. I didn't need to be told, but I liked that the man who made my mojito explained it to me: "A bartender must keep his hands clean," he said, "since we touch many of the ingredients with our fingers."

We left Jhun a generous tip, but I fear I got more from him than he did from us. It's not every day that I get to meet someone completely in touch with his passion, who worked hard to create the life he wanted for himself. He reminded me of what I had set out to do for myself when I moved to UP to take up creative writing.

I left that bar in good spirits. And it wasn't just the drinks.

***

Here's a video of Jhun mixing a mojito for me:

 

If you need a mobile bar this Holiday season, you might want to consider this guy. I have his number!

Or you could always drop by Murray's & D'Vine and chat with him.

Monday, November 12, 2012

How I know to love you

This is how I know to love you:

I have loved before without question.
I unwrapped its arrival like a gift,
finding leather shoes that didn’t fit
or a maybe a silk shirt in a color I didn’t like.

Yet I accepted the present
for what it was: something in my hand,
a thought so sweet and expectant.
My love was gallant.

I cupped it like droplets of water.
How I loved it, how I burned,
and, burning, how my love faded
with nothing left to return.

This is how I love you now:

I love you in a sea of questions,
or perhaps an ocean,
with question mark
after question mark
leaping in the salty spray.

I navigate with caution
because I want you present,
like water.

I don't want us to lose our way.

Monday, October 29, 2012

35

Wow. I'm in my mid-30s. I didn't plan this far in life -- but it's not too late to begin!

I'm so grateful for everything that has come my way.

Monday, October 22, 2012

And, unexpectedly, a dream of you

I didn't think I would wake up feeling derailed that morning and up to now, two days later. But that dream of you, after many years of nothing, has reopened that hidden part of my heart that loved you so desperately I prayed for you a happy life even if it meant you living one that was away from me. How can I miss you terribly if I still never want what we had back again?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Question

I woke up this morning with this thought in mind: How did I get here?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Nonconstant (for now) gardener

This weekend, I decided to take up gardening again -- after totally neglecting my plants since, I don't know, 2010? When I moved to the Eastwood, I just couldn't check my plants in the morning anymore.

It was a miracle many of them survived. I was thrilled to see my calamansi, grown from seeds from big fat fruits I had carefully chosen at the supermarket, bearing fruit. This morning, I was able to harvest three!

This weekend, I repotted pandan, lemongrass, and mint. I planted tarragon and rosemary cuttings. I also planted coriander, thyme, and pepper seeds. Then I prepped more calamansi seeds for planting tomorrow.

I also tried to prune our kaffir lime, but I felt the urge to save *every* leaf, so I stopped. Still, I can pat myself on the back now.

It was a bright, partly rainy day. I like working outside when it's little rainy because it gives me the excuse to be out in the rain. That, plus I don't have to water the baby plants.

The only dark spot to this day was that I stepped on a poor, poor snail. To be honest, though, when I heard the crunching sound, my first reaction was one of disgust. Then I remembered the snail I had seen trying to escape when I lifted a plastic planter much earlier in the afternoon and I was suddenly sorry.

I've also realized my weakness as a neophyte gardener, apart from slimy creatures like slugs and earthworms: I am too attached to the plants. I feel guilty when I have to cut stems or throw out seeds that I can grow into whole new plants instead. It's crazy. I'm currently obsessed with making sure the babies of the two kinds of basil I grew from seeds survive, because I'm convinced their long-dead/long-eaten mommies will feel bad if they don't.

But here are my gardening goals:

1. Grow coriander (I can't get enough of it, but I can't find starter plants anywhere).
2. Grow parsley, sage, thyme. Because I already have rosemary. ;-)
3. Make a living wall of herbs.

P.S.

I also made nilagang baka and sweetened banana for lunch today. That has nothing to do with gardening, but well. *Gives self another pat on back.*

Friday, August 24, 2012

Commuter Chronicles: No more taxis for me

As much as possible, that is.

If we had an efficient transport system, I'd be a really happy commuter. Still, despite not having that just yet, I'm finding, once again, pleasure in the long commutes I take to work and back.

This month, I vowed to take fewer taxi rides and find alternative ways to get to (1) Eastwood from Project 4 (easy!) and back and (2) Eastwood from Las Piñas and back (tough, boo).

So far, so good. I've rediscovered the Citylink bus, figured out where to find the shuttles to Ayala Avenue from Eastwood, and signed up as a Resorts World member to get access to the free rides to Resorts World. I haven't tried the last option yet, but I'm just waiting until I have more time for a little getting-home adventure.

How did I come up with the decision to ditch taxi rides as much as possible? I love comfort like any girl in her 30s, but it has made me feel more of an observer than a participant. To borrow a line from a book I recently read and loved, I want to participate.

Commuting in Davao

When my friend Marchie and I went to Davao City at the end of July, we tried to take public transport as much as we could to minimize expenses. If we could walk it, we did. If we could take the jeep, we did. I loved every single moment of it.

I experienced the place more than I would have had we been comfortably viewing it behind air-conditioned windows. We made some new friends commuting. We tasted some good street food. And yes, we saved money -- which we then reallocated for other things, like a trip to the Davao Pearl Farm and an all-you-can-eat crab buffet.

Sometimes, we had to discover shuttles the hard way. Going to the Philippine Eagle Center, for instance, we had to take a two-hour-or-so hot and sometimes uncomfy jeepney ride to the foothills of Mt. Apo in Calinan. On our way back to the city proper, we found out there were (airconditioned) shuttles we could have taken. A happy discovery, despite being a couple of hours too late! Next time, next time.

Eastwood to Makati to Las Piñas

I'm typing this from a shuttle van from Makati to my village in southern Manila, but I started writing this post in the shuttle from Eastwood to Landmark in Makati. It's my first time to try this route. I'm pretty pleased with myself. In between shuttles, I picked up some herbs for my tiny garden, and I already know what I'm doing tomorrow morning.

My old Friday night commute would have seen me taking a taxi from Eastwood to Makati, and, feeling drained for some reason I can't figure out (lack of stimulation?) I would just trudge to the shuttle van and conk out until we reach my village.

Now I'm excited again. Cheap thrills, perhaps, but I'm always grateful for any excitement I can get. And I'm doubly grateful for whatever excitement I can create for myself. Those are the best kind.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Today, I'm giving up refined flour

Again.

During the recent Manila floods, I stocked up on bread. White bread specifically. I also got Lily's peanut butter and Lady's Choice sandwich spread.

I could have stopped at a sandwich or two, but I had six. Or was it eight? It was for two meals, like brunch, but it still reminded me of how bad I can get when eating refined carbohydrates.

I don't know if I can give up bread forever because I love cheese. But maybe I should break up with it for a while, until I get enough exercise.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What happened to our newspaper man

After more than two weeks, the paper came again. It came the day after I wrote about our newspaper man not coming, and then it didn't come again the day after.

I joked that maybe someone who had read my post and decided to give us the paper just for a day. (The thought of that mystery man who would leave a single red rose three red roses and an unfinished bottle of cognac at Edgar Allan Poe's grave on his birthday crossed my mind. Wouldn't that be something?) But on the third day, the paper came again. And it didn't stop coming.

On Sunday, collection day, we made sure to be up early for Mang Manny. Sadly, his trademark slightly musical "Diyaryo!" call didn't com. It was closer to noon when somebody tapped at our gate: a young man who said he worked at the place Mang Manny got his newspapers from.

My mother asked him where Mang Manny was, and he said that Mang Manny was in Batangas, and he would be staying there for forty days. His wife had died -- I didn't even know he had a wife -- and he was staying for the whole traditional mourning period.

I don't know if I'll ever get to ask Mang Manny how he is. We never really talk. But I'll be glad to see him again, so maybe I'll reach out this time. Maybe.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Going home in the rain

I am never so much myself as when I am
riding in a taxi, bus or train in the rain.
I am swimming in contained space moving through water,
I am tucked in a dry pocket and peering out.
I could be any one of those people outside:
That girl rushing beneath a broken umbrella,
that boy carefully navigating puddles with his muddied feet.
I could be any of those people in the street,
making their way, chasing taxis, buses, and trains.
Instead, I am very much who I am indeed:
someone watching a wet world in a state of dryness,
someone not out in the rain.

For Eric John, who said my previous entry reads like a poem.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tonight, I walked through flooded streets again

I've narrated this story many, many times, both to myself and others who cared to listen, but it still begs to be shared. Perhaps I haven't done its telling the kind of justice that finds the story told. One day, someday.

But here goes:

Once, I had a hand to hold while wading through the dark flood waters of Manila, hip-high from Welcome Rotonda to UST, in raging rain. And when I got home, I didn't just wash away the city's dirt with detergent, germicidal soap, and alcohol, and call it a night. I dried out his typewritten poems with a flat iron, and learned, even if I didn't know it right away then, what one writer meant about the color of the wheat fields.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Our newspaper man has stopped coming

Mang Manny collected our payment two Sundays ago, like he always did on Sundays. Then the following Monday the tell-tale thump of a rolled newspaper landing on our doorstep didn't come. I waited for it as I drank a cup of coffee, wanting to scan the headlines before leaving for work. But it didn't come. And it hasn't come.

It has been two weeks now.

When I was young, there were three constants in our village: the man selling taho; the man who took photographs, printed them, and waited for people to pick them up; and the man who delivered the newspaper.

The man selling taho used to linger at our corner, calling out "Taho!" and waiting for all four of us to run out with our colored Tupperware plastic glasses and spoons. As we grew older, our tastes shifted, and I think the last one to want taho was my little sister. The taho vendor eventually learned to focus on other street corners. I don't hear him anymore, but I'm hardly home in the afternoons anymore. I never knew his name.

The man who took photographs is called Mang Nilo. We know this because when my brother and sister were studying in schools inside the village, he would take pictures of the students during their school events and display them for parents to buy. My parents never commissioned a photo since we always had our own camera, but we bought his photographs once or twice. He has taken a photo of me though, commissioned by one of our maids who was close to me. She asked Mang Nilo to take photos of her and our other maid, and then of her and me. I can't remember either of them anymore, but I think she was the one who also saved up enough to watch Menudo in concert. Business still seems okay for Mang Nilo: He used to ride a bike, but now he has his own motorcycle.

The man who delivered the newspaper was called Mang Manny. He had no office. He just came to us in the early 1980s, when the village was young and the neighbors knew each other, and offered to deliver The Manila Bulletin for a weekly fee. He had his own tricycle. After delivering the newspaper, he also worked as a school bus driver. At least that's what my sister and I thought because we saw him driving a school bus once or twice. We only learned his name in the 1990s, when it occurred to us to ask because we wanted to put him on our Christmas list. We tried to give him something -- a shirt, a calendar, food -- every Christmas since.

Of the above, I feel like I know Mang Manny the most because I've never stopped reading newspapers, even when I started accessing their websites. But all I really know is that his first name is Manny, he used to come daily to throw newspapers over our gate and come one more time on Sundays to collect the week's fee.

In the late 1980s, we switched to The Philippine Daily Inquirer, something I wasn't initially happy about because I'd been following several comic strips, Brenda Starr included, in The Manila Bulletin. But I discovered Pugad Baboy, and that was that -- until I worked for The Philippine STAR and we would occasionally ask Mang Manny to deliver The STAR instead. When any one of us was job hunting, we would also ask him to give us The Manila Bulletin on Sundays, which I didn't like completely because there was a time when I loved the Sunday Inquirer Magazine.

The only times I ever talked to Mang Manny was to ask him to deliver a specific paper, and when I asked him how much we needed to pay because I could never remember. I did notice that throughout the years his hair had gone white and he had lost several teeth. My mother and I often wondered how old he was; our last guess was that he was nearing his 70s.

Once, I wondered if he noticed changes in our family too. Apart from the parade of maids and dogs and fruit trees, there were the big events: my father, who was always the one to pay Mang Manny on the months he was home from the Middle East, died in 2003; and my sister had her baby girl in 2006. Then, of course, the Ricardo kids are not kids anymore.

Our gate had gotten higher over the years, and when before we could see each other completely, in the last few years, we'd had to peer at each other over the gate. But perhaps it was not the same for him as it was for us; perhaps we were just one of the many families he delivered papers to, and there were too many of us for him to take note of the details. For us, he was just one guy who came to the house daily and twice on Sundays.

I'd like to think that we thought of him. Apart from the Christmas presents we tried to give to him, we also stayed loyal to him. There was a time when my father suggested we stop having the paper delivered to save money, and our answer was a resounding no. My mother thought it important for us to read up on the news daily, and, I'd like to think, we also considered what it would mean to Mang Manny. Even when some of us moved out, even when only the dog (Tutay, who died in May) really used the paper for her poop and pee, we stayed loyal to Mang Manny and appreciated what he brought to our lives.

It makes me sad now to know that while we did think of him, he may have never felt it in the almost three decades he had been coming to our house every single day.

It also makes me sad that while I wonder how he is, I know I won't really do anything to find out because in my mind, I need to believe that wherever he is, for all the good he brought to our lives, he is okay.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dream: A dead stranger

I've been having vivid dreams lately. Some of them, I forgot to remember, but one stayed with me because what woke me up was Dolphy's funeral, which was a huge part of the dream.

The dream was a little dark. Let me type it here before I forget.

One of my friends, Marchie, had befriended a stranger. He was in his late forties, a mysterious but pleasant man who had a tired and weathered look about him. Marchie introduced him to me and my best friend Sherwil, and we started talking about nice places to visit in the city. He was Filipino, but he said he hadn't been around Manila much.

We were making plans with him outside my office building when an unmarked police car came to pick him up. We were then told that he was under the witness protection program, and it was finally time for him to testify against a controversial and powerful criminal. I could tell he didn't want to go, but he entered the car, a picture of surrender.

Somehow I knew I'd never see him again, and part of me wondered if I should be more disturbed even if I really had just met him. I wondered how Marchie felt, since he was her friend. I also wondered if I should feel bad for Marchie, because she was my friend.

As the police car was getting ready to go, we suddenly heard a loud crashing sound from the corner. There were no screams or any succeeding commotion, just that one loud crashing sound, but I went to check anyway.

I saw a group of uniformed policemen and traffic enforcers huddled near a big truck, in front of which a dead man lay face on the ground. He had obviously been hit, and for a moment nobody moved to check for identification, leaving him a dead stranger.

The truck driver was saying something about Dolphy's funeral. Somehow, I also knew that the dead man had been trying to get to a TV to catch the funeral.

I called Sherwil to tell her what had happened, and we talked about how Dolphy's funeral was just about to start. We wondered if the comedian's death had descended like a Pacquiao fight upon the nation. Perhaps people were rushing to say goodbye to the comedian, perhaps his passing had somehow interfered with everyone's usual programming that people weren't paying their usual amount of attention to their everyday things?

Then somehow I knew there would be a series of explosions that would wipe all of us off the face of the earth. I was still talking on the phone when we heard the first boom from a distance. I saw thick, black smoke curling up in the horizon. Then I heard a second boom, this time nearer. I must have heard two or three more --

-- and then I was awake, discovering that I had left the TV on and it was showing TV5's live coverage of Dolphy's funeral. His family and friends had just released several doves to the tune of Rent's "Seasons of Love." I think it was the sounds of the doves being released that became explosions in my dream.

***

Death has been on my mind lately. I think it's because I now know three young people who I've seen at their most exuberant best who passed away unexpectedly, and this, coupled with the passing of many of my generation's icons, has left me looking at my own mortality.

***

I wouldn't call myself a fan of Dolphy, but he was much a part of my life, thanks in part to limited free TV channel options and a household that only had one TV. I grew up on John En Marsha and, later, saw my sister grow up on Home Along Da Riles

I was sad when he was dying, and I was surprised that I cried when I heard he had died.

I took pictures of his star on Eastwood City's Walk of Fame.

Dolphy's star the day after he died.




Dolphy's star up close.
I'm not sure who put this picture there.
Eastwood City people?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Good things come to those who see good

I am such a lucky, lucky girl. The past two weeks, I've been blessed to receive beautiful things:

  • a free ticket to the sold out Rock of Ages
  • an extra ticket to the sold out Rock of Ages so I got to bring a friend, who is a big Mig Ayesa fan
  • a set of colored PaperMate pens
  • a Swatch watch that I won in a raffle
  • a pack of Vietnamese coffee
  • a free ticket to God of Carnage
  • another free ticket to God of Carnage so I got to bring a friend, who is a big Lea Salonga fan
  • a tin of Lucban, Quezon broas

Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

Keep 'em coming, Universe, and I'll keep on giving back!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Declaration

In the personal leadership seminar I took, we had personal declarations, words we said that would propel us. I've gone through several -- it changes as we grow -- and now I have this: I joyfully create my dream life.

It's a bold one, and it scares me sometimes. But I chose to use the word "create" to remind myself that my life is built by the choices I make. I shape my life, and I am responsible for all that's good and bad about it.

Create. If I had a tattoo, I'd have that word on me. I think I exist to create -- order out of chaos, beautiful things out of words, relationships out of people, experiences out of places and things.

I write this now to follow the previous entry on something ugly I had created and now choose to uncreate. To borrow from one of my favorite lines in the Bible, I only want to think on whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Constantly in process

Maybe I have to keep reminding myself of this, that I am constantly in the process of being. Growing never stops; just because I've reached a certain level of okay, it doesn't mean it's always going to stay that way. Once I accept this, once I stop thinking that everything should stay still at that certain level of okay, that's when I get to the real okay.

In other words: Life is never going to be always okay, and that's okay!

***

These days, I've been learning a whole lot of life lessons.

I'm often unforgiving when I succumb to whatever negativity -- lately, it's been anger -- and I punish myself by, surprise, surprise, going deeper into it. While I've matured enough to know how to crawl out of that spiral, it still takes a pretty long while. At 34, you must know that you don't have a lot of that "while" in store.

The last few years of my life was about forgiving people. While I'm still learning that, this year, and maybe in the next few ones, I'm being taught to forgive myself.

So, I forgive myself for being angry, even as I embrace my right to feel that way.

***

I've been angry the past few weeks, first, because apparently someone told other people a lie about me. This person said I had said something about another person, something negative, but the truth was she said it herself.

I should be content that I know the truth, but I am not. I am angry. However, when another friend asked me, "So, what scenario would make you not angry anymore?" I was stumped. I wasn't thinking of going to other people and telling them she lied. I wasn't thinking in terms of "fixing my reputation." And, much as I entertained the idea, I wasn't really interested in clawing her eyes out or having a bitch out session.

If I couldn't think of a "solution," that meant I was just really indulging in a long, drawn-out, angry whine.

Ugh.

But the anger is here to teach me a lesson, and I have some reflecting to do: Why does what she did affect me so much? What button is it pushing? Why is that button letting itself be pushed? Most importantly, why does that button even exist?

I have an idea -- but I need to reflect on it some more.

***

So, I forgive myself for being angry. And, it's hard to type it here right now, but -- and I guess this is really my medium, how I express myself, how I help myself through the process, because as I write it down, I'm feeling so much better -- one day soon, hopefully in a few seconds, I'll forgive her too.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tonsillitis, my old friend

I'm not feeling well today. This bad feeling started over the weekend, when it felt like I was starting to get tonsillitis, an affliction I hadn't enjoyed since childhood.

Before I was ten or so, my tonsils would be inflamed on a regular basis. It got so bad that I would know it was summer when my tonsils were besieged by the familiar fiery sharp, scraping swelling that often had me crying myself to sleep.

Later, as an adult, I would find out during a company physical exam that my tonsils were "abnormally large." This solved two lifelong mysteries: why I had gotten tonsillitis a lot and why I had often had fish-bone getting stuck in my throat.

The discovery also made me think of how long it had been since my tonsils were last inflamed. For some reason, as I entered my teens, tonsillitis became a stranger.

Getting this painful visit now throws me back to the days I had to battle the affliction on a regular basis. My mother was my tonsillitis-fighting champion. I would whine and cry, with the latter making the pain worse, and she would push all manner of cures that didn't involve antibiotics.

She had me eat raw papaya dipped in salt and vinegar, saying the vinegar would kill the bacteria. I didn't like the taste of raw papaya, but the acidic vinegar cleaning my tonsils made sense to me, so I dipped with gusto and ate the papaya, until I learned to ditch the fruit and sip the vinegar instead.

My mother wiped me with water and alcohol when I got feverish. And she had me gargling warm salt water that I all too often ended up swallowing, making me fearful that the bacteria was moving deeper into my body, never to leave -- until I learned in school that stomach juices, like vinegar, are acidic.

What do the tonsils do anyway? This is the explanation I remember: the tonsils block the bacteria; they act like a gate to stop intruders from coming in. If they are inflamed, it means they blocked really harmful bacteria, locking them in battle to prevent a bigger war. That explanation painted me a gruesome but pretty picture, and thinking that way, believing that, made me enjoy the illness more than I would have.

I also remember reading as a child how the human body had some parts left over from evolution, parts that we can now live without. The appendix, for example, and that extra bone we have from what used to be our tails. And yes, the tonsils.

When I found out that my tonsils were "abnormally large," I toyed with the idea of getting a tonsillectomy. I even went as far as checking out tonsillectomy videos on YouTube to prepare myself psychologically. But tonsillitis hadn't bothered me for so long, so I decided I could do without the procedure.

Unfortunately for me, who panics at the sight of a needle, if tonsillitis again becomes a frequent visitor, I might have to reconsider.

For now, however, I'm enjoying the body memories -- how delightful that pain can make me remember so many things -- and making some warm saltwater.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The art of eating ice candy

Last week, after maybe twenty years or so, I tried eating ice candy. It wasn't even the homemade sort; I'd bought it after lunch from a Fruitas kiosk at the Eastwood Mall. The stifling summer heat had suddenly come, and I wanted something cold and refreshing.

It took a few bites before I could tear open the plastic with my teeth, much to the amusement of my friend Eric. Bite it at the sides, he told me at one point, the plastic is weaker there. I found myself thinking, now would be a great time to have a pair of scissors.

This is one of the signs I've turned into an adult: something as simple as tearing open a childhood delight has turned into an elaborate process. I normally pride myself in considering, as much as a right-brained person can, the next few steps forward, but how much joy am I losing now that I can't even eat ice candy without worrying about getting my hands sticky?

Eric said that when he was young his mother pointed out that the plastic containing the ice candy was dirty. I remember my mother saying the same thing, but I also remember not caring. The ice kills the germs, I reasoned out to myself, or, if I get sick, my body can take it. Surely nobody dies of eating ice candy?

What did I know as a child that didn't reach the conclusion of invincibility? Fueled by reason that life could only be good to me, I climbed the village water tank to wait all night for the sunrise. I sprinkled alchohol on the floor and traced it with fire because I enjoyed the beauty of the flames. I drank water from a banana tree trunk because my brothers and I had seen it on TV. I drank ice water and ate ice candy and stuffed the plastic, clean or dirty, in my mouth!

Now the adult in me cringes at the thought of all the germs I've survived and is trying to remember if I'd packed the wet wipes. The child that I was would be sad at how... serious I've become.

Oh, but last week, I slowly relearned the art of eating ice candy! I was reminded that it was not about germs and sticky fingers, that it was about the summer sweet that is my sure reward when I break through the plastic.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Making the rainbow connection

So, yesterday, I felt like my heart was completely open. It was open house for all feelings, and to cut the long story short: Cheetos for dinner. It could be hormones, but I was emotional all day, tearing up at the slightest resonation.

There was a time when I was young that I felt like I held all the world's pain. It took quite a while to tap into all the world's beauty and joy, but I eventually got there. Then I sealed my heart from sadness. Not really a good idea for a writer, in my opinion.

But, was I emotional yesterday! I cried when I watched the Choose Philippines video I shared because I felt for my beautiful country's struggles to come into its own magnificence. I cried while reading an article about Eleanor Rigby's supposed true identity and how the first sad Beatles song got it right. I cried when I heard about a first time climber accidentally falling to her death on Mt. Batulao. I cried for the 60s, the decade I never had, when I saw on Facebook that The Monkees' Davy Jones had died.

Perhaps this time I need my heart to learn how to make the rainbow connection? Feeling sadness was a struggle when I was young because life hadn't taught me yet that there is always a choice of a happy ending; that it all depends on how the main character tells the story; that, in fact, the main character and the writer are one and the same.

But I know differently now. Heart, make that rainbow connection somehow.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Yesterday's bad hair day

I know I've been focused on something -- mostly writing or writing-related -- when my hair is a mess. I mean, I've always had messy hair, but it's something else when I've been writing.

Before going home last night, I stopped by the restroom to freshen up. And there it was: definitely "writing" hair. I'd spent all day writing and editing teaching guides, tracking documents, and finding missing images and pdfs.

It was not creative writing, yes, but it had required just as much focus, if not more because of interruptions that couldn't be ignored, and I'd completely lost myself in the tasks.

I must have stood in front of the restroom mirror for quite sometime, admiring, messy hair and all, the face of creating.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mornings where I live on weekdays

Almost every morning where I live on weekdays, I wake up to the neighbor's children going to school. I never see them; I just hear them bidding their parents goodbye as they pass by my closed window. From their voices, I would guess that one child is in grade school, while the rest are either in high school or college.

The youngest would say, "I love you, mama! I love you, papa!" several times before leaving. The older ones -- I still don't know how many children there are; three or four, perhaps -- would say their shorter goodbyes (once, I heard what sounded like a teenage boy say, "We're going now, mama! I love you!").

It's a nice alarm clock, this daily chorus of goodbyes and I-love-yous. One day, though, I heard something better.

The children were saying their goodbyes, with the youngest delivering his drawn out I-love-yous. The older ones were already talking and laughing about other things when a strong male voice called out in a thick Filipino accent, "Goodbye, my little ones! Take care, my little ones!"

I'd never heard the parents' answers before.

My little ones. These are words few Filipino fathers would use to address their children. How lovely to hear it from the father next door.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Eventually



While talking to a heartbroken friend recently, I tried to remember the last time I went through my own heartbreak. I wanted to sift through the memories and dredge up what enlightenment I could, to share it with someone who needed a guide to the land of Eventually -- as in, that place where you get over a lover eventually.

I felt bad when my own recollections came up short. As clearly as my mind could recount the instances, my heart just couldn't conjure up the pain. And how do I help a friend navigate Heartbreak when the terrain had become a stranger?

Later, I wondered: Could it be that even after surviving my own bout with being broken, I had ended up with nothing, not even a single piece of wisdom, to give?

Much later, I realized: Yes, and no.

I know that I have arrived at my personal Eventually, that better future I had desperately hoped to wake up to one day. It had taken a slow, painstaking arriving -- days, and weeks, and months, and years -- but all that really matters now is that I am here.

Everything I had worried over and over about, like the guilt over leaving or the stress over the mistake I was possibly making, they all had, indeed, led me to nothing. But it is a beautiful kind of nothing where anything can begin and end up wonderfully or everything can begin all over again and end so differently.

And, after all that, I am left with only one remotely wise and possibly comforting thing to say to my friend.

If getting to Eventually still looks hazy, be sure of one thing: I am here.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

This is a test post

I've been thinking of moving to Tumblr; in fact, I've gone as far as creating my own account. But laziness and loyalty have stopped me from completing the big move.

Laziness because my Blogspot archives date back to 2007. Loyalty also because my Blogspot archives date back to 2007, though I've had this account since 2004 or 2005.

Now I'm testing other ways with which I can update my blog so I can give it an nth chance at life. This is a test post from my Nokia E5.

Friday, February 24, 2012

English Trainer Chronicles: I have been arriving

Learner: I have been arriving since 8 am.
Me: Arriving? How many times do you arrive?
Learner: Twice! I arrive once physically, then once more mentally. It's a two-step process.

Monday, February 20, 2012

I do solemnly swear to be a morning person

I know I said I'd write about how I came to love myself while trekking to this country's lakes, waterfalls, and volcano craters, but that piece is taking it's long time coming -- though I can see it taking some space in a travel magazine -- so I'll have to wait until that one's ready to be born.

But I need to write and soon. It's 2012, and suddenly writing (and my MFA degree) is again making a lot of sense in the life of my dreams. Thank you, year 33, for the gift of clarity for year 34.

So beginning today, I shall wake up earlier every morning to write, blog or read. And have a real breakfast and some good coffee.

***

There used to be a time when I wouldn't last a day without checking my blog or posting something, even if I'd never really had a lot of people commenting on what I wrote. I was really enjoying having a conversation with myself about a life that I lived inward.

I think it's a good thing that my life now is lived mostly offline. I've had adventures. I've traveled some and loved much. Nevertheless, I miss myself.

I'm starting the conversation again.

Cold dry feet, introspection, and a cup of Sagada coffee

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Enter the dragon: so I asked and so it arrived

The entry of 2012 saw me doing things I love, both things I'd done before and new ones, all with people close to my heart.

I traveled my beautiful country, because Remi finally accepted my invitation to come.

Trekking to the crater of Mt. Pinatubo on Dec. 15, 2012
The dates and the places:

December 28 in Tagaytay
December 29 in Makati
December 30 in Manila
December 31 in Antipolo
January 1 in Banaue
January 2 in Batad
January 3 in Bontoc
January 4 in Sagada
January 5 in Baguio
January 6 in Pasay (LOL! Stuck in the airport! I still hate you, ZestAir!)
January 7 in Busuanga
January 8 in Coron
January 9 in Culion
January 10 in Metro Manila
January 15 in Tarlac, and Pinatubo

The list doesn't say much about the journey, except for where we'd been, but I think my heart took me on quite a trip as well.

And I'm not just saying that because of all the, um, cardio I found myself doing.

I'm saying that because I fell in love with the Philippines all over again.

I'm saying that because I love my friends, and I'm blessed to always be given the chance to show them my love. I'm also blessed to receive theirs.

And I'm saying that because everything I did -- from climbing to the crater of Taal Volcano to trekking the Batad terraces to doing the Sumaguing Cave tour to hiking to the crater of Mt. Pinatubo -- I came face to face with myself and finally fell in love.